It was nearly a year ago when Marvel announced its Avengers NOW! initiative, which saw Tony Stark become Superior Ironman, Sam Wilson's Falcon become the All-New Captain America, and Jane Foster take up the
mantle hammer of Thor. Beyond the Big Three, Marvel Comics also shifted its narrative focus to characters like Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange in an effort to bridge the gap between the comic book continuity and that of the cinematic universe. With the MCU bringing new characters to the big screen for Phase III and beyond, it made sense for the publishing company to make similar changes to match the movies - as well as foreshadow where the movies might go once the main actors' contracts expire.
Then Secret Wars was announced, a cosmic, cross-dimensional event that promised to relaunch Marvel comics and change everything. The storyline, which the publishing behemoth has been planning and building up to ever since the Marvel NOW! overhaul almost three years ago, sees characters from both the mainstream Marvel universe ("Earth-616") and the Ultimate universe trying to stop their respective worlds/dimensions from colliding. But as Marvel has teased for months, "neither will survive," thus creating an entirely new patchwork continuity in which classic and Ultimate heroes co-exist among new heroes, new villains, and new places.
As Marvel's Senior Vice President of Publishing, Tom Brevoort, so aptly put it, "Imagine two pizzas: They're going to combine toppings, some toppings are going to drop off." And those 'toppings' that remain will be a part of what has dubbed the “All-New, All-Different Marvel.” Marvel recently released two new images teasing the changes to come.
See for yourself above and below:
While speaking with Mashable, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso confirmed the event has been in the works for some time and will act as the catalyst for a creative refresh of sorts.
We’ve been planning it for years. We realized that [‘Secret Wars’] would be a game-changing moment that would allow us to create a big white canvas. It’s an unprecedented chance for us to tell new stories across all titles with new No. 1s.
As evidenced by the new posters, though, the 'big white canvas' will not undo all of the moves made by Marvel NOW! and Avengers NOW!, most notably keeping Jane Foster as Thor and Sam Wilson as Captain America. The presence of both characters' suggests Marvel is deeply invested in their growth and development - rather than simply including them as a short-term lobby for diversity - maybe even beyond the page and onto the screen sometime in the future.
That said, Marvel also seems deeply invested (still) in Iron Man, as fans will notice him front and center in both images. With his signature red and gold color scheme restored, Iron Man no longer sports the silver 'Genius Bar costume' debuted in Avenges NOW!, implying his 'Superior' moniker has been nixed and that Apple no longer sponsors him (their loss). The continued emphasis on the 'genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist' is particularly interesting when considering the future of the MCU - which, as of right now, has no immediate or confirmed plans for Iron Man 4.
While speaking to Newsarama about the relaunch following Secret Wars, Tom Brevoort stressed the importance of Iron Man as a character and brand ambassador, referring to him as "Marvel's Mickey Mouse." However, there's no indication that the man underneath the shell-head mask is indeed Tony Stark, as that could be one of the many changes implemented in the wake of the Marvel multiverse apocalypse.
Among the other developments teased in the new images include an older, grizzled Captain America and Wolverine, as well as a separate female Wolverine, who may or may not be Laura Kinney aka clone X-23. Additionally, The Thing can be seen wearing a new Guardians of the Galaxy uniform, while Doctor Strange wields a mysterious, archaic-looking axe. Aside from the character alterations, there are also several character absences, most notably the Hulk, Captain Marvel, Mr. Fantastic, and the Invisible Woman.
Overall, both the small and large changes provide clues as to where the individual characters' stories will pick up - or restart - about eight months after the conclusion of "Secret Wars." And although the "All-New All-Different" initiative will bring in new writers and artists to work on the upcoming titles, it will not do anything to rewrite history that previous comics have established. So the looming 'big white canvas' will not so much replace the previous canvas as it will cover it up and build from it.
With that in mind, veteran and rookie comic readers alike can expect a continuity compromised of new, different, and familiar material; it will be a changed world, but not an unrecognizable one. "There’s no red sky, there’s no icecaps," Alonso said. "But there will be new places on the map, there will be new characters that were just too cool to not bring back from ‘Secret Wars.’ There are new teams that are necessary to deal with new threats."
It's difficult not to wonder, though, if the "All-New, All-Different" move is a subtle (or not-so-subtle) attempt to fully coalesce the comic and cinematic worlds. Marvel Studios is arguably much more lucrative and domineering - and accessible - than its print counterpart, so aligning the two could alleviate confusion and make it easier for fans of the films to begin reading the comics. Unfortunately, there's also the problem of homogenization. There's no doubt the comics will take liberties from the films - and vice versa - but having the two worlds so closely tied could limit the storytelling.
But that's worst case scenario. As of now, the forthcoming changes promise increased diversity, refreshed creativity, and streamlined continuity. While some believe that DC's New 52 has not been fully successful, there's hope Marvel is renovating itself not solely for business, but also for the sake of story and servicing the fans.
What do you think of the "All-New All-Different" Marvel? Does the relaunch sound promising, or do you think it's just an attempt by Marvel to capitalize on the success of its films? Sound off in the comments.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is now in theaters, followed by Ant-Man on July 17 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Spider-Man on July 28, 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4 2018, Black Panther on July 6 2018, Captain Marvel on November 2 2018, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3 2019 and Inhumans on July 12, 2019.