DC Comics in 1938, with Action Comics #1, launched the original comic book super hero universe. They introduced Superman, the Man of Steel, the Last Son of Krypton, the Man of Tomorrow. Very soon afterwards they introduced Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Flash and more. Then, in All Star Comics #3, they took the boldest step yet and introduced the Justice Society of America and with that created a shared universe. Over the course of the next fifty years, the DCU expanded exponentially and one world was no longer big enough to contain the stories and adventures of these larger than life characters. So, a multiverse was born.
There was Earth-1, considered to be the reality where most of the stories took place and the homeworld of the Justice League of America. There was Earth-2, said to be where Action Comics #1 took place and the homeworld of the Justice Society of America. It’s a world where time continued forward unabbreviated, as if starting from the Man of Steel’s debut in 1938, a world where the characters aged accordingly. Earth-3 was a flipped world where the JLA was the world’s greatest super villains known as the Crime Syndicate of Amerika and the world’s sole hero was Alexander Luthor. There was Earth-X, an alternate reality where World War II never ends and Uncle Sam and his brave Freedom Fighters fight a never-ending battle against the Nazis. There was Earth-S, home of the Marvel Family, Earth-C, home of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, Earth-4, home of the Charlton Heroes, and an infinite number of other alternate realities made up an increasingly convoluted and complicated DCU.
There were so many different versions of our heroes and so many different takes on histories, origins, relationships, and age differences that continuity in DC Comics’ shared universe became absolutely impossible. In 1985, legendary creators Marv Wolfman (Tomb of Dracula) and George Perez (Avengers), the masterminds behind the meteoric rise of the New Teen Titans, set out to fix this problem and thus, the Crisis on Infinite Earths was born.
Crisis introduced a mega cosmic threat that was indiscriminately wiping out the multiverse in a bid for ultimate power. Crisis was an epic tale told on a grand scale that up until that moment had never been attempted in the history of comics. It included every single hero and villain from across the DC multiverse, featured major deaths of mainstream heroes at a time before it became the norm, and most importantly, it accomplished what it set out to do – the consolidation of the DCU. For the next twenty-plus years, a time known as the Post-Crisis DCU, featured a singular universe where all stories took place and DC continuity was fixed. This Post-Crisis DCU continued up until 2011 when DC Comics launched The New 52 and the multiverse was reborn.
This was a long way to go to get to my question of the day.
Is the Marvel Universe heading toward a Crisis?
For many years now, there has been a building unease in the Marvel U. One major event after another and each one escalating and escalating to a point until finally the walls of reality may not be able to hold together. The first two major crimes against the space/time continuum were Days of Future Past and the Age of Apocalypse, two time-spanning tales that altered reality and messed with the natural course of human history. There have been other affronts to the natural order of things – The Cosmic Cube, the Beyonder, the Infinity Gauntlet, and more. But the truly great crimes against cosmic stability began about ten years ago.
During the Avengers Disassembled campaign, Lord Thor, king of Asgard, broke the vicious cycle of Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods and an end-of-days scenario that has played out and repeated itself over the course of several millennia. It was a violent yet important part of cosmic balance, a resetting of divine stature in the cosmic order of things. Not long after this came House of M, the event that changed everything. Scarlet Witch, the unstable daughter of Magneto and the culprit behind the events of Disassemble, used her chaos magic to completely alter reality and the world was reshaped into a mutant utopia under the rule of the Master of Magnetism. The Avengers and X-Men were able to unite and set this right, but not before the Scarlet Witch cast one more Hex – “No more mutants.”
With three simple words, Wanda Maximoff brought an entire race of people to the verge of extinction. The surviving mutants left in the world became known as The 198. In one moment of insanity, the course of human and mutant history was altered. Then, the heroes of Earth decided to take on a force of nature. The so called Illuminati, a secret organization made up of prominent heroes, deemed the Hulk too dangerous to live among humans and exiled him to the far side of the cosmos (see Planet Hulk). But nature always has a way of righting itself. So, when the mighty Hulk inevitably returned, World War Hulk was declared. As the Jade Giant, more enraged than ever before, took his revenge against the so called heroes of Earth, the war climaxed with a showdown between Hulk and the Sentry, a clash of titans that nearly destroyed the planet.
This epic battle along with the super hero Civil War, which resulted in the Death of Captain America, the world’s greatest hero, left the world and it’s heroes disenfranchised, weakened, physically and morally, and susceptible to a Secret Invasion. In the wake of the alien Skrulls’ failed attempt at a coup d’état, a remarkable shift in power took place within the Marvel U. Evil took power and the Dark Reign began.
Arch villain Norman Osborn and his sinister Cabal pulled the strings of the world like malevolent puppet masters. The Marvel Universe fell under a dark cloud and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes became fugitives and wanted criminals. Doctor Strange was stripped of his mantle as the Sorcerer Supreme for his inability to stop the cosmic crimes that had been wrought since House of M. Osborn’s Dark Reign came to an end when he challenged the power of the gods and laid Siege to Asgard. Though Osborn was vanquished, Asgard fell, and the immortal Norse gods were laid low, once again unnaturally shifting cosmic balance away from the divine.
Cosmic power in the marvel Universe was further diminished in a campaign that pitted the Avengers vs. the X-Men. The cosmic force of nature known as the Phoenix Force was headed back to Earth. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes saw this as a threat, but the Children of the Atom saw this as their salvation. By the end of the conflict, a great man lay dead, a classic hero had fallen from grace, and another Marvel U cosmic power was extinguished from existence. Then, the most heinous crime against the natural course of things occurred. Enter: The Age of Ultron. In order to defeat their greatest enemy, the Avengers travel back through time and change the course of history.
In the wake of all these monstrous historical shifts in cosmic balance -from Disassembled to House of M, from World War Hulk to Dark Reign, from Siege to AvX, throw in the Uncanny Avengers and their time-wrecking war with the Apocalypse Twins and the Indestructible Hulk’s Smash Time escapades – the space/time continuum and the natural course of history has been pounded and smashed. Age of Ultron was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In its wake, an actual tear in reality allowed the angelic warrior Angela to come over to the 616 from the Image Universe, and the world-devouring Galactus invaded the Ultimate Universe.
It is all now coming to a head. As Newton said – “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.” The Watcher visited Hank McCoy and chastised him for irresponsibly ripping the original X-Men from the past and bringing them to the present in the pages of All-New X-Men. Speaking of the Watcher, in Original Sin, the caretaker of the multiverse, has met with an untimely end. The Odinson also believes that the “Incursions” with which the New Avengers have been dealing with the past few years is the foreboding warnings of terrible things to come and maybe tied into these other escalating events. Something, like in Crisis on Infinite Earths, is systematically wiping out the multiverse.
And, with the Watcher – the “Steward of What If?” – moved off the playing board – could the Marvel Universe be heading toward a Crisis of its own? The answer is yes in 2015 there are big plans for the universe of Marvel heroes. In the mean time things are changing quickly Thor Odinson is no longer worthy to carry Mjölnir and a new female Thor arises. Steve Rogers looses the super soldier powers and turns over the mantle of Captain America to Sam Wilson (Falcon) along with the shield. The line between hero and villain is confused by the new Axis story line. The Spider-verse story threatens to end the existence of Spider-Man across the entire Multiverse and all versions of Spider-Man with it. The Marvel universe is changing so fast something drastic has to happen to make some sense of it so they have made the crossover of all crossovers and are making a new Battle World greater in scope than the original Battle World created by the creature called the Beyonder back in 1984 with the 12 part series Secret Wars.
Jonathan Hickman in May of 2015 will attempt to re write the history of the Marvel Universe with Secret Wars #1. All the players are there and the New Marvel will be the result of this major series, the culmination of years of writing and story telling to give us the definitive Marvel Universe for all generations. Marvel Comics has released a video, concerning their new cross-over of all their best cross-overs!
This Battle World map gives us clues of how they will all link together but it seems each cross-over will play out in a way it probably should have done originally, and I imagine then as each one concludes they will cross over with another concluding “cross-over country” until the Marvel universe is left with something that fits into what they have produced on cinema and on television.
“Everything Ends. The SECRET WARS Commence”
Stay tuned for more on this from Comics Talk. 🙂 Walt