Marvel’s Secret Wars are (almost) finally upon us! It’s been a long and winding road to Battleworld, through Multiversal Incursion after Multiversal Incursion, two different Avengers series, an event or two, and the destruction of the entire Marvel Universe, but we made it. Now, if you have no Earthly idea what any of that means, you are not alone. Jonathan Hickman’s epic sci-fi tale of betrayal, war, destruction, and morality that culminates in Marvel’s 2015 mega-event started way back in 2012 with Avengers #1, quickly became part of Hickman’s other ongoing, New Avengers, swerved right into the Infinity event, and has encompassed nearly 100 single comic book issues.
That’s a whole lot of story to catch up on if you’ve missed out, but this primer series should be all you need to understand exactly what’s lead to Secret Wars, what the event is all about, and even includes a brief tour of Battleworld itself. Even if you have kept up with everything up to this point there still may be some things you can take away from this summary, and I’d love any fact-checking you can provide.
We’re on to the second part of our Secret Wars Primer covering the Prelude to Infinity, the cosmic war epic Infinity, and more as we continue to travel down the road to Battleworld. Check out part 1 of our Secret Wars Primer for the whole journey.
So, let’s get to Infinity.
(SPOILER WARNING: This is a summary of events occurring in Marvel Comics Avengers, New Avengers, Infinity, and other series/books that could potentially damage your reading experience. Consider yourself warned!)
Suggested Reading Order:
- Avengers #14 – #17
- Infinity #1
- New Avengers #8
- Avengers #18
- New Avengers #9
- Infinity #2
- New Avengers #10
- Avengers #19
- Infinity #3
- Avengers #20
- Infinity #4
- Avengers #21
- New Avengers #11
- Infinity #5
- Avengers #22 & #23
- Infinity #6
- New avengers #12
I’m going to get into the full, spoiler-ridden summaries of both the build-up to and the event that was Infinity, but first, a word about reading order. The word is: It’s a pretty big deal! While in the early state of the entire enterprise leading up to Secret Wars things are pretty simple, beginning with Infinity the reveals and goings-on happen in sequences, and reading order is important. That doesn’t really matter if you’re reading this to get up to date, but I want you to be able to keep up, give the fact-checkers a reference, and add another layer of awesome to Hickman’s ability to craft such a complex yet entertaining story.
Infinity was a line-wide event at Marvel, meaning there were tie-ins to the series in many, many Marvel titles. We run into this quite a bit in the lead-up to Secret Wars, and we still have both Original Sin and AXIS to cover (not to mention Hickman’s stuff from the Ultimate Universe) so I’m not going to be getting in to ANY of those tie-ins. If it’s not mentioned in Avengers, New Avengers, or Infinity and still integral to Secret Wars I may not mention the book where it happened.
Prelude to Infinity (Avengers #14 – #17)
Avengers #14 starts off exactly where the series left off with Ex Nihilo’s Origin Bombs doing their best to accomplish their goal of making the Earth sentient. In Chhatarpur, India, the site of the Origin Bomb tasked with self-repair of the sentient Earth, the bomb fails in its task due to Earth being the fractal point for the Multiversal Incursions; it cannot fix this inevitable and unavoidable destruction of the planet. It then, as a part of its creation, sends a message into space relaying this information to someone…or something.
Meanwhile, the other Origin Bomb sites continue to attempt to complete their individual tasks of evolving the Earth to perfection by changing the Earth to meet a specific aspect of sentience, a process that wreaks havoc across the globe. The Avengers spread out to react to these issues scattered around the planet; a plane crashing over the UK, a critical nuke plant in South Korea, even an out-of-control Stark satellite in low-orbit; and the whole “Avengers World” aspect is really pushed hard. There’s a huge cast, which echoes the scope of the Infinity event, but it’s Banner who connects the dots once everything hits the fan.
The Communication Origin Bomb site sends out a signal to all the other sites, which makes a deafening sound heard around the globe. Either unwilling or unable, none of the sites reply to the transmission, except one, but, more importantly, Banner tracks this signal to the Perth, Australia Origin Bomb site. The Avengers teleport there and a fight ensues. Meanwhile, A.I.M., having taken possession of one of the Origin Bomb and performed experiments on same, also fed the signal to their portion of the alien evolution machine unleashing the Self-Defense aspect of a sentient Earth.
Named POD, this being is actually a Norwegian schoolgirl named Aikku Jokinen who became locked in a powerful protective suit created by the Origin Bomb. Under that suit’s control POD decimates A.I.M. HQ on A.I.M. Island before answering the call and heading to Perth to protect his fellow Origin Bomb creations.
The Avengers are decimated by POD, but A.I.M. eventually gets control of it, and sends it through a multiversal teleporter. This device transports matter into the space between two already dead universes, and becomes very important down the road.
Cap, Banner and Tony decide the whole “We Need To Go Bigger” idea is a pretty good one with the recent worldwide events. They recruit Ex Nihilo and Abyss, and officially add Star Brand and others to the team, but, with a roster this awesome, a worldwide stage simply isn’t big enough.
The Builders Are Coming! (Infinity #1-#6 and tie-ins)
There are two overarching aspects of Infinity. The first is Thanos and his gang coming to Earth in search for Thanos’ son and the remaining Infinity Gem. The second is the Builders’ attempt to destroy Earth. Thanos invading Earth to find his son and the Gem is only possible because the Avengers are off planet fighting the Builders.
In Infinity #1 we meet the Builders, an ancient race of multiversal traveling aliens who, for billions of years, have been creators and engineers, species shapers and system builders. They created the Ex Nihilo to carry out their jobs of creating and evolving worlds, created the Aleph to destroy planets and other creations deemed unfit, and, while brutally efficient at destruction, are equally brilliant at creation, and want nothing more than to see their universe continue to survive. Earth, as an Incursion Point, is a threat to their universe. In a way, they are good guys, but they’re arrogant and simply “more evolved” than their creations. They have a different perspective. The loss of a few systems in a lone galaxy is nothing compared to the entire universe. The Builders are “Big Picture” kind of guys.
So, everything goes back and forth from Thanos and his gang on Earth looking for his son and the Infinity Gem against the Illuminati in New Avengers, and Cap and the other Avengers in space dealing with the Builders in Avengers, and Infinity itself bridging the gaps between the two. There’s a whole lot of spectacle and rich story-telling, but I’m just going to run down the bullet points.
- The rift between Namor and Black Panther widens as Wakanda invades Atlantis in retaliation of Namor’s AvX attack, leading to Namor lying about the whereabouts of the last Infinity Gem to Thanos’ goons, who then proceed to send all the armies of Thanos to Wakanda, devastating the nation. Despite this rift, however, the two continue to serve as members of the Illuminati, seeking to find Thanos’ son before the Mad Titan does, and dealing with Incursions as necessary.
- Black Bolt and his brother Maximus build a Terrigen Mist bomb that will change newly discovered latent Inhumans around the world into their Inhuman form. One of these new Inhumans is Thanos’ son. The Bomb goes off causing the creation of thousands of new Inhumans, which has been a pretty big part of the Marvel U since it happened, as well as casting the floating city of Attilan into New York Harbor.
- The Avengers save the Earth and the galaxy by bringing together a galactic council made up of pretty much all the galactic races in the Marvel Universe, and with the help of rebellious Ex Nihilo tired of centuries of destroying instead of creating, stave off the Builder invasion.
- Once back on Earth, Cap and his team take it to Thanos, capturing him in a Jello Mold looking prison.
The epilogue to Infinity alludes to everything that will come next. T’Challa is banished to the Necropolis by the new leader of Wakanda because of his complex relationship with Namor that he refuses to end due to the importance of the Illuminati’s mission to halt the Incursions. Black Bolt’s powers have been tremendously reduced because of the Terrigen Mist Bomb. Doctor Strange is willing to go to dark places to save his world. Most importantly, however, we see Black Swan (still a helpful prisoner of the Illuminati due to her obeying the will of Rabum Alal to save this Universe and the Illuminati’s distrust of her motivations) laugh at the Avengers victory over the Builders. She reminds them of the Mapmakers, and mentions for the first time both the Black Priests and the Ivory Kings, huge players in the “Game of Worlds”, the name given to the this cycle of destroying Earths to save Universes.
Rogue Planets, Sins, and a Multiverse in Flux
In the final stretch toward the home stretch of our trip to Battleworld Hickman lays more groundwork for everything he needs to do to destroy the Marvel Universe in preparation of the coming Secret Wars. The whole “multiple versions of characters” idea that makes the upcoming event so fun is introduced in all its wonderful fun, the Illuminati win, lose, and draw, and we move toward a time jump.
Suggested Reading Order:
- New Avengers #13
- Avengers #24
- New Avengers #14 – #15
- New Avengers Annual #1
- Avengers #25 – #34
- New Avengers #16 – #23
In these books, the ties between the two Avengers books become so close that they might as well be the same series. New Avengers #13 shows the Illuminati building a mirror; a device that can see into other Universes and allow the Illuminati to witness Incursions; based on Reed Richard’s invention The Bridge, which debuted in Hickman’s FF run. Although they were hoping to find clues on how to stop the Incursions, the Illuminati instead witness the destruction of an Earth by the Black Priests; a group that, like the Builders, is trying to save universes by destroying Earths; wiping out an alternate version of the Illuminati in the process.
In Avengers #24 a rogue planet was sent on a path to destroy Earth some time in the past that would, because of the time required to get to Earth, destroy the planet in the present. A traveler from the future arrives at Avengers Tower, warns the team of the impending doom, and offers a plan to phase both Earth and the rogue planet so they occupy the same space. They achieve this goal, and the traveler reveal herself to be Tony’s grand-daughter, who tells gramps that the Avengers originally destroyed the rogue planet, but phasing it would be useful in the future.
Most of the members of the Illuminati continue to devise ways to stop the Incursions and watch other Earths either destroyed by Black Priests defending their home Earths, mined for resources by Mapmakers, or simply destroyed by the Incursions. Doctor Strange, however, searches for Arcane solutions to the problem, eventually taking control of a demon, poisoning him with dark magic. But it’s the revelation that the Black Swans throughout the Multiverse have a “pocket universe” behind an actual doorway that somehow protects the Swans and their master Rabum Alal from Incursions. It was also revealed that the Black Swans are immensely powerful, defeating Black Priests with ease.
These two long runs of Avengers and New Avengers tell two very different stories, but each are about the Multiverse in flux, and each coalesce into the final stretch of the run.
In Avengers, A.I.M. uses their Multiversal portal to bridge the spaces between an Incursion, rescuing an alternate team of Avengers of the more evil persuasion from a doomed Earth, including a murderous Jarvis as Iron Man, a sociopath Bruce Banner, and an unworthy Thorr with a hammer that comes in very handy down the road. At this point, the 616 Bruce Banner puts the pieces together after S.H.I.E.L.D. discovers these variant Avengers’ Hulk. After confronting Tony with this new information, Banner becomes a member of the Illuminati.
It’s also revealed that A.I.M. took tissue samples from many of the Avengers while they were unconscious during the fight with POD in Perth, Australia, creating new Adaptoids capable of exploring the Multiverse. On their first trip through the Multiverse, however, these Adaptoids are quickly taken over by the Mapmakers. The alternate Avengers, however, are sent away by A.I.M. to yet another alternate universe.
Meanwhile, in New Avengers the Illuminati discover a team from an alternate Universe called The Great Society, who very closely resemble DC’s Justice League. Through the Multiversal Mirror, the Illuminati witness The Great Society fend off the Mapmakers, destroying the Mapmaker world and saving their own. The Universe of The Great Society and the 616 Incur, leading to a confrontation between the two teams. While the two teams bicker over specifics, Namor, short on patience as always, attacks. A fight ensues, and the Avengers are quickly seen to be outmatched. But the demon inside Doctor Strange is unleashed winning the fight fro the Illuminati and decimating The Great Society.
With the Incursion still underway, though, the team must use a Doomsday Bomb to destroy this other Earth. But now, when it is needed the most, the members lack the gumption to do what is necessary. All except Namor, that is, who activates the device, destroying the Earth of The Great Society and saving the 616 Earth.
In the aftermath of the destruction of The Great Society’s Earth, the Illuminati are shaken. The team disbands and waits for the inevitable destruction of the Earth as the next Incursion looms. Another team, however, enters the fray, and does what the Illuminati could not. The Cabal; Namor, Thanos, Maximus the Mad, Black Swan, Terrax, and Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight of Thanos’ team from Infinity; do what the Illuminati could not, and destroys world to save Universes.
Finally, in the Original Sin tie-ins for Avengers, Captain America’s memories of his time in and removal from the Illuminati come back to him. As he confronts Tony, however, the Time Gem comes back and shatters in Steve’s hand, hurdling the Avengers into the future. As Steve and the others travel 50, 500, and then 50,000+ years into the future, Captain America realizes that it’s up to him and the Avengers to stop the Illuminati at all costs.
This ends Part s of the Marvel Secret Wars Primer, but there’s a whole lot more to cover. Next up in this Secret Wars Primer, the time jump Eight Months Later into the future will lead to Time Runs Out in the final lead-up to Secret Wars, and then Everything End as we take a tour of the nations of Battleworld itself.