Marvel Studios has lit the beacons for Phases 5 and 6, and the crown jewel may be Avengers: Secret Wars, but what’s it about? We’ve got you covered.
No question, Marvel owned this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Then again, they practically do this every non-pandemic year. At this point, Kevin Feige should get his mail forwarded there because SDCC is officially his house.
Just when we thought Marvel Studios might hold back its MCU news in order to make a giant splash at September’s D23 Expo, Feige and company blew the roof off. Sure, maybe Marvel would roll at a new movie or two, but they would save the big guns for the Disney crowd, right? After all the major reveals at SDCC, Marvel has set the bar very high for D23.
Saturday’s SDCC panel leveled surprise after surprise at the Marvel fandom, but none took our breath away quite like those Avengers moments. It wasn’t long ago that Feige had hinted that Avengers: Endgame was the last movie for the superhero team. That had us looking elsewhere for the next tentpole franchise, and most pundits thought that meant X-Men. How wrong we were.
As Feige debuted the entire Phase 5 slate and a tease for Phase 6, the X-Men were noticeably missing. Before anyone could complain, the void was filled with two more Avengers movies, and the titles are supremely intriguing. Both hitting theaters in 2025, there’s Avengers: The Kang Dynasty followed by the conclusion of Phase 6, Avengers: Secret Wars.
Secret Wars had been stirring up MCU gossip since Endgame wrapped. It began with the Russo Brothers, directors of two Avengers films themselves, who had previously said they were exiting the MCU following Endgame. However, they left a thread for us to follow, telling IGN in a 2020 interview they would consider returning to direct a Secret Wars adaptation. That had the internet buzzing.
As shocked as the world was over the Secret Wars reveal, Jim Shooter had basically confirmed the movie was in development a year ago. During a 2021 Megacon Orlando panel, the former Marvel Comics editor-in-chief and writer of the original 1984 Secret Wars crossover revealed that Marvel Studios reached out to him regarding the property. He explained that Marvel wanted him to pen the Secret Wars novelization, to which Shooter asked, “This means you’re making a movie, right?” According to Shooter, Marvel stayed mum on the subject, replying, “‘Well, I’m not allowed to tell you that,’ [and] I said, ‘I think you just did.’”
The lesson learned: always listen to Jim Shooter.
What is ‘Secret Wars?’
Marvel may have confirmed the Secret Wars movie is coming, but the rest is under tight wraps. All we know is that it is scheduled for November 7, 2025, and it will be the conclusion of Phase 6. Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess. Of course, speculating is the fun part.
In the past 38 years, there have been three different Secret Wars events. The first two were released sequentially from 1984-1986. On his personal website, Shooter explained that the SW concept stemmed from Marvel’s deal with Mattel, and the toy manufacturer wanted a comic event tied to its proposed Marvel figure line. After numerous kid-populated focus groups, the two companies settled on the title Secret Wars, and a legend was born.
While not a critical success, ‘80s kids fell in love with both the Secret Wars comics and toys. The action figures are so beloved that Marvel Comics has licensed a number of popular “action figure” variant covers that emulate the toys and packaging.
‘Marvel Super-Heroes’ Secret Wars’ (1984-85)
Knowing Secret Wars was meant to sell action figures, the original SW concept makes a lot more sense. Think of it as the story behind kids playing with their action figures, made into a comic. Playing the role of the kid and his toys is The Beyonder, a mysterious, omnipotent being with unfathomable power. Appearing only as a light and a voice, he abducts most of the Marvel talent roster and takes them to a place of his own creation, Battleworld. There, he sorts the characters into two categories: Good guys and bad guys. He then sets them against each other and watches them fight.
The series was an instant classic for Marvel, especially among children, and lasted for 12 issues. Spider-Man: the Animated Series adapted Secret Wars for its 1990s cartoon. Speaking of Spider-Man, he owns the shining moment from the ‘84-’85 comic series; it was on Battleworld that he was given his iconic black costume that would become the alien symbiote, Venom.
What is interesting is that The Beyonder has been cast for the MCU…sort of. The always-outstanding Laurence Fishburne will voice the character in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Nothing has been revealed about Beyonder’s role in the plot, but it definitely raises eyebrows.
Secret Wars II (1985-86)
On the heels of the original Secret Wars, Shooter penned the next chapter, the aptly named Secret Wars II. This round, the godlike Beyonder came to Earth and created his human form. This Beyonder was ready to party ‘85 style with his fashionable leather jumpsuits that evoked a Michael Jackson Thriller vibe.
The heroes and villains rallied against The Beyonder as he took a leisurely stroll across Earth-616. Although Beyonder’s intention was to learn how to be human, both the superheroes and villains were none too pleased with his arrival. Still cranky over all the abductions and being forced to fight, basically everyone in the Marvel Universe, including the cosmic entities, were on the hunt for Beyonder. They eventually vanquished him when the Molecule Man destroyed Beyonder’s mortal form.
Secret Wars III (1988)
The bookend story wasn’t another massive crossover. “Secret Wars III” was an arc in Fantastic Four #318-319. This time, Doctor Doom and the FF went to Beyonder’s homeworld on the quest for knowledge. They wanted to learn Beyonder’s secrets, though Doctor Doom still held a grudge the earlier rounds. By the end, Beyonder merged with the same guy that killed his human form, the Molecule Man.
Secret War (2004)
Most passing fans only recall the three major Secret Wars events since they were the major crossovers. Out of all five stories with the SW title, 2004’s may be the most forgettable. That is mostly due to how little it resembles anything before it. As the story goes, Nick Fury has organized a raid on Latveria. Instead of Doctor Doom, the fictional country was ruled by Lucia Von Bardas, who was selling his technology to supervillains.
Secret Wars (2015)
Realistically, Hickman’s Secret Wars revival in 2015 is the most cinematic of the stories. This would make for the best adaptation for the MCU, and many pieces are already in play. Of course, Marvel Studios will have to shake off the Game of Thrones mystique that was clearly on Hickman’s mind as he penned this epic.
Hickman’s Secret Wars puts a more dramatic spin on the SW concept. It marked the end of the Ultimate Universe as incursions in the Multiverse were threatening all of reality. Miles Morales, the Ultimate Mister Fantastic, Mister Fantastic, Black Panther, and Thanos hitch rides on a dimension-hopping ship, dubbed the Lifeboat.
As the universe is destroyed, Doctor Doom, Doctor Strange, and the Molecule Man ally together and take aim at the Beyonders (yeah, there’s multiple of him now). When they steal the Beyonders’ power, someone has to take control, and Doom steps up. Using the godlike abilities, he salvages what he can from the collapsing worlds. He then pieces them together in a patchwork of areas inside the new Battleworld, giving readers an amalgam of alternate realities that form one giant world ruled by Doom. In other words, it’s the Seven Kingdoms from GOT.
The Marvel Zombies, Ultron and his numerous bots, as well as a horde of bloodthirsty symbiotes are locked out of Doom’s kingdom by a wall (much like the one GOT’s Night’s Watch guard from the White Walkers) made from The Thing. Meanwhile, Doom has donned a white suit, and he basks in his godliness as God Emperor Doom. By far this is the best Doom ever created, and he has many wildly entertaining moments, one of which was disintegrating Thanos, leaving only his skull and spine intact.
In the end, Reed Richards, with a little help from the Molecule Man, defeats God Emperor Doom. Using the Beyonders’ power, Mister Fantastic recreates Earth-616.
Secrets will be revealed
Marvel Studios doesn’t stick too closely to the comics when it comes to those crossover events. Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War only vaguely resembled the comics that inspired the movie titles, and Marvel purists routinely cry foul when the characters fall short of their comic counterparts.
Since incursions was introduced in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, there could be connections to Hickman’s Secret Wars. Then again, with Shooter writing a Secret Wars novel adaptation, the movie could lean toward the kid-friendly 1984 original. In the end, only Kevin Feige and his inner circle know what direction Avengers: Secret Wars will take.