Aug 13, 2018

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

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 Three
Ben Smith

The Illuminati watch as a noble team of heroes (analogues of the Justice League) successfully avert three incursions.  However, their worst fears are realized when this universe is on a collision course with their own.  The two teams, out of ideas on how to stop the incursion, fight to save their respective universe.  Dr. Strange uses the darkest magic to defeat the heroes, clearing the way for the Illuminati to use their antimatter bomb.



Yet, none of the Illuminati can actually follow through and destroy an entire planet, even if it means their own destruction.  As they wait for the end, Namor grabs the remote detonator, and activates it, destroying the opposing Earth.

Black Panther is livid, and has to be prevented from killing Namor on the spot, but the hostilities are interrupted by the notification that another incursion will occur in just three hours from now.



The heroes make their final rounds, not willing to build another bomb, and resigned to their ultimate fate.  As the final moments tick down, and arrive, and then time passes after without any consequence, the heroes of the Illuminati are left to wonder what happened.

What happened was that Namor, frustrated by the inaction of the heroes, re-forms a new version of the Cabal, full of individuals that won’t hesitate to do the dirty work of killing others to save themselves.

EIGHT MONTHS LATER

The story continues after an eight month time jump into the future.  Both Avengers and New Avengers now have a banner across the top of their covers, “In 8 Months… Time Runs Out.”  The entire world now knows about the death of the multiverse, and has fully sanctioned the actions Thanos and the Cabal are taking to save their universe.  Because of this, the world granted them the use of Wakanda as a base of operations.

The Marvel heroes are now divided into factions.  Most of the scientists have joined the Illuminati.  Captain America and a few of his most devoted friends have joined S.H.I.E.L.D. in an effort to find and prosecute the Illuminati.  The remaining Avengers not wanting to be involved with either side have joined Sunspot, who purchased A.I.M. and is now using their scientific might for good.

A.I.M. sends an assault team into the multiverse in an attempt to discover the true cause of the incursions.  This team consists of (the Unworthy) Thor, Hyperion, Abyss, Nightmask, Star Brand, and a group of Ex Nihili.



Namor makes a plea to Dr. Doom to help him corral the out-of-control Cabal, but he is busy investigating the incursions himself with (and this is where I get really interested) the Molecule Man, one of my favorite obscure villains.



The three disparate Avengers factions eventually come back together to try and maroon the Cabal on an Earth about to be destroyed by an incursion, at which time Black Panther takes an extra bit of (he thinks) revenge against Namor by trapping him with them.

However, Namor and the Cabal are saved when a second incursion happens at the same time, so they are able to save themselves by escaping to this third universe, where they are greeted by the Ultimate Reed Richards, aka The Maker.  This Reed had successfully saved the Ultimate universe over thirty times, all by himself.



Meanwhile, A.I.M.’s multiverse assault team has encountered the home base of the Black Priests.  They fight, but the conflict ends when the leader of the Priests reveals himself, Doctor Strange.  Doctor Strange explains that he and the Priests are merely caught in the middle of a conflict between the Ivory Kings and Rabum Alal.  The Priests kill worlds during the incursion in the hopes that if enough worlds are destroyed, the multiverse will heal itself, like “triage surgeons.”

Inspired by Valeria Richards’ suggestion that they need to stop trying to win, and start figuring out how not to lose, Black Panther and Reed Richards create a “lifeboat,” that will survive the destruction of the multiverse, and begin hashing out who will get to board it.

Yellowjacket (Hank Pym) finally returns from his covert mission into the Multiverse with the stunning identity of the Ivory Kings.  It turns out they are Beyonders, godlike beings from outside of the Multiverse bent on its destruction.  They’ve been busy killing all the Celestials and omnipotent beings across all the galaxies, finishing with the Living Tribunal, and now they’re ready to finish off the Multiverse.  (Molecule Man, Beyonders, this is right in the wheelhouse of my 8-year-old self.)


Dr. Strange and the Black Priests find the Library of Worlds, where they are shocked to learn that Rabum Alal is Dr. Doom.  (Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars, baby!)



The Multiversal assault team actually succeed in killing two Beyonders, with only Hyperion and Thor barely surviving that monumental clash.  They soon find out how hopeless things are, when a dozen Beyonders appear soon after.  They rush headlong into battle, and to their deaths.



After all the incursions, only two universes remain.  The Ultimate Universe, and the 616.  With the end drawing near, Captain America has only one goal before everything goes white, to beat the hell out of his old friend Tony Stark.  The battle is brutal and petty, and continues up until the universe goes white.

Before the white event, Dr. Doom explains to Doctor Strange exactly what is happening.  All beings are different in each universe across the Multiverse, except the Molecule Man.  The Beyonders created the Molecule Man to be a universal bomb that when they detonated, he would simultaneously destroy every universe across the Multiverse.



The Molecule Man and Dr. Doom traveled back in time to the origin of a Molecule Man on a separate Earth, and killed him.  Dr. Doom then spent the next 25 years trying to kill every Molecule Man in every universe, in an attempt to destroy the Beyonders weapon against the Multiverse.  Eventually, the death of a Molecule Man started the incursions.



Along the way, Doom inspired disciples to assist him in this task, the Black Swans.

The Beyonders created the Mapmakers to mark the movements of the Swans, seed sacrifice worlds, and chart each universe where a Molecule Man was destroyed.

Eventually, a faction of the Black Swans lost faith in him, and unwittingly began assisting the Beyonders in their goal by destroying Earths at each incursion point.  One of these Black Swans is the one that was held captive by the Illuminati.

With only two worlds remaining, Dr. Doom executes his final endgame.  He had worried that when the Beyonders found out about him traveling back in time, they would simply do the same and stop him, but Doom discovered the one weakness of the Beyonders is that they’re linear.

So, Dr. Doom and Doctor Strange travel to face the Beyonders atop a weaponized time machine, and when he throws it at them, all of reality goes white.

Thus begins Secret Wars, the true spiritual sequel to one of the most important mini-series of my young reading life, Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars.  Because of that series, Molecule Man, Dr. Doom, and Beyonders will never fail to inspire the utmost joy in me as a fan.  If you’re new to all this, and the idea of multiversal bombs and weaponized time machines don’t excite you, then comics really are not for you, and that’s okay.

However, if it does, then Secret Wars is truly one of the most ambitious comic events ever created.  Most of the regular Marvel publishing line was suspended for the duration of the event, and every significant storyline in the history of Marvel was revived in the ancillary tie-in issues.  Secret Wars was as grand in scope as it was in a publishing initiative, and while it wasn’t perfect, it was highly enjoyable.

But like I said, I’m the exact kind of fan this storyline was devised to appeal to.  I still think it’s well worth checking out for yourself. 

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