Marvel’s Secret Wars: What’re Ya Gonna Do?
Marvel’s Secret Wars is coming and with it, a pizza-propelled hadron collider of fictional universes, timelines and characters. Yesterday’s announcement was billed as “the announcement to end all announcements” and now that we’re here, on the other side of “the end” we can see the forest from the trees and understand what Marvel is thinking: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Or at least, that’s how I’m feeling about this. Those flat, underscored shoulders of that emoticon are carrying a lot of emotional baggage on them, let me assure you: partly glib, partly recalcitrant, partly understanding, with just a tinge of general “who cares?” In short, there is a conflicted sense of emotion followed by an internal watchman whispering “psst… it’s all made-up anyway, nerd”, only to be followed by another set of “yeah, but…” and on and on it goes, like an ouroboros of comic book fandom. This is how my brain is currently processing what is essentially a fictional story that is three months away from being read by anyone, so please come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination (fueled by internet hype and overreaction).
While I can only speak for myself, I imagine some fans might be feeling similarly. The knee-jerk reaction (of which I am most certainly guilty) is a snarky-rebuke to the idea of an unnecessarily convoluted fix to a problem that didn’t need fixing. At the end of the day, it seems as though the endgame to this “story to end all stories” is essentially 1.) A way to get Miles Morales into the main Marvel continuity, and 2.) An opportunity for synergy with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Both of those goals on their own are fine, if not entirely understandable, but with Secret Wars it would seem as though an awful lot of unnecessary collateral damage is required to meet those ends. I understand Marvel EIC Axel Alonso specifically spoke to the comics being different from its corporate media brethren, and will always look to tell their own stories first and foremost, and that there is plenty of evidence to support this…and yet, I see Agent Coulson running around the 616, I see the Maximoff twins no longer being mutants, I see a very Samuel L. Jackson-looking Nick Fury and I see Miles Morales in the pages of many, many non-Ultimate Universe books. Why should Marvel abandon its decade’s long policy of a sliding timeline, simultaneously allowing for every story in its history to remain in canon while also granting a winking nod that hey, Tony Stark isn’t old enough to have been in Vietnam so just go with us here, okay? It’s always been the Distinguished Competition that’s tripped over its untied continuity shoes because they’re in a bizarre abusive relationship with self-referencing their past events, even when said events were meant to wipe the slate clean. For chrissake’s Peter Parker is married then he’s not then Gwen Stacy comes back from the dead, but she’s awesome and from another dimension so I guess that works and now oh no Tom Brevoort what in the hell did you just say about bringing back the real Gwen Stacy?!?! And this is where that lulling whisper comes into play and reminds me of one very important fact.
It’s all made up. Seriously, relax. The notion of arguing that one made-up thing is being replaced with another made-up thing is inherently inane. Additionally, the premise of what Alonso and Brevoort announced yesterday is seemingly this: we are going to cherry-pick some of the best aspects of our history and integrate them together into one cohesive whole. That…doesn’t sound like a bad thing really. Oh, you like Miles Morales? Well, he’s here. You don’t like the rest of the Ultimate Universe though? No problem that shit is gonzo, son. The whole thing, at least at this juncture, sounds like something I always strongly advocate: make your own continuity. Seriously, don’t get bogged down in literally preventing yourself from enjoying a well-executed story simply because you can’t reconcile how it could possibly work in relation to another story written and drawn by different human beings at a completely different point in history because that makes you a crazy person, okay? Just allow the stories that you enjoy the most or speak to you the most or inform your view of the character best, be your continuity because that’s what makes stories great. They become yours. So, in essence Marvel is embracing this idea of turning Head Canon into Actual Canon. Let’s have the best stuff be the only stuff.
Unfortunately, Marvel’s Head Canon may not your (or my) Head Canon and the second you label something as “official” or “actual” you sort of completely upend the entire point and we wind up with a fandom trying to figure out what counts or doesn’t count. And there’s plenty to be said for a rich continuity aiding in fleshing-out a character or… and this is where I give up because now I’m going in circles again.
So, what do we make of the non-reboot reboot? Right now, nothing because none of us are holding it in our hands judging it on its own merits instead of piling on the intentionally hype-heavy words of two businessmen whose jobs it is, is to create buzz around a product in order for it to sell. Guys, they did their jobs pretty well because I wrote this thing and you’re here reading it and at least one of us feels a little silly about it. Marvel has been doing a lot of great things recently, things which on the whole I’d say fandom is strongly behind. Does it logically follow that the same company that has capably handled the Marvel Now! initiative will suddenly crap its pants? Does this assuage fears that maybe they’re throwing the baby out with the bath water? Do any of us actually know what a post-Secret Wars world will look like? Is this the beginning of a DC Crisis-like disaster, doomed to reference itself for decades? What the hell does pizza have to do with anything? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯