The Marvel Comics Universe is about to get a major overhaul. Every summer, Marvel launches a story that ties all of its flagship books together – and in 2012, the Marvel superheroes are embroiled in the Avengers vs. X-Men conflict, which sees the two iconic superteams battling it out. It’s been a geek-pleaser storyline, but the aftermath is looking far more interesting: EW has dropped the exclusive that Marvel will be shuffling their characters and their creative teams, as part of an initiative that has officially been dubbed “Marvel NOW!”

Marvel NOW! will introduce new titles and re-fashion old ones; among some of the more intriguing books in the lineup will be Uncanny Avengers, which will be the first official blending of the X-Men and Avengers into one team. Scroll down to learn more about this bold new rollout – and what it may have to do with Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In an interview with EW, Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso made sure to differentiate Marvel NOW! from competitor DC Comics’ total reboot of their universe with the “New 52″ initiative. For one thing, there will not be a sudden halt to the old universe followed by a hard push into the new one – the new relaunches will be unveiled a month at a time. Said Alonso:

“This ain’t a reboot. It’s a new beginning…I feel that it’s a much more humane approach for retailers and fans to tell them: ‘Look. In the months of October through February, every week you can go into a comic book store and find a few new jumping-on points for the Marvel Universe, a place you’re going to like visiting. Or revisiting.”

For a sneak peek at the upcoming Marvel NOW! Universe, check out this artwork by Marvel CEO Joe Quesada, which contains plenty of interesting hints and teases:

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A few of the Easter eggs in the image:

  • Thor has swords
  • Cable has an eye-patch
  • Hulk has space armor (and a robo-orb)
  • Nick Fury is Ultimate Universe Nick Fury [Correction: Apparently that’s Fury’s illegitimate son(???)]
  • Cyclops has a new uniform and eye-beam
  • Fantastic Four member Sue Richards is out on her own (for once)
  • Iron Man has new armor
  • Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) is back to land of the living
  • Rocket Raccoon and Nova – characters rumored for the Guardians of the Galaxy movie Marvel is developing – are (literally) being brought front and center

For details on the more cryptic elements of this picture, check out the interviews with the Marvel creative team on the following pages – and find out about the new books they will be launching. Needless to say, there are some big surprises in store…

NEXT: All-New X-Men…

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