8:00am PT by Graeme McMillan
Five Things Fans Can Expect From Marvel's New Comic Book Universe
As revealed earlier this week, Marvel Entertainment is ramping up for something big this summer. The Marvel Universe “as we know it” is to come to an end, and be replaced by … something. The patchwork “Battleworld” of the Secret Wars event will work as a stopgap, with something called “All-New Marvel” rumored to follow. But what can we expect from the next iteration of the Marvel Universe? Here are five suggestions:
2014 was a big year for Marvel in terms of increasing the diversity of its characters. Not only was the Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel the breakout character (and, arguably, series) of the year, but the white, blond male leads Captain America and Thor found themselves replaced by an African-American male and a caucasian-of-as-yet-unknown-origin female, respectively. All of these changes brought a great deal of positive attention to Marvel, building on the plaudits it had received in 2011 when Miles Morales — half-African-American, half-Latino — was introduced to replace Peter Parker in the Ultimate Spider-Man series. Given the positive publicity Marvel has received for finally opening up the portrayal of its heroes, it’s likely that we’ll see this trend continue in whatever the new Marvel Universe turns out to be.
A Quo As Status As Ever
Bearing the above in mind, it’s unlikely that fans can expect a total resetting of the Marvel Universe after Secret Wars; given the excitement that greeted Sam Wilson becoming Captain America or the new, mystery Thor, the possibility that either would be replaced by their predecessors within a year seems remote at best. In that case, it suggests the possibility that fans don’t have to be worried that everything they love will be wiped away — and the subsequent confusion that comes from trying to work out which comic book history still “counts” versus which has been replaced and renewed.
Back to Basics
The possibility of rebooting the Marvel Universe allows for the rare opportunity to take concepts and characters back to their essentials, and strip away decades of stories and complications that can act as barriers to entry for newcomers — the chance to reset the clock on the X-Men, for example, would open up that popular franchise to an audience unwilling or unable to struggle with the amount of deaths, rebirths and time-travel necessary to make sense of where it currently stands. (This would be a good place to point to the wonderful X-Plain The X-Men podcast for those who find themselves wanting to explore the intricacies of such things, however.) Choosing between the demands of longtime fans who want to feel as if their investment (both financial and in terms of time) has been justified and the lure of a potentially-larger readership waiting to dive in can be tricky, but I’d be surprised if some popular characters and concepts are not zeroed out and relaunched entirely by the end of 2015.
One of the interesting elements of the patchwork Battleworld created from alternate realities in the Secret Wars series is the fact that some of the worlds aren’t superhero-related, but come from Marvel’s rare attempts at other genres, including fantasy, science-fiction and supernatural stories. While these domains may fade back into limbo once the Battleworld is replaced by the new Marvel Universe, their presence on the map in the first place suggests that the publisher might use the opportunity afforded by a “new” universe to offer regular comic book series outside of its superhero comfort zone but placed firmly within its mainstream continuity moving forward — in essence creating a stranger, more unpredictable world for its characters. We can but hope.
Something New …?
One thing that is implied from the branding “All New Marvel” is that the post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe will feature concepts and characters that we haven’t seen before. This is, however, a surprisingly thorny issue — previous promotional pushes, such as “Marvel NOW!” and “All-New Marvel NOW!”, have relied more on revivals of existing characters and expansions of existing franchises than brand-new concepts. In recent months, titles like Silk and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl have demonstrated that Marvel is willing to push unusual and unfamiliar concepts — could the post-Secret Wars publishing push offer a chance for Marvel to double-down and try something that isn’t based on anything we’ve seen before?