Posted - October 30, 2015
Prelude to Secret Wars
Where are the days when comicbook creative teams took pains to ensure that anybody picking up a title was immediately up to speed with the storyline just by reading the comic in hand? When there was no need to read backstories in order to understand the ongoing tale? They're gone. And thank God for it too! Those considerations really hampered writers trying to tell multi-issue stories. Let alone epics like Secret Wars.
With that in mind, Marvel has come up with a small collection called Secret Wars Prelude. The idea is to gather essential issues from the past that will enable readers to more fully appreciate the upcoming 2015 Secret Wars event. These issues have been collected in a handy trade paperback but in case you already have these stories in your collection here's a quick list of the relevant titles:
As you can see, Secret Wars Prelude is a bunch of reprints. If you can simply pull these out of your collection I suggest you do so. They comprise the stories Marvel has deemed essential reading for the 2015 Secret Wars event.
From the content perspective, the stories that we need to know are as follows:
With knowledge of these storylines, you're well-armed to get maximum enjoyment from Secret Wars.
The Godhood of Doctor Doom
This prelude gives us the last three issues of the classic Secret Wars. What are in those last three issues you ask? Well, for the first nine issues of the twelve-issue Secret Wars - called a maxi-series to separate it from the four-issue mini-series popular during the time (the 80s) - we have Doctor Doom being himself and trying to claim the power of both Galactus and the Beyonder. In the last three issues Doctor Doom succeeds. First absorbing the power of the world-eating Galactus and then successfully challenging the Beyonder for the ultimate power - omnipotence and omniscience both.
I've covered not just the last three issues but the entire classic Secret Wars - now known as Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars to distinguish it from the 2015 Secret Wars event - here.
Long story short. Doctor Doom attains Marvel's version of absolute godhood but infinite power becomes housed in the mortal vessel of one Victor von Doom, it is a poor match and an agonizing experience for Doom. In the end, some kind of cosmic equilibrium kicks in and the power returns to the Beyonder.
The takeaway for the upcoming Secret Wars event is that Doom's ambition is too vast for his mortality. He was never meant to be a god but he will always strive to be one.
Doctor Doom with Two Infinity Gauntlets
An Infinity Gauntlet is the control artifact for a universe. When the Infinity Gems and, subsequently, the Infinity Gauntlet was first introduced, I was mind blown about how powerful the gems and the gauntlet were. Up until that time, we only had power objects like the Serpent Crown and the Cosmic Cube in the Marvel Universe. The gauntlet symbolized massive power, even too much power really.
Well, not anymore. As I mentioned, the Guantlet can control the universe. But it turns out that the Marvel Universe is composed of an infinite number of universes. Each universe with its own Infinity Gauntlet. Suddenly, an Infinity Guantlet, although powerful, isn't so mind-blowing anymore. After all, its control is limited to only one universe, while Secret Wars - as will be explained later - presents a multiversal problem.
And there came a day when Victor von Doom gets control of not one but two Infinity Guantlets.
And what does Doctor Doom do with this kind of power? In one word: Fun.
First, a word of creation:
Then the start of a new universe.
A universe of science and magic!
The magic part has four pillars.
My guess is the classical elements: Earth, fire, wind and water. Something tells me I'm wrong but my spider-sense tells me that Doom - even this extremely powerful version of him - still has FF hangups. The ever popular Thing = earth, Human Torch = Fire, Mister Fantastic = water, and Invisible Woman = air.
Anyway, the new Doom universe is established complete with denizens.
Crude. Like extremely early medieval-period crude. Even pre-medieval really. I love it. Reminds me of Umberto Eco's 'The Name of the Rose'.
True to his feudal nature, Doom creates a universe with a pecking order. Witness, the lords of magic and science. Doom's lieutenants - or maybe I should say dukes or barons.
It all goes so well until it doesn't. A rebellion happens and Doom is overwhelmed.
How can you beat somebody with two Infinity Gauntlets? Reason tells me that you can't. Unless that someone allows himself to be beaten.
A successful rescue is mounted by the Richards family led by Reed Richards.
And now for the truly impossible feat: Getting Doctor Doom to say 'thank you'.
Takeaway for Secret Wars: Something in Doom wants him to fail. And more importantly, Doom knows it and will take steps to avoid a second rebellion should he find himself yet again, master of his universe.
The Maker and his City
Meet the Maker a.k.a. Reed Richards.
Let me qualify that - the Reed Richards of universe 1610 - the Ultimates universe. Well, this one is unexpected. For Marvel to give us a Reed Richards like this. He's - not nice. Better to show you.
The situation: Thor has infiltrated the Maker's territory as an act of vengeance for the death of the Asgardians. During a skirmish Thor is defeated by one of Maker's champions known as First Knife. Thor is on the ground here.
One of my memories growing up was about a schoolyard fight and the other guy went down and his opponent still kept hitting the poor guy. I remember our P.E. instructor, a huge guy, pulling the fighters apart and angrily berating the victor: "Never hit a guy who's already down. It's uncivilized!". With that in mind, this is what happens to Thor.
And this is what the Maker has to say about it:
Reed Richards is like that.
Now we come to the City. The City has a face.
Very nice, especially since the City is nothing more than an A.I./Supercomputer. B-O-R-I-N-G. Supercomputers have been so overdone in comics writers should become really trendsetting and feature Neanderthals or Homo Erectus as villainous support. I'd tell the City what I think of it myself except I notice that this supercomputer has been outfitted with a very large and very sharp knife.
So this City was founded in blood. The blood of half of Europe. Reed Richards is like that.
And that's pretty much all you have to know about him going into Secret Wars
Okay there is one other thing. The best panel from this Ultimates story.
It has nothing to do with anything, but it is the best panel.
Mile Morales: Spider-Man
In universe 1610, or the Ultimates Universe, Peter Parker has perished and we get a ringside seat to the origin of his successor.
It all starts with a bite from Spider No. 42.
Here's the actual bite
We only get one display of power from Miles and it's a surprising one. One never exhibited by Peter.
Camouflage? Or outright invisibility?
We'll see the costumed 1610 Spidey in Secret Wars. Here's what he looks like:
The most important piece of knowledge imparted by Secret Wars Prelude is information about the incursion - what it is and why it's such a big deal.
It's time to play eeni-meenie-minee-moe with the Avengers to find out who among Earth's Mightiest Heroes gets to find out the bad news first.
Well, it comes out as no surprise that black cats are unlucky.
Things happen so fast and T'Challa finds himself struggling, unable to protect his people. Happily the power of the Black Panther is still potent and T'Challa uses it in two opportune moments. Here.
Suffering loses though he may be, but the Black Panther successfully captures the enigmatic and mysterious Black Swan.
One little note before we move on. The language used by the Black Swan.
High Sumerian. Interesting. You've heard about the 'ancient astronauts' theory? In that theory the empire of Sumer (and Akkad) were created and ruled over by extra-terrestrials. And here we have Black Swan speaking High Sumerian.
So, the Black Panther hasn't seen enough to know what's going on but he has seen enough to know that whatever it is, it's bad. Even terribly so. It puts the fear into the heart of T'Challa and I love the way we are shown what's going on inside the Panther. We are shown it with a terrible yet beautiful 'prayer'.
Righteous man = Tony Stark. The others are obvious from the panels
Even more than the prayer we have this.
The summoning of the Illuminati including the much-hated Namor. For the Panther to do this, the magnitude of the crisis has to be of the first order.
At this point, the most visible part of the crisis are the incursion events. And now, for an explanation of the incursion events, Reed Richards.
Let's make notes of some important incursion facts.
Given these data I would posit that every force in every universe would naturally make it their priority to destroy the Earth of their universe in order to prevent an incursion. On the 616 universe that would be all the star-spanning Kree, Shi'Ar, Brood and Badoon Empires - perhaps even the Skrulls would be able to organize themselves. Additionally Galactus and his heralds, the Elders of the Universe, and the Celestials. Everybody would consider Earth target no. 1. Oboy.
Here's my preferred solution to the problem: Since the Illuminati are in possession of the Infinity Gems I would suggest that they identify the universe in which the catalyst event occurred - the first universe to collapse - use the Time Gem to go back in time to that universe and prevent the event from happening. Do whatever it takes. Involve the whole Marvel universe, heroes and villains, if necessary. Stop the first domino from falling and save all the universes.
That said, there is one problem with my preferred solution. It won't work because the Infinity Gems only have sway in our universe, it won't work across universes.
Which brings me to Plan B: Use the Infinity Gauntlet to locate a power object that can work across universes and then go back to Plan A.
Okay, how about a Plan C. Use the Infinity Gauntlet and relocate the entire Earth to another planet and destroy our Earth thereby protecting our universe from further incursions. This would actually work except for one big problem: Future Marvel Comics won't be located in New York City anymore - even if they use the Gauntlet to create a fake New York it would still be "fake". Plan C would save universe 616 but destroy Marvel Comics - making it the event people would talk about for decades to come.
So what do the Illuminati actually do? They combine the Gems thereby recreating the Infinity Gauntlet. They vote Captain America as wielder and the First Avenger then proceeds to prevent an incursion.
This results in a shattering of the Infinity Gems causing Namor to go ballistic at what he deems to be a fatal failure. Namor is not quite right - he's just being the imperial hot head we're all familiar with. The current incursion has been successfully prevented but danger of future incursions is still very real. I really love what comes next.
With the "Infinity Gauntlet option" out of the table, what is on the table is destroying another Earth to save our own. So much blood on the hands of the Illuminati that they will make Hitler look like an innocent choir boy. We all know where Captain America stands on such matters.
Bottom line: Cap is against destroying planets to save universes. The rest of the Illuminati do not share the Captain's sentiment. And now for the part I find really funny.
Surely Tony is remembering Civil War . But this time the other heroes have learned what to do about Mr. Rogers.
A mindwipe incident reminiscent of 'Identity Crisis'. It's all for the best, we can't have another Civil War on top of Secret Wars (or so I think, and I will be wrong).
Before we leave the Illuminati - and the pages of Secret Wars Prelude - let's have a comparitively light-hearted look at that serious meeting. Look at this table.
As things heat up and the situation being painted truly becomes dire, the awesomely controlled Black Bolt can't help but show a "little" reaction.
Look at the table now.
And on that note, see you in the Wars!