Explaining Secret Wars In Layman Terms


I recently got a frantic message from Jenny.  It went a little something like this:

“Jimmy. Help. I don’t get it.  I don’t understand Secret Wars.  I don’t understand the fundamental reason why Marvel is doing this? Will my comics be the same?”

I’m guessing she was finally getting to the bottom of here massive “read pile” and was running into the Last Days of the likes of Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan.  World’s were exploding, characters were dying, books were being cancelled and replaced with other books that looked similar but were very different.

I poured Jenny a glass of white wine and…well, then three more glasses of white wine.  And when she calmed down I broke Secret Wars down for her.  I’ll share what I told her after the break.

The fundamental reason for Secret Wars is simple.  Money.  As much as we love our superheroes, at the end of the day Marvel (same as others) is all about the Benjamin’s.  Crossover events, particularly good crossover events sell lots of funny books.  Many people are enticed to pick up tie-in books to a crossover on top of their regular monthly reads.  Some don’t, but some completists like me will.  Yada, yada, yada, show me the money.

But, let’s park that and give a less cynical answer.

Writers and artists care about money, but they also care about sharing great stories.  Secret Wars is the current big, huge story that Marvel’s creators want to tell.  It’s not unlike previous big events that have “cancelled” titles and just published alternate reality titles, like say Age of Apocalypse.  But whereas that event focused solely on the X-Books, Secret Wars is doing the same thing for the entire Marvel line of books.  While Marvel is still producing some non-Secret Wars related books, the majority have been “cancelled” and replaced with a Secret Wars equivalent in some way or another.
We’ll get to those books shortly.

The other fundamental reason for doing Secret Wars was that Marvel needed some way to end the Ultimate Universe line of books.  The once hugely popular line featuring alternate, often younger/more movie friendly restarts of all of Marvel’s characters had been whittled down to just one book.  Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man.  The Ultimate Universe has been running on fumes for years and Marvel seemed like they would kill it off in 2013/14 with the Cataclysm storyline but seemed to get cold feet.   (While I can’t complain about the role the Ultimate Universe would play in Secret Wars, I still think allowing 616 Galactus to eat Ultimate Earth would have been awesome.)

How did we get here?

If you want the long answer about the build up to Secret Wars, check out Tom’s Road To Secret Wars series.  Otherwise, I’ll try to summarize.

Basically, over in the Avengers books, they’ve been dealing with something called “incursions”.  Which boils down to the Earth’s from two different universes in the multiverse somehow smashing into each other and destroying both universes.  Long story short, eventually the only Earth’s left are in the 616 universe (the Marvel Universe you’ve been reading since the 1960’s) and the Ultimate Universe.  And just like all the rest, they eventually smash together and everything is dies.

Or not.


To keep it simple, while the final incursion between Earths was taking place, Dr. Doom stole the power of a group of all powerful beings called the Beyonders who apparently created the multiverse (and were behind all those wacky incursions that were destroying it).

With this power Dr. Doom saved what he could from fragments of Earth’s all over the multiverse.  Like picking up shells from a broken dozen eggs.  He then took those shells and glued them all together to create his own planet dubbed Battleworld.  He also set himself up as God.

Now, while a lot of what you’ll find on Battleworld is new, some is very familiar.  Remember all those crossovers you read in the 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s?  Fragments of those realities are represented on Battleworld.  And all these realities make up the numerous books that you see are launching from Marvel and running throughout the summer.  While those tie-ins share the Battleworld rules and Doom as God mythology, they have all for the most part been stand alone little tales while the main Secret Wars title continues the core story.

More questions…

“Which books do I need to read to understand what’s going on in my regular comics? Will anything change when it’s done? Am I missing anything by not reading them? If I’m reading Captain Marvel or say, Inhumans, and I see that there is also a Secret Wars version of the title I’m reading, do I need to read Secret Wars to ensure I don’t miss any of the story?”

Short answer? No, you can stop reading Captain Marvel with the last pre-Secret Wars issue for example and start reading it again in the fall when #1 drops. That said, Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps is a good book and you might enjoy it.   I doubt very, very much that anything that happens in Secret Wars will have much bearing on the day to day titles at Marvel.

One exception will be that some characters that existed outside of the main 616 Marvel Universe will now be part of the 616.  Biggest examples being the Miles Morales Spider-Man and Old Man Logan.   So now Kamala or Carol can crossover with Miles Morales in their monthly book, which they couldn’t before.

And I would bet either no one in the Marvel Universe will remember Secret Wars when the series is over, or if they do it will be like “Hey, remember Battleworld?”  “Yeah. What was the deal with that?”  “I dunno…you wanna go bust some bad guys heads?”  “Sure, let’s go.”

Marvel has released a lot of post Secret Wars plans and…it doesn’t look much different from the pre-Secret Wars Marvel.  Some characters have carried over from other realities and timelines, some uniforms have changed, team rosters may be shuffled and Spider-Woman is pregnant…but we won’t get into that.

The Post Secret Wars Avengers line up might appeal to you Jenny.

The biggest shift you might see when you pick up your “old favorite” post Secret Wars is that the timeline has jumped 8 months into the future.  So things may look a little “off”, but I’m sure the great folks at Marvel will be anxious to fill you in on what happened.

So do you need to read the main Secret Wars?  No.  Should you?  Well, that is up to you.  From the standpoint of knowing what happened to your favorite characters, time will tell how Secret Wars ends, but I doubt it will be essential to you picking up any of the new #1’s in the fall from Marvel.  And there will be a lot of them.

And what about all those pesky tie-ins…do you need to read those?  Again, I will say no.  But there are a lot of good ones.  You can check out our Secret Wars Power Rankings to get an idea for what “we” (mostly me) feel are the best ones.  You can also find links off the Power Rankings to my attempted read through of the entire event.  Warning, if you care, the read through is rife with spoilers.

Are my current comic are going to start over? Like will Black Widow keep going, or will she reboot once Secret Wars is over? Same with all the rest – my question is if I have to start over with Captain Marvel, or Guardians of the Galaxy if Marvel decides that after Secret Wars they are going to drop a #1?

Marvel claims this is not a reboot, so the assumption is that the new #1’s are continuing the characters and history from pre-Secret Wars.  However, there will be the 8 month jump forward in time, so I don’t think the #1 of say Guardians will pick up right after the last issue of Guardians.  Every Marvel book is getting a new #1 post Secret Wars, spread over several months.

Marvel is also going with a “seasonal” approach, so they will probably have a new #1 like once a year or so.  What that means exactly I’m not 100% sure, but I would think that everything is being written to slot nicely into trades (more so than before) and every time there is a change worth promoting they will drop a new #1.  So instead of “Guardians #15 introduces the new creative team” you’ll get a new Guardians #1. That’s what they are saying anyway.

I’m not sure if this helped Jenny or not…when I left the break room to go back to my broom closet office, she was still hugging that bottle of wine and mumbling “DAMN YOU SECRET WARS!” over and over.

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