Making Sense of the new Secret Wars: Battleworld and the Marvel UK Superheroes

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Mark Roberts has  been documenting the histories and current fates of many Marvel UK characters, from Captain Britain and Death’s Head to Motormouth and the Gene Dogs, for many years on his excellent blog, It Came From Darkmoor. But after the excitement of Revolutionary War, which revived many Marvel UK characters, he stepped away from the Marvel Universe… but is now back and trying to make sense of recent happenings and what upcoming events in Secret Wars will mean for many of our favourite British superheroes…

So this might surprise a few of you.
Me.
Back blogging again.
While I’ve certainly still remained active on social media I fully hold my hands up to having let the lights at It Came From Darkmoor… dim out a little over the past year. It was never an intentional thing, but 2014 became a bit of an odd year for me. It was the first year since late 2011 that my health was good, that I was back to returning to my full duties at Work, and finally I got the chance to spend some actual time with friends and family doing the normal everyday things with them which chemotherapy patients don’t get to do. So I made the absolute most of that. It was great.
As a result though I did start to fall behind with the general comings and goings of the Marvel universe. It’s not that they didn’t interest me. Far from it. But time and (for the first time) money started to create a heck of a backlog of reading material on my night stand. To the point that it now doesn’t all fit on my nightstand. Or the table in the spare room. Or a few other places.
Mrs Sword is a very understanding woman.
Back in the early 2000s, when I first got back into reading comics, it was an easy time for completionists. At that lower price point it was perfectly possible to pick up a good cross-section of the Marvel Universe on a monthly basis without incurring too much debt or the wrath of a loved one. Monthly books were just that, and there hadn’t been any full universe crossover event for a few years. Back then I was able to both purchase and spend considerable time scrambling through that cross-section of titles, searching and hoping for vague connections to the Marvel UK characters and concepts of my youth. And I found some. They became the roots of this blog.
In the past few years that has changed.
2014 was a watershed moment for me. It was the first year that I realised that with so many of Marvel’s titles now priced up to $3.99, and with almost every major ‘Monthly’ title being published twice per month, there was just no way that I could carry on reading what I had been.
To put it another way, to read the equivalent of what I was in the early 2000s today, would now require a monthly stake of £120-140 a month. I love comics. But that’s a point beyond what I’m willing to pay for comics.
So I have now quite judiciously cut back my monthly purchases to what is at this point a very small number of core titles. It was not an easy choice, but one I haven’t really had much of a choice but to make. The downside of course is that when your buying less books, and you’re already very behind on current events, running a blog which (at least in part) is designed to provide news on all things Marvel UK is a bit difficult.
I’m aware of things Marvel UK related going on, of course. I know that Captain Britain is an Avenger once more (and part of the universe’s behind-the-scenes braintrust – The Illuminati – no less). I know that he appears to have lost an eye, and grown a beard, in the process.
Captain Britain as he appeared in New Avengers #25. Image © Marvel

Captain Britain as he appeared in New Avengers #25. Image © Marvel

Oh, and the Captain Britain Corps are all dead. Again.
The details of this, unfortunately, are lost on me until I read the issues.
I know that the Black Knight is now part of some European Superteam initiative. That Spitfire and Union Jack are back on an Invaders title. That there’s an alternate universe Spider-Man out there who is actually a Braddock, and goes by the name of ‘Spider-UK’.
But the combination of time and expense has thus far barred me from reading those appearances.
C’est la vie.
Anyway, recently, I made a decision. I sat down and decided that it was about time that I began to play catch up. There was a lot of continuity for me to get through, a ridiculously high stack of issues which needed to be off my nightstand, and so I figured that there really was no time like the present to begin.
And then, Marvel somewhat dropped a bombshell.
For real. No fakery involved. It’s actually ending.
And not just the Universe. Not just Marvel 616. The entire Marvel Mulitiverse is ending, with the advent of this summer’s big Event Secret Wars.
Now I’m a guy (not that I actually recall having made the conscious decision to) who has pretty much made it a crusade to remind people that Marvel UK existed and that its stories happened in continuity. So when the publisher confirms that they intend to end the Marvel Universe it’s only natural for that information to concern me a little.
Because if the universe ends, so does its continuity.
And if the continuity ends then in whatever continuity replaces it things are going to change. While certain characters may still exist in whatever follows Secret Wars the history of this new universe could be very different. The stories, characters and former connections of Marvel UK to the greater whole may not even make it into this universe. A universe which Marvel are calling “All-New Marvel”.
That’s my concern.
This has all been a long time coming though. Ever since the start of the Marvel NOW initiative we’ve had hints that this could be coming.
In the pages of The Avengers we discovered that the super-powered individuals of the 1980s New Universe line at Marvel were (from a story point of view) also supposed to have been created in Marvel’s 616 universe. That they are actually supposed to be some part of every universe’s natural defence system.
Only in the 616 universe that did not happen.
Because the 616 universe was broken.
It seems that all those time travel misadventures, characters coming and going, staying and leaving has had an accumulative effect. Cable and Rachel Summers for example. Days of Future Past or the Age of Apocalypse maybe. In  trying to avert the Age of Ultron, with those multiple changes made to the timeline. Remember how in All-New X-Men The Beast brought the original five X-Men to the present? Trying to teach Scott Summers a lesson, but only to find that he could not send them back? It’s broken. The very fibres of the universe are coming apart.
In the pages of New Avengers Marvel’s ‘Illuminati’ have been trying to prevent the 616 universe from being destroyed as other universes collide with it. They’ve managed so far, but it looks like that’s not going to stop. Because as Tom Brevoort stated recently:
“Once we hit Secret Wars #1, there is no Marvel Universe, Ultimate Universe, or any other. It’s all Battleworld,”
Every universe will be crashing together and amalgamating themselves into only one. And they’re calling it ‘Battleworld’.
Parts of Marvel's Battleworld are still shrouded in mystery...

Parts of Marvel’s Battleworld are still shrouded in mystery…

 

If you go over to Marvel’s own website you will now find an interactive Battleworld map (which disappointingly does not seem to work on iOS devices, but will work on windows PCs).

It’s well worth a look at, actually.

Each territory on the map relates to a property or storyline from some part of Marvel’s history. Kinda like Marvel’s greatest hits, somehow existing in the same World, all at the same time.

A lot of them have yet to be revealed (they have date stamps on them of when they will) but the confirmed properties so far include:

  • Future Imperfect Hulk (The Maestro version of The Hulk)
  • The Age of Apocalypse (in which Charles Xavier’s death in the past created a timeline where Apocalypse took over the entire of America and much of the World)
  • Armor Wars Iron Man (in which other supervillains gained control of Iron Man’s armour tech designs and used them against him)
  • Iron Fist’s K’un-Lun
  • Spider-Island (in which the Jackal’s scheme gave everybody in Manhattan spider-powers)
  • House of M (in which Mutants became the ruling class of the planet, with Magneto as their figurehead)
  • Days of Future Past (the future timeline in which the Sentinels all but eradicated all superhumans and placed humanity into concentration camps for what they believed to be its Own Good)

Oh, and one more:

Battleworld: Higher Avalon

— but we do know Captain Britain has his place…

 

Now, I have no idea what ‘Higher Avalon’ is intended to be. Possibly it’s what has happened to Otherworld with all of the Universes colliding. That would be my best guess. Much like the Iron Fist entry on the map, all this really does is direct the reader to a list of suggested past stories featuring the character, but it does (at least to my mind) highlight the intention that the character is going to be used in the course Secret Wars. And if they’re going to fix this multiversal crush having the last surviving Captain Britain – a former Multiversal Guardian to boot – could come in rather handy.

As I say, I have certain misgivings over ‘All-New Marvel’. The ultimate goal here would be a consolidation of properties and publishing lines into a more coherent and easier to approach universe of comics characters. Something which would be less impenetrable to new readers, and perhaps easier to sell in other mediums.

And that is a noble goal. Genuinely.

However, they do need to be careful about how they actually do it.

Having read DC’s universe reboot as the ‘New 52’ there are plenty lessons to be learnt. Parts of their new continuity really was a bit of a hot mess of contradictions and confusions. Some stories and creative runs of more recent times (mostly those crafted by Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison) very much still happened exactly as they’d been told. Other stories (even going years back) were dramatically altered or erased entirely. Which could have been fine, but not every writer seemed to have gotten the same memo. Contradictions naturally ensued.

Will Battleworld see another battle between Death's Head II and The Hulk, as seen  in a lesser-known Marvel UK title?

Will Battleworld see another battle between Death’s Head II and The Hulk, as seen in a lesser-known Marvel UK title?

As long as All-New Marvel is approached intelligently it could be great. And, obviously, I live in great hope that not too much of Marvel UK gets wiped away in the process, although I’m sure we could fudge Death’s Head surviving if we needed to. (Heck, the Transformers and Doctor Who universes aren’t part of the Marvel multiverse and he survived visiting those!)

As far as It Came From Darkmoor is concerned? Consider this my return from exile. With one caveat.

In the past, I posted updates on this site several times a week, as and when new stories broke, etc. I wouldn’t be expecting that to be the case this year. If something huge turns up I’ll try to cover it, but otherwise I’m aiming to have something new for you a couple of times a month. And hopefully something worthwhile.

Long term readers will remember my Marvel UK A to Z series, which began a few years back only to be derailed when I lost my planning notes in our house move. Those never showed up again, but I’ve had several people recently asking about that feature. I think it’s the one feature from the past five years of my blog that people seem to ask me about the most, and so I have decided to republish and continue this feature in the coming months, until its completion. It’s a great way to showcase some of the lesser known properties and characters of Marvel UK. Regardless of what the future holds.

As always, you can keep up to date with my more regular prattlings and updates on Twitter and once a month you can cringe at the sound of my voice on the Comiconference section of the Weekly Geek Speak podcast.

Until the next time (and I promise not to take quite so long)…

• This feature was of course first featured on It Came From Darkmoor and is re-presented here with Mark’s full permission.

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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