Aug 6, 2018

Infinity to Secret War: Jonathan Hickman's Epic Avengers Story, II

Jonathan Hickman first gained notoriety in the comic book world as the creator of the Image series The Nightly News.  Marvel brought him in to collaborate with Brian Michael Bendis on the excellent Secret Warriors comic, and it didn’t take long for Hickman to take over as the sole writer.  As the writer of the Fantastic Four, Hickman developed an ambitious long-form style of writing, full of complex big ideas.  This style would be used to even greater effect when he was handed the Avengers franchise in late 2012.  Hickman took over as the writer of the Avengers and New Avengers series, beginning an epic three-year long storyline that would eventually culminate in the massive crossover event Secret Wars.

Infinity to Secret War: Jonathan Hickman's Epic Avengers Story
Part Two
Ben Smith

In New Avengers, the Illuminati use Reed’s Bridge machine to observe other incursions as they happen, and eventually find out they can witness past events on a limited basis. Black Panther and Namor continue their uneasy partnership, a blood feud continuing on from the Avengers vs X-Men event, where Namor used the Phoenix power to devastate Wakanda. Elsewhere, Dr. Strange barters with his very soul to gain the kind of power it would take to move planets.

As the Illuminati watch more incursions, they begin to learn more about the various factions involved in the Multiversal events.


The Black Swans are the disciples of Rabum Alal (the true identity of whom is very exciting). The Black Swans operate out of the Library of Worlds, a place that exists between universes. The purpose of the Black Swans has not been revealed as of yet in the story, so stay tuned. A group of Black Swans rebelled against Rabum Alal, destroying Earths during incursions as an offering to him, and to buy more time for other universes.


Mapmakers were created by the Ivory Kings to chart worlds and mark the movements of the Black Swans. They travel the Multiverse through the incursions, stripping each Earth of all usable materials. Their occupation is marked by blue skies, instead of the usual red that signifies an incursion event. The Sidera Maris are their bridge builders, and are used to hold each incursion zone. What exactly they are charting is something that is revealed later, and involves one of my favorite obscure Marvel characters.


The Black Priests destroy intrusive Earths during incursions, with the hopes that destroying enough could stabilize the Multiverse. They are not truly alive, but are instead “animated things that feign life.” Their leader is — wait for it — another surprising twist in the storyline, but seems pretty obvious in hindsight.


The aforementioned creators of the Mapmakers, in direct opposition with Rabum Alal. The reveal of who and what the Ivory Kings really are is a moment that hits me right in the core of my longtime Marvel fandom. It builds directly off of a crucial storyline from my childhood, a comic that played a major part in my lifelong love of the Marvel Universe.

Over in the core Avengers title, many things are happening, and to be completely honest, I find them much less compelling than the incursion story happening in New Avengers. I’m going to do my best to explain what happens, because it is quite complicated in parts, but feel free to skip Avengers #24 - 34, because they do not have my recommendation.

Franklin Richards sends Tony Stark’s granddaughter backwards in time, to help them deal with a rogue planet that has been removed from it’s orbit and fired like a giant bullet towards the Earth. Instead of destroying the weaponized planet, she helps them to build a machine that will phase it into alignment with the Earth, creating a massive source of power that Stark can draw from to use in the coming months.

We learn later on that this planet was purposefully shot backwards through time by the Avengers from 5000 years in the future, a time when the Avengers consists of billions of universal superbeings. More on that in a minute.

A.I.M. is doing what they do, experimenting with the multiversal rifts that have been happening. They successful create a bridge between the 616 universe and one that is in the midst of an incursion, pulling that world’s Avengers over, only this team of Avengers is very much evil. The real Avengers end up battling the evil Avengers, until A.I.M. corrects their mistake and sends the evil Avengers off into an entirely new dimension where they can be happy, maiming and subjugating to their heart’s content. After successfully creating a door between universes, A.I.M. creates a new group of Adaptoids to send out into the multiverse to explore. However, the Adaptoids, well, they adapt past their programming, and end up meeting with and becoming Mapmakers.

Ultimately, the primary result of this story is that Bruce Banner absorbs enough clues between A.I.M. and Stark’s actions as of late to determine that Stark has reformed the Illuminati, and that the multiverse is indeed dying. As a result, Banner joins the Illuminati.

Captain America finally remembers the incursion events, and how the Illuminati wiped his mind after he accidentally destroyed the Infinity Stones. He grabs a group of the Avengers to confront Stark, and just as things are getting physical, the time stone reappears and throws them all into the future. First it’s 48 years ahead, then 5045, then 51,028, and so on. 5,000 years ahead is when they meet Franklin Richards, and he explains to them about the rogue planet, and he also explains to Cap that the Illuminati will fail. They will fail because the task is impossible, but also because they will be opposed by him.

Captain America is the only one that reaches the end of the line, as each jump sends more and more of his Avengers back to the present day, while he continues on. At the end of time he finds Iron-Lad, Kang, and Immortus waiting for him. They explain to him that they are all stuck in a temporal loop, and this journey has all happened before. Last time, they claim they told Captain America to go back and convince Stark to find a better way to combat the incursions, and it still failed. This time, they plan to have him help them destroy worlds to live. But all this journey through time has taught Steve, is to remember who he is. He fights to save people, he fights against monsters, and he doesn’t kill for the greater good.

Captain America tells Kang to shove it, and then returns to the present day, where the Avengers (minus Stark) are waiting for him. He knows what he has to do, and he declares their former friends in the Illuminati to be the worst enemies they know.

Most of those events and ideas sound much better in summary than they were to actually read. Not that they were terrible comics at all, but I remember reading the comics when they were coming out every month and it felt very much like they were stalling, and it still does. The main points to take away from this stretch if you decide to skip these comics, is that A.I.M. is up to no good, Bruce Banner has joined the Illuminati, and Captain America is more convinced than ever that the Illuminati must be stopped.

Next week, the countdown to “Time Runs Out."

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