Hickman’s long-term story will come to a head in Secret Wars #1, in which the Marvel Universe will merge with the Ultimate Marvel Universe and several other alternate versions of the Marvel Universe. The result of this merger will be a thing called Battleworld, and for the duration of the Secret Wars event, all stories will be set there, and deal with various versions of Marvel’s characters fighting for survival. Many of the worlds that will merge into Battleworld will be variations of classic Marvel stories and existing alternate timelines — Days of Future Past, Age of Apocalypse, Civil War, House of M — while some will bring in elements of non-comics continuity, like the X-Men animated series from the early ’90s.
Since the dawn of the Ultimate Universe I’ve always thought that it would overtake main continuity. Just one look at Ultimate Spider-Man and you’d say “this all makes more sense, and is much cleaner than the main continuity.” The Ultimate Universe had the benefit of hindsight. It already knew what worked and what didn’t and was able to take the best parts of long story arcs and use only the good parts (see: The Clone Saga in both main continuity, and Ultimate).
What I didn’t expect was this, a merger with destruction on both sides. A single Marvel Universe with all the best elements from each universe. It’s what DC did with the last Crisis and then 52 in the early 2000’s.
I didn’t expect Marvel to go that way, I always expected the main MU to just fade away. When I stopped reading comics Cap was dead, Magneto was powerless, Spider-Man was in the midst of a soft reboot and the Mutants were in shambles. It felt like the perfect time to sunset the universe, honestly.
Meanwhile the Ultimate Universe was going strong. I knew people who were jumping ship from main continuity to Ultimate. It all seemed so inevitable, I’m a little surprised it took this long.
“This is putting an endcap to decades of stories and starting a new era,” Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso said at a press conference announcing the event. “When you see the scope of the event, [you will] see what we’re willing to do. This is a place where we’re going to be bringing new pieces onto the board and taking old pieces off. You guys will be yelling and screaming, loving and hating in equal measure.”
According to Alonso and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, Secret Wars has been in the works since at least 2011, and all of the major publishing events since Disney acquired Marvel in 2009 have been leading toward this eventual reboot of the publishing line.
All that said, I’m excited. And I’ve got some reading to do, I want to see how the Universe I read for 20 years falls apart.