Marvel Comics is the king of continuity. Its universe of interconnected superhero stories has been running strong and growing in size and complexity for over 50 years. And unlike its main superhero competition at DC Comics, the main Marvel Universe hasn't really experienced a large-scale reboot.*
That all changes this year.
At a press conference for the kickoff the this year's Secret Wars comic event, Marvel announced the big news: By the end of the event, the Marvel Universe as we know it will be gone. And so will the Ultimate Universe, a separate timeline started in 2000. What's left will be a fresh universe replacing both of them while carrying over some pieces.
The event is the culmination of a years-long run on Avengers and New Avengers by writer Jonathan Hickman, but its reach will be much larger than those two books (which are now ending).
"The Ultimate Universe and the Marvel Universe are going to smash together," editor-in-chief Axel Alonso explained. "Imagine there's two pizzas. They're going to smash together. You're going to have all-new toppings. Some toppings are going to drop off. You're going to yell about some that are missing. You're going to love the new ones that are there. That's the new Marvel universe moving forward."
The initial clash between these two universes will happen in Secret Wars #1, which is coming out in May. Marvel is adamant that some elements of the Marvel Universe's 60 years of history will remain, but it's unclear how much or which specific pieces.
As an example, Alonso said that this could be a great place for long-dead characters to return. "If we wanted to resurrect Gwen Stacy, this would be the place to do it," he said, referencing the Spider-Man love interest who died in a notorious scene way back in the '70s.
Marvel called Secret Wars "the biggest comic of 2015 and possibly the biggest event that Marvel has ever done." You can watch the full press conference for yourself below:
While we wait to see how the revised universe shakes out, the Secret Wars series will see various iterations of the Marvel Universe smashed together into something the publisher is calling "Battleworld." Marvel has released an interactive map of Battleworld on its website, where you can see some of the weird worlds being represented here.
The press conference ended with Marvel senior vice president and executive editor Tom Brevoort reiterating the far-reaching consequences of this event: "The Marvel Universe as you know it is done. The Ultimate Universe as you know it is done."
Brevoort also noted that the previously-announced Marvel superheroes crossover with the Attack on Titan manga will be included as part of this year's Free Comic Book Day offering from the publisher.
On paper, at least, Marvel's Secret Wars event sounds similar to DC's 2011 event Flashpoint, which ended in a similarly rebooted universe called "The New 52" that kept some bits and pieces of chronology from the previous universe. It's a smart idea for drawing in new readers, but DC's books have struggled to maintain interest beyond the initial push of excitement. It will be interesting to see if Marvel can pull off the same idea better.
*I'm not counting mid-'90s Heroes Reborn event, as it was a short-lived disaster that even Marvel itself seems to have forgotten.