The post-ENDGAME Marvel Cinematic Universe has focused on a lot of small stories, but the studio is building up to a pair of Avengers movies. If you haven't known quite where Marvel has been headed, rest assured that the story is going somewhere specific.
But where? The next AVENGERS movie is centered around Kang the Conquerer, a time-hopping villain of seemingly-infinite power. We met Kang in the "Loki" television series and will see him again in ANT-MAN: QUANTUMANIA. He makes sense as an upcoming big bad given Marvel's recent focus on the Multiverse.
After the Avengers deal with Kang, their next mission will be even more impactful. The second movie is called AVENGERS: SECRET WARS. For non-comic readers, this might not mean much, even though the title is evocative. There will be a war, and it will be… secret? For comic readers, however, the title means a lot.
Find out what we mean by jumping into our handy SECRET WARS explainer!
Secret Wars, Part One
What was the first "Secret Wars" story? That’s easy. In 1984 and 1985 it was the first major Marvel crossover, in which characters from different ongoing series (Spider-Man, Captain America, the X-Men, and many more) were pulled together into a 12-issue series that affected most of Marvel's ongoing titles. The setup is simple: A being called The Beyonder brought a ton of Marvel heroes and villains to a distant planet called Battleworld. Basically, the intention was for all of them to fight. The last one standing would get whatever their heart desired.
Thanks to clashing personalities, things on Battleworld got weird in a hurry. The population was generally divided into "hero" and "villain" camps, but not everyone in those groups got along. What happens when Doctor Doom’s ego clashes with someone like the coldly pragmatic Magneto? Can a team like the Avengers get along with a group as defensive as the X-Men?
Suffice to say, a lot happens in the series, much of which doesn’t make sense for the current MCU. It is likely that AVENGERS: SECRET WARS will draw on the basic concept of this series, and perhaps feature some minor shoutouts to specific events.
The Original Secret Wars Comic Book Sequel
After the huge success of "Secret Wars," Marvel created a sequel. Storywise, it played out somewhat like the opposite of the first run. This time, instead of bringing a bunch of Marvel characters to his own planet, The Beyonder visits ours. The all-powerful being spends his (its?) time mostly…. just hanging out with heroes, learning what it is to be human. Or a superhuman, as it were.
This was seen as something of a step down from the first event and is almost certainly not going to be the inspiration for the SECRET WARS movie. (Though it would make for a pretty cool post-movie TV series.)
The Triumphant Return of the Secret Wars
Since SECRET WARS has gone down in history as one of the great comic book events, it makes sense that Marvel would eventually return to it. In 2015, a new "Secret Wars" took place. This new version has some similarities to the original. For instance, much of it takes place in a mysterious land called Battleworld. Doctor Doom is a major antagonist. And, of course, a ton of Marvel characters are involved.
Otherwise, the 2015 "Secret Wars" is pretty different from what Marvel did in the '80s. Basically, the series begins with all the various Marvel Universes crashing into each other, often destroying the colliding realities. Doctor Doom and some powerful cohorts are able to fit bits and pieces of the final two Universes into one shared space where Doom is, of course, king.
Meanwhile, two versions of Reed Richards get a whole lot of superheroes together to carry everyone past this disaster. Some of these heroes survive the journey to Battleworld, setting the stage for a showdown between Richards and Doom.
As with all modern crossovers, there were a ton of side stories to follow as the main event progressed, making it all very complicated. For one AVENGERS film, however, the main story should be plenty. A pure adaptation of this event would focus heavily on the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom. These characters haven’t yet been introduced to the MCU, but we know that most of them will feature in the FANTASTIC FOUR movie that comes out before SECRET WARS.
And a story about a bunch of Marvel Universes crashing together to create one major Universe seems like a feasible endpoint for several years of Universe-hopping in the MCU. If you’re going to read one version of SECRET WARS before the film comes out, this 2015 version is probably your best bet.
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All images courtesy of Marvel Comics.