Every couple of years (or whenever sales are lagging), Marvel and DC try to do a universe-shattering mega cross-over event, where the multiverse is sundered by some vague sounding super entity like the Anti-Monitor, the Beyonder, or the Builder.
This year, it’s Marvel’s turn, with their new Secret Wars event debuting in May. There was already a Secret Wars event back in the 80’s, but Marvel got lazy and reused the name for this incarnation. Also, they are literally destroying the Marvel universes, and have been teasing everyone with a “Time Runs Out!” scare quote on every issue of every series for the past few months.
At the beginning of this Secret Wars, the Marvel universes have been remade into an amalgamation of a bunch of different places and creatively named “Battleworld,” and it is ruled by a god-like Dr. Doom with an army of Thors as his enforcers. That sounds like a good hook to me, but if my past experience with comics is any indication, I would probably have no idea what the hell is going on unless I read some of the backstory first.
But where to start? I googled “what should I read before Secret Wars” and Comic Book Herald suggested Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run as a good jumping off point.
OK great. I like the Avengers movies and the other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, so this won’t be so bad. And, Hickman’s Avengers starts in 2012, so it’s not like I have to read 40 years worth of comics to understand what has happened so far.
Except then I fell down a rabbit hole. According to Comic Book Herald, I should read Hickman’s New Avengers. Now, I’m not sure why there are two sets of Avengers, but fine, I’ll check out New Avengers too. It’s not like I have a life or anything.
But wait. You can’t just read Avengers and then read New Avengers and then read Secret Wars. You need to read them in the correct order, because both series occur at the same time. Fine, tell me the reading order and I’ll try to follow it. Except, it’s not that simple, because in the lead up to Secret Wars, there’s another big crossover event starring Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, creatively called Infinity. To understand what’s going on there, you have to not only read Avengers and New Avengers, but also Mighty Avengers, Avengers Assemble, Secret Avengers, Avengers European Vacation, etc. If that weren’t confusing enough, this guy has a 15-minute video also explaining the pre-Secret Wars reading order.
Fine, I’m in this for the long haul. I don’t care if it takes one year or five, I will work my way through it and maybe things will start making sense as I go.
So I buy Avengers issues 1–6. Right away on page 1, we are getting a flashback to the beginning of time, and then a monologue with references to things that may have happened in earlier series or things that have yet to happen (it’s not entirely clear), but OK, whatever.
Smash cut to Mars, where a crazy yellow guy, his sister, and a robot have terraformed the planet and are throwing flesh-eating terraforming pods at Earth for some reason.
Then, BOOM. The Avengers are on it (the core six from the first movie, which I’m sure is not a coincidence). They fly to Mars and get ready to kick some ass, EXCEPT they are utterly defeated in about three seconds, with the crazy yellow guy, his sister, and the robot capturing everyone except Captain America, whom they send back to Earth. These three continue throwing terraforming pods at Earth while basking in their superior intellect and power.
Captain America gets back to Earth and turns on the Avengers-version of the bat signal, which starts a series of flashback vignettes where Captain America and Iron Man go around recruiting people to join the Avengers in case something bad happens. Awesome.
Everyone shows up to fix the Avengers jet except that one of the new Avengers can literally just teleport everyone to Mars as easily as walking across the room.
So they do that and it’s more of an even fight this time, except the robot turns on his insane killing mode and is about to wipe the floor with everyone, when one of the Avengers, whose recruitment story was skipped for some reason, walks over to the crazy yellow guy, his sister and the now-giant robot and says, “Hey, I’m the mother of the universe, stop what you’re doing.”
And so the crazy yellow guy and his sister stop, but the robot says, “No, fuck you,” at which point the mother of the universe (who is named Captain Universe and is bonded to an amnesiac woman apparently), says, “No, fuck you” and totally disintegrates the robot. The end. Earth is saved and the Avengers decide to let the crazy yellow guy and his sister stay on Mars (despite the fact that they just committed wide-scale biological genocide that killed millions of people and were minutes away from killing everyone else on Earth) and the Avengers leave. The arc ends with some creepy foreshadowing insinuating that Tony Stark is death incarnate.
And that’s just issues 1–3.