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Secret Wars 2015: One Crossover To Rule Them All

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I make a point to read every comic I buy at least twice, once the week it comes out, and again several months later before I file them away.  The first time I read it, I can appreciate the serial nature of the story, since each issue is released between two and four weeks apart.  The second time, I read entire story arcs in one sitting, so I can enjoy the whole story at once, as if I purchased a graphic novel.

I just finished my second reading of the Secret Wars event and many of the tie-in stories.

For a bit of context: when Secret Wars came out, almost every single Marvel series ended, and for a few months were replaced with comparable miniseries.  This is because, in the story, the entire Marvel multiverse ends and is replaced with Battleworld, a planet made up of surviving pieces of different universes/dimensions.  I purchased several of these, especially the ones that seemed to replace the comics I was buying anyway (X-Men, Inhumans, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Thor).  I also bought some of these on Comixology months later when they dropped in price, or obtained free digital copies from friends.

Secret Wars can also be thought of as four separate stories.  There is the main event book, which follows directly from Jonathan Hickman's 2012-2015 run on Avengers and New Avengers (which ended with a prelude crossover called Time Runs Out).  There is Last Days, in which we see certain heroes' last few hours in the main Marvel universe before it is destroyed.  In books labelled Battleworld, the stories tie closer to the events of the main series, adding extra context for what's happening in the new universe.  Finally, Warzones books are self-contained stories, taking place in one or more of the "Domains" on Battleworld, representing one of the surviving universes.  Many of these universes are based on previous Marvel storylines. 

For this read-through, I read the issues below over the course of about six months.
  • Avengers World 17-21 (Before Time Runs Out, Frank Barbiere, 2014)
  • Avengers 35-44 (Time Runs Out, Jonathan Hickman, 2012)
  • New Avengers 24-33 (Time Runs Out, Jonathan Hickman, 2013)
  • Secret Wars 0-9 (main series, Jonathan Hickman, 2015) 
  • Captain America and the Mighty Avengers 8-9 (Last Days, Al Ewing, 2014)
  • Spider-Woman 10 (Last Days, Dennis Hopeless, 2014)
  • Black Widow 19-20 (Last Days, Nathan Edmonson, 2014)
  • Loki: Agent of Asgard 14-17 (Last Days, Al Ewing, 2014)
  • Ms. Marvel 16-19 (Last Days, G. Willow Wilson, 2014)
  • Magneto 18-21 (Last Days, Cullen Bunn, 2014)
  • Punisher 19-20 (Last Days, Nathan Edmonson, 2014)
  • Silk 7 (Last Days, Robbie Thompson, 2015)
  • Ant-Man: Last Days one-shot (Last Days, Nick Spencer, 2015)
  • Silver Surfer 13-15 (Last Days, Dan Slott, 2014)
  • Secret Wars Journal 1-5 (Battleworld, anthology, 2015)
  • Secret Wars: Battleworld 1-4 (Battleworld, anthology, 2015)
  • A-Force 1-5 (Warzones, Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson, 2015)
  • Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps 1-4 (Warzones, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Kelly Thompson, 2015)
  • Inferno 1-5 (Warzones, Dennis Hopeless, 2015)
  • X-Tinction Agenda 1-4 (Warzones, Marc Guggenheim, 2015)
  • Infinity Gauntlet 1-5 (Warzones, Gerry Duggan and Dustin Weaver, 2015)
  • X-Men '92 Infinite Comic 1-8 (Warzones, Chad Bowers and Chris Sims, 2015)
  • E Is For Extinction 1-4 (Warzones, Chris Burnham, 2015)
  • Years of Future Past 1-5 (Warzones, Marguerite Bennett, 2015)
  • Old Man Logan 1-5 (Battleworld, Brian Michael Bendis, 2015)
  • House of M 1-4 (Warzones, Dennis Hopeless, 2015)
  • Secret Wars 2099 1-5 (Warzones, Peter David, 2015)
  • Marvel Zombies 1-4 (Battleworld, Si Spurrier, 2015)
  • Armor Wars 1-5 (Warzones, James Robinson, 2015)
  • 1872 1-4 (Warzones, Gerry Duggan, 2015)
  • Spider-Verse 1-5 (Warzones, Mike Costa, 2015)
  • Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos 1-4 (Warzones, Gerry Duggan, 2015)
  • Secret Wars: Secret Love one-shot (Battleworld, anthology, 2015)
  • Korvac Saga 1-4 (Battleworld, Dan Abnett, 2015)
  • Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders 1-2 (Warzones, Al Ewing, 2015)
  • 1602: Witch Hunter Angela 1-4 (Warzones, Marguerite Bennett and Kieron Gillen, 2015)
  • Age of Apocalypse 1-5 (Warzones, Fabian Nicieza, 2015)
  • Squadron Sinister 1-4 (Warzones, Marc Guggenheim, 2015)
  • Runaways 1-4 (Battleworld, Noelle Stevenson)
  • Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies 1-4 (Battleworld, James Robinson, 2015)
  • Inhumans: Attilan Rising 1-5 (Battleworld, Charles Soule, 2015)
  • Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde 1-3 (Battleworld, Sam Humphries, 2015)
  • Guardians of Knowhere 1-4 (Warzones, Brian Michael Bendis, 2015)
  • Red Skull 1-3 (Battleworld, Joshua Williamson, 2015)
  • Ultimate End 1-5 (Battleworld, Brian Michael Bendis, 2015)
  • Thors 1-4 (Battleworld, Jason Aaron, 2015)
  • Siege 1-4 (Battleworld, Kieron Gillen, 2015)
This represents exactly 200 issues of comics.  There are an additional 58 issues related to Secret Wars that I did not read, most of which relate to characters in which I have less interest (Spider-Man, Hulk, and Captain America, for example).  Everything was released in 2015, with the exception of a handful of Avengers and New Avengers issues (late 2014) and the final issue of Secret Wars (January 2016)


As I previously mentioned, Secret Wars begins at the start of Jonathan Hickman's run on Avengers and New Avengers.  The latter series focusses on the collapse of the multiverse, as some external force causes universes to crash into each other.  Stopping the phenomenon proves impossible, but the heroes and villains of the Marvel universe and Ultimate universe fight to survive the end of days.

As those last two universes begin to collide, many Marvel heroes and anti-heroes, including Ms. Marvel, the Punisher, Black Widow, Captain America (Sam Wilson), Loki, Spider-Woman, Silk, and Magneto fight to stay alive against all odds.  They fail.  Silver Surfer manages to escape the collapse of the universe and tries to recreate it, but to no avail.  

Dr. Doom, Dr. Strange, and the Molecule Man end up acquiring the omnipotent power of the Beyonders, and manage to save something: pieces of different universes that are forces together to form Battleworld.  Doom uses the Beyonder's power to become God Emperor of Battleworld, with Strange as his sheriff.  Each universe is considered its own Domain, ruled by a Baron.  The law of Doom is enforced by the Thors, an army of all individuals deemed worthy to lift a Mjolnir.  Those who violate Doom's laws are cast over the Shield to be killed by zombies, giant insects, and Ultron robots.

God Emperor Doom and his closest allies/family, from cover of Secret Wars #4.  Image from Marvel Wiki.

On Battleworld, there is intrigue happening in virtually every Domain.  King Magneto stops a coup by Quicksilver and Namor in the Monarchy of M (House of M).  Apocalypse is defeated in his Domain by the Legacy Virus (Age of Apocalypse).  Madelyne Pryor and Illyana Rasputin defeat the X-Men in Limbo (Inferno).  Elsa Bloodstone manages to defeat smart zombies in the Deadlands (Marvel Zombies).  Sheriff Steve Rogers and Red Wolf defeat the Kingpin in the Valley of Doom (1872).  Angela hunts witchbreed and faeries in King James' England (1602: Witch Hunter Angela).

A few surviving heroes and villains from both the Marvel universe and Ultimate universe manage to survive in life rafts.  They cannot allow Doom to maintain such control over all that exists, and sow chaos among the Domains.  Thor manages to convince the Thor Corps of the fallibility of Doom (Thors), while Thanos convinces the Thing, whose stony body makes up the Shield wall, to fight Doom as well (Siege) Reed Richards manages to defeat Doom and take the power for himself, which along with his son he works to rebuild the multiverse.

Reed Richards and Dr. Doom duel for the power to fix the multiverse. From cover of Secret Wars #9. Image from Marvel Wiki.


Generally speaking, I love crossover events.  If I really like the story, I will go out of my way to find any and all tie-in stories, to get a complete picture of the event.  Occasionally, it is in these tie-in stories that we find key details that really improve a story.  Hidden in Inhumans: Attilan Rising, for example, is the fact that Doom can re-write reality, which helps explain why Apocalypse can be killed in his story, but be alive and well in the main series.  Doom returned some of the Domains to their previous status quo.

Still, this story was so massive that I could not hunt down everything.  Stories like Planet Hulk and Future Imperfect would have been nice to read, and I've heard only good things about Ghost Racers, but there is only so much one can read.  I do not recommend that anyone hunt down everything for this crossover, even if you are like me and want to be comprehensive.  There are a few stories that are crucial: if necessary, one could get by reading only the main series, Thors, and Siege.  The prelude issues of Avengers and New Avengers and Battleworld-labeled titles like Inhumans: Attilan Rising help build the world and add context.  Any book labeled Warzones can be skipped, but should be enjoyed based on personal taste (as an X-Men fan, I loved the X-Men miniseries like Years of Future Past, Inferno, X-Tinction Agenda, X-Men '92Age of Apocalypse, E is for Extinction, House of M, and Old Man Logan).

Covers of three X-themed Warzones comics: Inferno #1, House of M #1, and Years of Future Past #1.  Images from Marvel Wiki.

The myriad tie-ins of Secret Wars also offers a variety of story genres.  Secret Love and to an extent Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde and 1602: Witch Hunter Angela are romances.  1872 is a western, while Thors is a police procedural.  Many are simply superhero comics set in different universes, but some offer something special.

Of course, as with anything so big, not all stories can be good.  Ultimate End was a train wreck.  One challenge it faced was that it appears to take place late in the overall story, but was released near the beginning.  Readers, myself included, were confused why these characters knew about Doom being a false god, while in the other books no one remembers anything about their universe pre-Doom.  It might have been better released as a weekly series late in the process.

I have only good things to say about the Last Days titles though.  Each of them depicted how the central character of the book (Magneto, Ms. Marvel, Loki, Silk, Spider-Woman, Black Widow, Punisher, and various Avengers) would deal with the guaranteed end of the world.  There is nothing left to do, so will the character fight until their last breath, or spend time with their loved ones?  The Ms. Marvel story was particularly compelling, as Kamala Khan feels pulled between doing what she can to help people and be with her family and friends.

Ms. Marvel at the end of the universe. From Ms. Marvel #16.  Image from Marvel Wiki.

This event was an interesting way to overhaul the state of affairs of the Marvel universe.  It was a compelling story that allowed Marvel to shuffle creative teams and launch a new status quo for the characters.  It was also a very fun way to bring back and play with many old ideas and alternate reality stories, as well as invent new alternate realities.

In the end, this was a great story with compelling characters and an insane premise, built slowly during years of plotting by Jonathan Hickman.  I wholeheartedly recommend the Secret Wars series, as well as the Last Days stories, certain Battleworld stories, and any Warzones-labeled miniseries that you find interesting.


Finishing Secret Wars, I'm able to do my second read-throughs of the first batch of "All-New, All Different Marvel" titles.  The next big crossover is Civil War II, though I'll want to write a number of posts about individual arcs of other series first.


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