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Marvel’s Ultimate revival picks up where Secret Wars left off

Jonathan Hickman and Bryan Hitch to write and illustrate, respectively

The promotional image for Marvel’s Ultimate Invasion series, featuring Marvel superheroes like Captain America, Reed Richards, The Maker, and more Image: Marvel Entertainment
Maddy Myers has run Polygon’s games section since 2020 as deputy editor. She has worked in games journalism since 2007, at Kotaku, The Mary Sue, and the Boston Phoenix.

With Avengers: Secret Wars on the not-so-distant horizon — projected to be released in 2026 — both Marvel fans and newcomers alike have had reason to Google the phrase “Secret Wars.” Multiple comic book events have borne that title, most recently in 2015, but now Marvel Comics is ready to meet fans in the present day. On Wednesday, the company announced an upcoming four-issue series called Ultimate Invasion that picks up where 2015’s Secret Wars left off, and will perhaps offer more clues as to where the MCU might lead after its own Secret Wars.

Ultimate Invasion also signals the unexpected return of the Ultimate Universe, an alt-universe that launched in the 2000s as a reboot of sorts featuring “ultimate” versions of Marvel’s most famous superheroes. Like any decent comic book reboot, it provided a good jumping-on point for lapsed fans; it also garnered enough success that it would later serve as one of the inspirations for DC’s New 52 reboot. The Ultimates didn’t last, though. Secret Wars (2015) put an end to the entire Ultimate endeavor, with just one exception — its very best idea: Miles Morales, the much-beloved alt-universe Spider-Man.

It makes perfect sense, then, that Miles Morales will be front and center in the upcoming Ultimate Invasion, given how well-known he’s become. Ultimate Invasion’s writer and artist — Jonathan Hickman and Bryan Hitch — make a lot of sense, too. Hitch worked on the original Ultimates run, as did Hickman, who also wrote the 2015 Secret Wars series that put an end to it all. These days, Hickman is also known as the mastermind behind the current Krakoa era of X-Men comics, which started with the epic 2019 reset, House of X/Powers of X.

“We both knew there needed to be a good reason to revisit the idea of ‘Ultimate Comics’ beyond telling a cool story or just getting to work together, which is something we’ve been trying to do for years,” Hickman told Entertainment Weekly. “So with that in mind, it couldn’t be replicating or revisiting what Bryan [Hitch] did in the original Ultimates — creating a streamlined, modernized version that would eventually become the spine of the MCU — and it certainly couldn’t be what I did [in Secret Wars], which was a final chapter of a pre-existing universe.”

It also appears as though some version of the Illuminati (remember them from the MCU’s Multiverse of Madness?) will reconvene in Hitch and Hickman’s series; EW’s exclusive preview art depicts multiple former Illuminati members like Black Bolt, Mister Fantastic, Namor, and others. Another major character in Ultimate Invasion will be The Maker, a villainous alt-universe version of Reed Richards; Hickman told EW that The Maker is “pretty much the perfect vehicle to get us from point A to point B.”

Comic book readers will learn what that strange trip will entail when Ultimate Invasion arrives in June, with preview pages slated to be released as part of Free Comic Book Day on May 6, 2023.

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