Published July 7, 2023

The Official Marvel Guide to Every 'Secret Wars'

Learn everything you need to know about 'Secret Wars' and how each 'Secret Wars' event changed the Marvel Universe forever.

SPIDER-VERSE. SECRET INVASION. INFINITY WAR. The list of events that shook the Marvel Universe is extensive and, increasingly, expansive. Each new conflict—be it cosmic, mystic, or homegrown—seems to up the annihilative ante across the Multiverse. 

But neither these titles, nor the ones that followed—from AGE OF APOCALYPSE to HOUSE OF M to WORLD WAR HULK—could have existed without SECRET WARS. It should come as no surprise, then, that it has spawned so many sequels, spoofs, reboots, and adaptations. 

SECRET WARS is a series that irrevocably changed Marvel Comics storytelling… and it all began with the idea to bring all of the Marvel Universe's heroes and villains together to face a common threat.

Secret Wars (1984)

The original SECRET WARS was the very first of its kind: a "mega-crossover" comic wherein multiple heroes and villains came together, not just to compete, but to survive an all-out super-powered slobberknocker among the stars. 

In MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS (1984) #1 by Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck, and Bob Layton, many of the Marvel Universe's most prominent heroes—including the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the Hulk—suddenly found themselves transported onto a strange spaceship floating in the middle of uncharted oblivion. This was a landmark moment for Marvel's heroes, as they had never before came together in such a way. And while there was safety in numbers, there was also confusion, as no one seemed to understand how they got there, or—more importantly—why

Noticing an identical ship nearby filled with some of their greatest enemies—like Galactus, Ultron, Doctor Doom, and the Enchantress—the heroes watched on as an entire galaxy was snuffed out in the blink of an eye and replaced by a patchwork planet. This "Battleworld," which served as a theater of war between the two groups, was created by the impossibly powerful being known as the Beyonder, who encouraged the heroes and villains to slay each other by promising the winning side their hearts' desires.

The original 12-issue run of SECRET WARS saw some of Marvel's most memorable moments come to life. The event introduced stalwart villains like Titania and Volcana, temporarily reverted Thing back to his Benjamin Grimm human form, saw Hulk lift a mountain, and perhaps most notably, changed Spider-Man's life when he came into contact with the sentient black costume that would later become known as Venom

SECRET WARS (1984) ended with bombast when Doctor Doom—arguably the story's central figure—absorbed enough cosmic power to challenge the Beyonder himself. That didn't go particularly well for Victor Von Doom at first, but he eventually siphoned away his cosmic host's energy and propped himself up as the new god of Battleworld. 

Eventually, though, the Beyonder—with a timely save by Captain America—recaptured his powers and sent the heroes home happy. But this wouldn't be the last time we saw the Beyonder—or a Secret War!

Secret Wars II (1985)

The follow-up to the original event, SECRET WARS II (1985) by Jim Shooter and Al Milgrom saw the Beyonder return, but this time to Earth, in a bid to understand mortal life. As he is the totality of his own dimension, he couldn't quite grasp the quaint human tradition of "individual thought" and "existence," and was thus obsessed with understanding both—no matter the cost.

So, he adopted an enviable perm and a fetching jumpsuit (it was the '80s, after all), and continued his voyeuristic passions by watching and learning from Earth's assorted heroes and villains—and learn a great many things he did, like how to eat, go to the bathroom, and gamble. Taking up a job and a new name (Frank), the Beyonder joined a small-time Mafioso, who gave him all the instruction he needed… or so he thought.

Eventually, the Beyonder went too far, taking over not just the world, but the very systems of life that governed it. Everything from animals to plants to minerals to bacteria bent the proverbial knee to this endearing—if naïve—all-powerful god. However, as with most omnipotent beings, the Beyonder grew bored with control, and eventually focused on creating something new: a child! Well… kind of. 

The Beyonder ended SECRET WARS II by creating a machine that transferred his omnipotent being into a fresh body, and he became his own depowered son—just to slum it as a mortal, basically. Ethical sparring and fisticuffs with Marvel's mightiest (and Mephisto) ensued, until the Beyonder was finally pushed out of the universe by the equally powerful Molecule Man. There, he became the Big Bang that sparked life throughout its galaxies. 

Having lived through the entirety of the human experience, the Beyonder seemingly found peace. Of course, in the Marvel Universe, peace is nothing if not fleeting, and wars are always on the horizon—especially Secret Wars!

Secret Wars (2015)

The next SECRET WARS released in 2015 and it, too, was a beast from beyond. Orchestrated by Jonathan Hickman with art from Esad Ribić, it told a story somewhat similar to its 1984 forbearer, but with much more complexity and far greater ramifications for the Marvel Multiverse. 

The plot of this SECRET WARS began in Hickman and Steve Epting's NEW AVENGERS (2013) run. This series revealed that Earth-616—what we know as the main Marvel Universe—was on a catastrophic collision course with other Earths from the Marvel Multiverse. Dimensions were breaching their boundaries, and once they came into contact with one another, both were destroyed. These "incursions," as they came to be known, were a byproduct of a scheme hatched by Doctor Doom and Owen Reece, the Molecule Man—not to destroy the Multiverse, but to save it. 

As it happens, the Beyonders—yes, plural—revealed themselves to be an extra-dimensional race of all-powerful beings. The original SECRET WARS Beyonder was just a child among these creatures (which does sort of explain the perm and jumpsuit, in hindsight).

Like him, these unimaginably powerful beings lived outside of the Marvel Universe, but unlike him, wanted to do much more than play war with living toys. In their most morbid experiment, the Beyonders put a Molecule Man in every universe as a constant. They didn't do this to create life, but to build an infinite armory of universe-ending sentient bombs. Setting off all of the Molecule Men at once would be their greatest experiment and magnum opus: "the simultaneous death of everything in the Multiverse," in the words of Earth-616's Molecule Man circa NEW AVENGERS (2013) #33

This was something Doctor Doom would not abide.

So, Victor and the Molecule Man hatched a plan to kill as many alternate dimension Molecule Men as possible to take the destructive wind out of the Beyonders' sails. In the end, this led to a confrontation with the Beyonders in which Doom hit them with a bomb made of Molecule Men he harvested from the Multiverse. The bomb killed the Beyonders and, in the process, allowed Doom to absorb their powers. Afterward, Doom used his new abilities to salvage what remained of the Multiverse and create his own version of Battleworld, where he ruled like a god.

The actual makeup of this world was a mishmash of different realities, where a Thor Corps acted as Doom's personal police force, the Human Torch became the sun, and a gigantic wall made of the Thing held back hordes of zombies, Ultrons, and Annihilation Waves. It was a place where other realities collided and converged, each ruled over by a warlord who answered to no one, save Doom. Finally, Victor was in control. Or so he thought…

Just before the last two Earths in the Multiverse (Earth-616 and Earth-1610, otherwise known as the Ultimate Universe) were destroyed, Doom's nemesis Reed Richards and his daughter Valeria created a life raft for a select group of heroes to survive the final incursion and repopulate the Multiverse on the other side. They did survive the final incursion, but landed in the only remaining universe, where only Doom and his Battleworld existed.

Eight years after they landed and were stuck in a stasis of suspended animation, the assembled Earth-616 heroes—and a Cabal of villains, who also survived in a separate life raft—awoke, and very quickly realized what Doom had done. Yes, he had saved what remained of the Multiverse, but he also made everyone on Battleworld worship him and forget any other existence but the one he personally forged.

This was something Reed Richards would not abide.

Throughout SECRET WARS (2015)'s nine-issue run and the healthy collection of tie-ins that told various stories about the piecemeal planet, the Earth-616 crew and their villains waged war against Doom, who was still not at ease with his incredible powers and felt weary beneath the gravity of his own godly station.

By the series' conclusion, Marvel's heroes provided a distraction, which included zombies, an Infinity Gauntlet-wielding Black Panther, and a giant Ben Grimm vs. Galactus throwdown. Meanwhile, Reed Richards fought one-on-one against Doom in the bowels of his own planet, and finally made his old nemesis admit that Mister Fantastic would have done a much better job saving the Multiverse. 

Molecule Man—who survived alongside Doom and helped maintain his control over Battleworld—agreed and transferred the Beyonders' powers to Richards, who then rebuilt the Marvel Multiverse and returned everything to normal.

Well. Almost normal.

While SECRET WARS (2015) was quite literally a groundbreaking event, one of the biggest developments that followed it was the official transfer of Miles Morales' Spider-Man from the Ultimate Universe to the main Marvel Universe on Earth-616, where he still resides today. Another was the displacement of his fellow Earth-1610 refugee: an evil version of Reed Richards called the Maker, who recently returned with the goal of bringing back the Ultimate Universe in ULTIMATE INVASION (2023) #1 by Hickman and Bryan Hitch.

Between 1984's SECRET WARS and 2015's SECRET WARS, there have also been a few other fun tangents. For example, there was DEADPOOL'S SECRET SECRET WARS (2015) by Cullen Bunn and Matteo Lolli, which "un-erased" Deadpool from the original fracas. There was also SECRET WARS TOO, a meta-anthology about Hickman writing the 2015 event… which was somehow even more ridiculous than Deadpool's adventure. However, even these semi-connected spoofs and offshoots carried that "everything is connected" spirit that has become a hallmark of every SECRET WARS story so far.

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