Concluding my recount of the events from Jonathan Hickman’s epic story from his Avengers/New Avengers runs that lead directly into the new Secret Wars if so at least Jimmy Impossible knows what’s going on.
As always, potentially massive SPOILERS after the cut.
After the Illuminati refused to destroy the Great Society’s home world until Namor stepped up, then the Cabal reformed, and Captain America returned from his trip through time to declare the Illuminati Public Enemy #1, the story skipped ahead a few months and some things happened in other solo series reflected here:
- Steve Rogers lost the super-soldier serum and aged into an old man, with Sam Wilson taking his place as Captain America.
- Tony Stark was turned into a more evil version of himself during the AXIS storyline and is now the Superior Iron Man.
- The Hulk is now intelligent in his “Doc Green” persona.
- Thor lost his hammer and has been armed with his old axe.
A few other things have happened.
- The big Avengers team has fractured into smaller factions.
- Steve may be running the show at S.H.I.E.L.D. There is a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. Avengers composed of Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, War Machine, and the Invisible Woman.
- The Illuminati gained a few new members in Captain Britain, Amadeus Cho, and Hank Pym. Pym and Tony Stark have both been missing for a while. All are wanted fugitives, living underground and moving from place to place.
- Sunspot realized AIM had a corporate structure and bought them out. The remaining Avengers from the big team, as well as several others, have joined forces with him as the “New Avengers”.
- Cannonball and Smasher got married and had a baby girl.
- Star Brand has gotten more powerful, and his mentor Nightmask appears to be getting younger.
- Dr. Strange and Captain Universe have not been seen in a while.
- Hyperion’s children in the Savage Land have grown up. The so-called Zebra Kids are quite intelligent.
- The Cabal went public and told the UN about Incursions and that they were the only ones who could stop them by destroying alternate Earths. They’ve taken Wakanda as their own, and the rest of the world gives them flack but also lets them do their dirty work.
As the story resumes, a few first moves were made. Amadeus Cho is captured breaking into a S.H.I.E.L.D. base by the Avengers there, specifically the Invisible Woman who demands to know where her husband is.
T”Challa and his sister Suri attempt to sneak into the Necropolis and destroy the planet-destroying bombs while the Cabal are away dealing with an Incursion. Unfortunately, Proxima Midnight and Maximus are still there, and they’re too much for the two Panthers. T’Challa teleports away while Suri stays behind to take on Thanos’ general. She dies there, since the next time we see her she is among the many ghosts of former Black Panthers following T’Challa around.
Namor meanwhile goes to Doom for help.
Namor’s grown disturbed due to the fact the Cabal apparently enjoy destroying other Earths. He’s asking Doom for help…dealing with them.
Doom turns him down. Namor leaves dispirited.
Doom’s ward Kristof questions this. Doom basically says had Namor come to him first, he would have gladly helped him out. But a beaten Namor is a pale shadow of his former self, and Doom has no interest in helping him.
Besides, he’s been doing his own thing.
Doom has the Mad Thinker and others pondering the rock he got from the Mapmakers world way back when and found it has a pattern to map the multiverse. He also has the Molecule Man handy. It seems the Molecule Man recognizes what’s going on and opens a portal to take Doom…somewhere.
Thor is working with Sunspot’s group. He’s got a group of his own made up of Hyperion, Star Brand, Nightmask, Abyss, and all the Ex Nihilios. Between AIM and the Zebra Kids, they’ve managed to build a gateway to take them halfway across the multiverse, hoping to find the source of the Incursions and therefore end the whole thing.
But as Sunspot tells Thor, they only have one shot from the portal and its probably a one-way trip for all involved. Thor understands this. He has a plan.
Sunspot has gotten some information from Hank McCoy. Beast being a fellow-mutant, the two met and made plans in Cyclops’ Utopia. This isn’t the only ace the Illuminati have in their deck. The Invisible Woman has been acting as a spy on their behalf all this time.
That leads to a somewhat ominous scene, where Reed and Sue meet in secret. Sue passes along a message from their genius daughter Valaria. Her message is the Illuminati can’t win, so they need to find a way not to lose.
Iron Man’s location
Tony Stark has been missing for quite some time. Black Widow and Spider-Woman manage to find him. He’s being held prisoner by the Cabal in the Necropolis. He’d tried to stop the Cabal by himself. He failed miserably. He’s been a prisoner ever since. Widow and Spider-Woman offer to let him out if he just admits he was wrong.
Tony starts shouting that he isn’t. They leave. The two women join Sunspot’s team. Sunspot’s team also includes Vindicator from the evolution bio-mass, the Pod machine from the self-defense bio-mass, and an army of Shang Chi’s since Shang realized how to use the reproduction bio-mass.
Avengers teams fight!
Meanwhile, the Illuminati are tired of hiding. They’ve regrouped, as much as possible, with Black Panther, Beast, Captain Britain, the Hulk, and Reed Richards sending out a signal so Steve Rogers can find him.
Find him they do, and they come out with a pair of helicarriers, tons of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and some secret weapons I’ll get to in a bit. It actually looks to be going the Illuminati’s way even before Sunspot’s team appears to assist. Then Steve starts dropping his secret weapons.
He has a remote control Hulk, the sociopath from the other universe, who can pound Doc Green into the ground.
He has a team of Mighty Avengers, made up of heroes like She-Hulk, Luke Cage, the Blue Marvel, and Spider-Man to even the odds.
And he’s Steve freakin’ Rogers who can apparently at the age of 90 still punch out a pair of Shang Chis simultaneously.
Then Sue Richards puts everybody in a forcefield so Reed can play his trump card: Black Bolt, Medusa, and Namor.
Namor didn’t come to fight. He has a plan to deal with the Cabal once and for all. AIM has a shielding device that can block the Cabal’s escape attempts. All they need to do is wait for the next Incursion, a dead Mapmakers world, let the Cabal go there to destroy the planet, and then prevent them from returning. The Cabal all pay for their crimes.
Namor then agrees to stand trial for his crimes. So do Beast and Reed. T’Challa refuses, but Steve seems satisfied that most of the original Illuminati will answer for what they’ve done.
Except, T’Challa has something else up his sleeve. Namor comes back from tricking the Cabal into getting into a massive fight with the Mapmakers, seen only by Black Swan, and figures he’s done his job. Then T’Challa stabs him in the chest, gaining revenge for everything Namor’s done to Wakanda. Namor’s hardly dead, but it turns out there was another king onboard the escape raft. Black Bolt hits Namor with a “Farewell” and knocks him back to the dead Earth he just came from. T’Challa waits just long enough for Namor to regain consciousness before pulling the trigger and destroying the world with the Cabal on it…
Ultimate Reed Richards enters the fray
…except that isn’t what happened. A third Earth appeared in the sky. The Cabal scramble to it and are met by…a younger Reed Richards. They’ve gotten to the Ultimate Universe, where Reed is kinda evil. It seems Ultimate Nick Fury set that Reed up as a secret planetary defense. And he’s been doing that for a while now.
Back on 616
So, now that everyone is more or less friends again, the Illuminati fill in the others on what they’ve been up to.
Basically, nothing’s worked. A whole mass of alternate universes just died for no discernible reason and there was only a handful left. They tried a cosmic cube to make a new Earth (unstable planet). They tried to rally the Captain Britain Corps to find whoever was behind all this Incursion mess and deal with it (Corps wiped out except for the one-eyed guy on the Illuminati). They even got a meeting with the Celestials to ask for help (Celestials left without a word in the middle of the meeting). Everybody’s running out of options.
Then Hank Pym returns with bad news.
Secrets of the Black Priests
Thor’s team, meanwhile, had managed to find the temple of the Black Priests. They’d learned if you can halt one priest in his tracks, the rest are helpless. Basically, the Priests are mystics, but they only know one word each. To cast one of their spells, they need to work together.
But the head of the order knows whole sentences. He freezes Thor and Co. in their tracks and then…takes off his helmet because its Dr. Strange. He explains the Black Priests are just surgeons, cutting away Earths to ensure the survival of the multiverse. Ex Nihlio proposes then they flip a coin to see which group with take on the Ivory Kings and which their rival, Rabum Alal.
Secret of the Ivory Kings
Hank Pym had gone out into the multiverse to find out some more intel. He’d managed to find some Builders who’d found the mysterious Ivory Kings, one of two groups that seems to be behind the Incursions. They gather their forces and go to deal with the Kings. They last about a minute and a half, and the Ivory Kings weren’t even paying attention to them.
That’s pretty much what happened to the Captain Britain corps, too.
See, the Ivory Kings were actually the Beyonders. Plural.
That Beyonder from the original Secret Wars? He wasn’t an adult Beyonder.
Oh, and the battles that killed the Builders and the Captain Britain Corps? Were not even what the Beyonders were really up to.
No, they were killing Celestials. That’s why the Celestials just left the meeting with the Illuminati suddenly.
Now, killing a Celestial happens. They’re tough, but its been done. Heck, Thor took one out during the Kang arc of Uncanny Avengers. That wasn’t the really scary part.
The really scary part was the Celestials were just the warm-up. They then started killing all the other big, cosmic deities.
Yeah, they were the guys who took out the Living Tribunal by attacking him from multiple dimensions at the same time. They’re conducting an experiment, namely to see if they can wipe out all universes at the same time.
You know, if they can wipe out those guys, everyone else is probably toast.
Things get worse
At about that time, the various alien races the Avengers had assisted figure out the Incursion mess and send an armada to wipe out the Earth to save the rest of the universe. Gladiator and the Shi’ar are very reluctant to do so, but there you have it.
Secrets of Rabum Alal
Dr. Strange and the Black Priests had gotten Rabum Alal as their target. Finding the Library of Worlds guarded by the Black Swans, they bust in and make their way to the center of the complex…which is a noiseless vacuum. Not really a place that works too well with word magic. Strange puts up the best fight he can, but the Priests are mowed down and Strange is taken to see the Black Swan’s master.
It turns out Rabum Alal was Doom the whole time.
Who else would start a fanatical religion dedicated to himself?
Thor’s team finds the Beyonders. Nightmask is the first to sacrifice himself. He’s been getting younger the more he uses his powers, and he opens a portal to wherever the Beyonders are and ages backwards to nothingness.
Two Beyonders come out. Thor has pulled out the hammer of Thorr, the one you must be Unworthy to use, and launches himself into the fight.
A Beyonder rips his arm off.
That’s when Ex Nihilio realizes the Beyonders can change and change is what he has power over. The Ex Nihili surround one Beyond and with Abyss, turn it into a crystal tree. They also sacrifice themselves in the process.
One Beyonder left, and he stabs Star Brand with a mortal wound. Hyperion gets his eyes gouged. Then Star Brand explodes and all his pent up energy takes the Beyonder with him.
Thor and Hyperion, both injured, are the only two left. They figure they can seal the portal and solve all the Incursion problems.
Then a whole lot of Beyonders come out of the portal. Oh well.
The two decide to go out fighting. Thor reaches for the other Mjolinir and finds he can’t lift it. He’s Worthy again. He has a laugh and the two rush into the fight before being overwhelmed.
Alien attack on Earth
Back on Earth, the Illuminati are basically preparing a liferaft for a handful of survivors to restart the human race when the Last Incursion hits. That would be about when the aliens attack. Those guys have awful timing.
Using the power of the rogue planet and a captured Builder ship, the Avengers hold the aliens off for as long as possible.
But the real solution comes when the Illuminati let Stark out of his cell. Something about him would just anger Steve too much, but Tony was, in Reed’s words, the ultimate multitasker, and he can stop the aliens.
He does using the rogue planet as a power source and a dyson sphere he was building in his spare time.
So much for those guys.
Doom’s last move
What had Doom been up to? Doom had gone through the multiverse with the Molecule Man and learned the guy’s real secrets.
It seems that the Molecule Man is the same in every reality. He’s a living bomb the Beyonders set up to explode at the same time and take out the multiverse all at once.
Doom, being Doom, had then taken up the task of murdering every Molecule Man he could. It was taking a while, so he started the Black Swans to help him out. But religions cause heresies and splinter groups were just wiping out whole realities, assisting the Ivory Kings. The Ivory Kings had started Incursions when they realized someone was killing their Molecule Men. They’d even set up a computer program to take control of any artificial intelligence with multiversal travel abilities, thus starting the Mapmakers, to map out realities where the Molecule Man had been found and killed.
Doom thought he’d found a weakness. The Ivory Kings were unable to travel through time, so Doom could take them out with his time machine as a bomb.
It didn’t quite work out that way, which would be why a whole lot of realities suddenly disappeared from 616 Reed’s observations.
Ultimate Reed strikes
But wait, the last two universes are the main Marvel universe and the Ultimate universe. Ultimate Reed lets Ultimate Fury in on the Incursion secret and they go to plan for the last one to destroy 616 Earth with help from Thanos, Maximus, and Namor. But, see, Maximus and Thanos are lying about something, so that plan will probably have a twist to it we won’t see until Secret Wars starts next month.
Steve vs. Tony
Steve Rogers basically will not let Tony Stark on the liferaft. He’s still too mad at him. To make sure Tony misses it, he goes to confront Tony personally. It wasn’t even the first time they’d tried to make amends. What, exactly, was Steve’s beef with Tony?
Well, basically, it was because Tony had been lying the whole time. He was the only one in the Illuminati who figured they were doomed to fail. Even Reed Richards runs on hope of prevailing, so Tony’s basic dishonesty is what set Steve off. And the two fight as the Last Incursion hits, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents from the Ultimate universe are attacking, and the narration reminds the reader that “Everything dies.”
Next: I’m done with this. If you want to know what happens next, go read the new Secret Wars. Apparently, it picks up right from here.