This summer Marvel promises to smash together past, present, and alternate universes to form a new world order featuring the most popular versions of characters, eliminating less popular ones, and generally making everything more exciting and fun.
DC fans may be weary after so many reboots, as a Marvel reader I'm excited to shake things up.
This week's "Avengers #41" by writer Jonathan Hickman builds toward the cataclysm, introducing characters from Marvel's Ultimate alternate universe into the primary storyline.
These include the progressive and highly marketable Black Hispanic Spider-Man alter ego Myles Morales, shown in a page-1 splash, and a younger and more megalomaniacal version of super genius Reed Richards, who is the star of the comic.
For a sense of why mainstreaming these characters could be exciting, compare two versions of Richards from the comic.
The original Reed Richards, introduced in 1962, is the guy with the thick beard, his head bowed and eyes closed. He looks tired, right? So he should. This is a man whose fictional character biography stretches to 14,000 words. This is a hero who, despite all the cosmic and terrestrial threats he has defeated and personal trauma he has suffered, has not been allowed to change all that much over the past 50 years and is consequently becoming less interesting: a super-genius whose inventions never make a lasting difference; an old man fading into static benevolence.
Ultimate Reed Richards, introduced in 2004, is young and he's got a crazy scar, and in this panel it's not clear if he's a hero or villain. As his conversation with Nick Fury reveals, this Richards recently went full-sociopath, creating "a self-aware future city that wiped out half of Europe." This is super genius taken to an extreme, and it's fascinating to watch in the way that science fiction should be.
Here he is again:
That's the fun thing about the Ultimate Universe, which reimagined characters and freed them to develop in much more dramatic ways, and now Marvel is going to put some of these characters on center stage.
"The Ultimate Universe, the Marvel Universe, they're going to slap together," Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso said in January. "Imagine two pizzas: They're going to combine toppings, some toppings are going to drop off. And that is the Marvel Universe moving forward. It's more than the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe, it's all the universes you can imagine. That is the Marvel Universe going forward."
For now we can only speculate on what Marvel is planning. One, both, or neither of those Reed Richards could come out of this summer alive, but it's clear that both will play a big role.
Here's the cover of issue three of the coming "Secret Wars" event:
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