Fans of comics know that in shared universes the status quo is constantly changing. We all remember how things were shaken up in the Marvel Universe after the first Civil War. And developments like Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes taking over as Captain America, and Jane Foster becoming the new Thor, certainly rocked the boat. And this is part of what we love about comics, right? Anything is possible. We get to see relationships evolve, characters step up in new ways, and truths we believed to be carved in stone turned on their heads. The benefit of this is that our beloved characters can be thrown into extremely difficult situations, and we have the opportunity to see how they handle it, while knowing that, at some point, everything could be restored to normal in their world. It allows for a lot of flexibility, and the exploration of a wide range of possibilities.
With that in mind, here are 15 recent changes in Marvel comics that true believers will want to know about. (Major spoiler alert!)
16 The Civil War II schism
At this point, we’re probably all familiar with the original Civil War, in which lines were drawn between those who support superhero registration and those who oppose it. Well, the heroes are fighting each other once again in the Civil War II storyline. An Inhuman named Ulysses apparently has visions that show him the future – or at least, what’s likely to happen in the future.
Captain Marvel and her supporters believe they should use that information to prevent tragedies from occurring, a policy they refer to as “predictive justice.” On the other hand, Tony Stark and his followers believe it is unethical to arrest or punish someone who hasn’t yet committed a crime, and they question the reliability of Ulysses’s visions. And as is to be expected with any major crossover event, the conflict has significant implications across the Marvel Universe, affecting the Avengers, Inhumans, and X-Men. Marvel is definitely shaking things up in a pretty big way.
15 Rhodey is dead
The first major casualty of Civil War II was James Rhodes. He’s killed as the result of Captain Marvel’s decision to act on one of Ulysses’s visions, and his death is the last straw for his best friend Iron Man, who already opposed predictive justice. It’s particularly heartbreaking because, just prior to his death, War Machine was offered the position of Secretary of Defense by the President. So we’re sort of teased with the possibility of getting to see Rhodey advance, only to have him abruptly killed.
His death serves as a rallying cry for Tony, but also has interesting implications for Carol. Since the two had been dating before his death, his loss is particularly poignant for Carol. She has to deal with the guilt of taking actions that led to his death, but at the same time, she can’t fully let on how she feels because she is in a position where she still feels the need to stand up for predictive justice.
14 Bruce Banner is dead
Rhodey isn’t the only one who loses his life as a result of Civil War II. In one of Ulysses’s visions, he sees Bruce Banner hulking out and raining destruction. As a result, Carol and crew go to visit Bruce, to make sure everything is okay – and to be ready and waiting if everything isn't. Bruce understandably starts to get a little irritated, and Hawkeye, believing the vision is about to come true, shoots him with an arrow. We learn that Bruce had asked Hawkeye to do this if it ever became clear that he was going to cause real damage as the Hulk.
But the question is, just how clear was it? Was the vision really going to play out as Ulysses had seen it, or did Clint jump the gun because of what Ulysses had told them all? Did Clint project his fears onto Bruce? Clint is then tried and acquitted – something that doesn’t sit particularly well with Bruce's cousin, Jennifer Walters (AKA She-Hulk).
13 Loki is a failed presidential candidate
If you’re like the many Americans growing weary of the Presidential election, Loki’s run for office might be just the thing to take your mind off of it. It makes sense, in a weird way, that Loki would run for president. He’s tried just about every possible underhanded method of seizing power – so why not try a legitimate method? Why not run for president and potentially be democratically elected to a position of power?
The six-issue series brilliantly parodies this year’s real-world election drama. Of course, Loki doesn’t win. But at the end of the series, it seems like that may have been his intention all along. After the votes are counted, we see Loki on the phone with the winning candidate, basically saying he was happy to split the opponent’s vote. So maybe his campaign was really his way of trying to do some good, after all. This mirrors much of what has been going on for Loki in Mighty Thor, where he sneakily plays everyone, but we suspect he might be doing so for potentially admirable reasons (though this is Loki we’re talking about, so nothing is ever black and white).
12 The Champions
Another consequence of Civil War II is that some of the younger heroes begin to feel disenchanted with the way their adult mentors are going about the business of being heroes. This is probably especially true for Ms. Marvel.
One of Kamala’s friends is seriously injured as the result of her decision to follow Carol’s lead and enforce predictive justice. After seeing her friend suffer, Kamala basically questions everything she knows about being a superhero, and heartbreakingly splits from her idol. Meanwhile, Ulysses has a vision of Miles Morales killing Steve Rogers, which of course doesn't sit well with him to say the least. So the two of them, along with Nova, found a new group of young heroes called the Champions (another incarnation of the previous group of the same title). It will be interesting to see where this group goes moving forward, and if they succeed in approaching their work in a different way.
11 Riri Williams will be Ironheart
Clearly, Tony Stark has had a lot on his plate these days. But he’s not the only Iron person running around the Marvel Universe. Riri Williams, a 15-year-old genius MIT student, has reverse engineered an Iron Man suit. And when she gets to meet Tony, she has a bit of a fangirl moment that we can all relate to.
Riri actually has quite a bit in common with Tony. She’s ambitious in the best sense of the word, she doesn’t play by other people’s rules, and she genuinely wants to do good in the world. It makes sense, then, that she’ll shortly be taking over for Tony as the new Iron hero, going by the name Ironheart (we think we can all agree it was an excellent choice not to call her Iron Girl). Tony Stark will still be around, but Riri will be taking the spotlight, and we’re really looking forward to seeing the two of them work together, and watching Riri grow and come into her own.
10 Bucky Barnes is heading the Thunderbolts
You’re probably familiar with this group of superpowered characters who traditionally walk in the gray areas between good and evil. After the events of Avengers: Standoff, in which things in Pleasant Hill spin out of control, Bucky forms a new group of Thunderbolts. The team is now composed of Fixer, Atlas, Moonstone, and MACH-X, and they’re all looking after Kobik, the Cosmic Cube who now takes the form of a four-year-old girl.
One of the most touching parts of this story has been Bucky’s relationship with the girl. He sees that she was manipulated by Hydra, just like he was, and he wants better for her. He becomes a parental figure for her, and it gives us the chance to see his sensitive side. It’s also great to see these villains trying to reform. At the same time, since they have such sketchy histories, we never know what we’re going to get with them, and we’re not sure just how much we want Bucky to trust them.
9 Gwenpool is leading M.O.D.O.K.’s syndicate
There really are few villains who are as amusing as M.O.D.O.K. The guy is basically a giant head. But these days, he’s no longer the one in charge. Gwenpool was catapulted into the Marvel Universe from what is essentially the “real world” that we, the readers, live in. She now finds herself, through a series of unforeseen events, running M.O.D.O.K. crime syndicate.
It’s pretty funny because Gwen is completely unqualified for the job, and basically winds up there by default. She has no experience as a criminal, nor does she have any superpowers. She’s totally in over her head. Her only advantage is that, in the “real world,” she was an avid comics reader, so she knows the secrets of all the characters who populate the “fictional” Marvel Universe. What’s more, Gwen doesn’t even want to be a criminal. When we first see her, she’s stoked to be in this new world where she can potentially become a superhero. She wants to be one of the good guys, but she just can’t seem to make it happen.
8 Jessica Jones has her own series again
After 10 years, Jessica Jones is starring in her own series again, and we couldn’t be happier. The original Alias team of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos are back, which is excellent because they’ve always done a great job of capturing Jessica’s character. In the first issue, we find Jess in a difficult – and as of yet unexplained – position. We first see her in The Cellar, a prison for supervillains, but we have no idea how she ended up there. And once she’s out of prison, we discover that she is apparently hiding her daughter Dani somewhere, for some reason, and Luke Cage is, predictably, none too happy about this. It’s a fittingly perplexing start to a series starring a woman who solves mysteries for a living, and we’re definitely eager to see how these questions are answered. The second issue of the series will be out on November 16, 2016.
7 The Mercs for Money ditched Deadpool
It’s not surprising that Wade’s fellow mercs are doubting his leadership ability. Putting Deadpool in charge of any operation is always a questionable move. Recently, Deadpool and crew have been working for Umbral Dynamics, who have been collecting radioactive people with powers, supposedly with the intention of helping them – but there’s clearly something more sinister going on.
In the process of collecting these radioactive folks, Deadpool gets his gang into some unnecessary danger. By the time he figures out that Umbral’s not on the up and up, the rest of the mercs have decided to leave, meaning it’s up to Wade to right his wrongs and spring Umbral’s captives on his own. Poor Wade, he really wants to make good choices, but it’s just so hard for him sometimes. Will his group give him a second chance? Will he succeed in undoing some of the damage he has helped to cause? We’ll have to wait and see.
6 Kate Bishop is getting her own Hawkeye series
This is something that a lot of fans have been waiting for – and now it’s finally happening. The series, from writer Kelly Thompson and artist Leonardo Romero, will see Kate heading west again, like she does during Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run. And what’s more, she’ll be trying the private investigator thing again. So in one sense, it’s going to be a familiar world that Kate finds herself in.
But in other ways, things are quite different for Kate. The events of Civil War II will play a part in Kate’s decision to move west, and we can only imagine that she – like the rest of the superhero community – will be in a very different headspace this time around. Particularly given everything that Clint Barton has gone through, which we’re sure has rattled Kate. And America Chavez will be involved in the comic in some capacity. It’s going to be great to see Kate headlining her own book, since she has traditionally had to share the spotlight. Hawkeye #1 will be available this December.
5 A.I.M. is good now
You probably know A.I.M. as Advanced Idea Mechanics, the scientific research group with roots as a branch of Hydra. But it’s a brave new world for the organization these days. In Avengers World #18, Sunspot takes over the organization. After that, he proceeds to overhaul it by recruiting up and coming super heroes to work for the organization, issuing a new mission of using scientific research for good, and renaming it “Avengers Idea Mechanics.”
A.I.M. will be shaken up again shortly. Brazilian billionaire mutant Robert Da Costa is set to take over the organization, and he’ll rename it “American Intelligence Mechanics.” The new A.I.M. will, as the name suggests, be involved in intelligence gathering, and will also introduce the U.S.Avengers, touted as a superhero team that the American people can trust. The new super team will include an all-new Iron Patriot, Dani Cage as Captain America from the future, Pod, and Squirrel Girl.
4 Lunella Lafayette is the smartest person in the Marvel Universe
The Marvel Universe has no shortage of geniuses – like Tony Stark and Amadeus Cho. Traditionally, Reed Richards has held the title of Marvel’s smartest character, but that title has been officially passed to Lunella Lafayette, the nine-year-old Inhuman also known as Moon Girl.
Lunella is a pretty fantastic character. She loves science, and has no time for people who bring her down. She’s relatable, as she’s trying to find her place in a world where she doesn’t always feel like she fits in. She’s a big Ms. Marvel fangirl (aren’t we all?). And oh yeah, after she’s exposed to the terrigen mist, she begins unpredictably switching bodies with her pet T-Rex, Devil Dinosaur. She’ll be in the middle of a conversation and suddenly find her mind controlling Devil Dinosaur’s body. We’re really looking forward to seeing how this plucky young hero evolves as she comes into her own and learns to master her new abilities.
3 Galactus now restores dead planets
You probably know Galactus as the super powerful being who eats planets. And for most of his history, that is how he has appeared. But more recently, the Ultimates began trying to address larger problems – those of a cosmic scale. One of their first orders of business was to try and solve the problem of Galactus’s hunger. Their plan entailed forcing Galactus into his incubator, with the hope of triggering a process similar to the one that created him. This time, the process was sped up by neutronium. The incubator was destroyed, and Galactus emerged with essentially a new lease on life, and the intention of becoming Lifebringer and restoring dead planets. In somewhat poetic fashion, the first planet he restored was Archeopia, which was also the first planet he had devoured. We’re eager to see what Galactus does moving forward, and whether he’ll remain on this more peaceful path, or eventually return to his more violent ways.
2 The Inhumans and the X-Men are at odds
The X-Men discovered recently that the Terrigen Mist, which of course gives the Inhumans their powers, is deadly to mutants. As you would expect, this creates serious tension between the two groups – which is definitely not good for the Inhumans, who are already putting out fires due to the events of Civil War II. All of this is paving the way for something Marvel is calling ResurrXion, which we don’t know much about yet, but many are speculating/hoping that it could involve one of the X-Men coming back to life (cough, cough Logan).
In addition, when the Terrigen reaches its saturation point – which will happen in this winter’s six-issue limited series called Inhumans vs. X-Men – the X-Men will decide they basically need to wipe the Inhumans off the face of Earth. And this, naturally, will lead to war. As a result of all this, Iceman (presumably the adult version of him) will, it turns out, be getting his own series. It’s interesting to see these two groups, both of whom have traditionally felt like outsiders, fighting each other in this way.
1 Thor Odinson might become worthy again
As a result of events that occurred in Original Sin, Nick Fury, who had access to all the secretes that had been seen by the Uatu the Watcher, whispered something in the Odinson's ear that caused him to immediately lose his worthiness. Jane Foster discovered she was, in fact, worthy and has taken over as Thor, wielding Mjolnir in his place -- and she has been amazing at it. We've had the chance to watch her be a badass as Thor while also battling cancer. But all this time, we've never really known what was going on with the Odinson or what it was that Nick Fury said to him on that fateful day. He has been emotionally devastated, isolated from his fellow Asgardians, and mostly absent from All-New, All-Different,"except for a few appearances in Jane's storylines.
It looks like we might be finding out more pretty soon, when The Unworthy Thor hits shelves. In it, we'll see the Odinson escaping captivity at the hands of the Collector, striving to prove himself, and even wielding a new hammer. Whether he'll become technically worthy again remains to be seen -- the series is said to be a companion to Jane's The Mighty Thor, meaning she will presumably continue to carry Mjolnir for some time. Which is great, because she has been pretty awesome.