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The Marvel Universe Is About To Get Batsh*t Insane

The Marvel Universe we've known since 1962 will be destroyed in this summer's huge Secret Wars event, and will be recreated later this year. Here's how that came to be, including MASSIVE SPOILERS for some of the best Marvel comics in years.

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Secret Wars is Marvel Comics' huge event for the summer of 2015.

Alex Ross/Marvel

The company does "events" all the time, but this one is much bigger than the rest in that it will involve the destruction of the Marvel Universe as it has existed since 1961. And when the story is over, there will be a new Marvel Universe in its place.

Though the story of Secret Wars will be told in a flagship 8-issue miniseries by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic, it's much bigger than that.

Alex Ross/Marvel

Pretty much the entire Marvel line will be replaced by miniseries featuring alternate versions of Marvel's characters on Battleworld, a version of Earth featuring elements of many of the most popular Marvel stories of all time.

But let's come back to Battleworld in a little bit. For the moment, let's focus on how the Marvel Universe is about to be destroyed in Secret Wars.

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Though Marvel insists that the Secret Wars miniseries will be written in a way that will be accessible to new readers, the story is in fact the third act of an epic storyline that Jonathan Hickman has been writing since he took over the two main Avengers titles, Avengers and New Avengers, back in late 2012.

If you are looking for a huge, meticulously crafted sci-fi superhero story featuring almost every major Marvel superhero, you should read the whole thing. It starts off a bit slow as Hickman sets up all the pieces of the story, but by the middle he's delivering a steady stream of payoffs and revelations.

Time Runs Out, the final storyline leading into Secret Wars, is as thrilling as modern superhero comics get.

Jim Cheung/Marvel

If this was a TV show instead of a comic series, half the issues in Times Runs Out would've inspired "Red Wedding" level hysteria on social media. But that's a LOT of comics to read, and Secret Wars is about to begin.

Here's what you need to know going in, if you haven't read all of these comics. This is all SPOILERS from here on out, and explaining all this will require blabbing about one of the central mysteries of the Avengers run. You are warned.

Hickman's story begins in New Avengers Vol. 1: Everything Dies with the Illuminati, a secret group of Marvel's most brilliant and powerful heroes, discovering that the multiverse is dying as a result of mysterious "incursions."

Steve Epting/Marvel

They discover that the only way to keep their earth from being destroyed is by sacrificing the earth of another universe. The Illuminati decide to do this for as long as it takes, with the hope that they will figure out a better solution along the way.

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Captain America is one of the original members of the Illuminati, but strongly objects to his friends' plans to essentially commit planet-wide genocide over and over again in the name of self-preservation.

Steve Epting/Marvel

The Illuminati wipe out Captain America's memory of all of this, and move on.

Iron Man then co-founds a new expanded version of the Avengers with Captain America designed to stave off any problems that come up while the Illuminati secretly work on saving the multiverse.

Arthur Adams/Marvel

This is a good call, as this version of the Avengers will go on to stop an intergalactic war and an invasion of earth by Thanos in the Infinity story arc, which essentially closes out the first act of Hickman's mega-story.

As the Illuminati investigate the source of the incursions, they learn from a woman connected to the events that it's all the work of the "great destroyer," Rabum Alal.

In-Hyuk Lee/Marvel

She claims that she and her fellow Black Swans are the servants of Rabum Alal. Black Swan tells the Illuminati what she knows about the forces destroying the multiverse – including beings called Mapmakers, Ivory Kings, and Black Priests – but she's not at all trustworthy.

The second act of the story begins with Captain America discovering that Iron Man and the Illuminati had his memory of their actions erased.

Leinl Francis Yu/Marvel

This splits the Avengers into several factions – Iron Man's Illuminati, Captain America's S.H.I.E.L.D.-aligned Avengers, and a team of newer recruits led by Sunspot and Cannonball from the New Mutants stuck between the two.

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A fourth group of Avengers led by Thor is sent on a suicide mission to the far side of the multiverse.

Adam Kubert/Marvel

There they discover that Doctor Strange, a member of the Illuminati, has joined a group of space mystics known as the Black Priests who are performing "triage" on the multiverse.

Thor's group and Doctor Strange's Black Priests learn that the source of the multiverse's premature death is the result of a conflict between Rabum Alal and a group known as the Ivory Kings. They split up, with Strange going off to find Rabum Alal, and Thor's team in pursuit of the Ivory Kings.

The first Avenger to discover the truth of the Ivory Kings is Hank Pym, a.k.a. Yellowjacket.

Dalibor Talajic/Marvel

He returns from a trip through the multiverse to inform the united Avengers and Illuminati that the Ivory Kings are in fact seemingly omnipotent beings known as the Beyonders, and he witnessed them murder pretty much every cosmic deity in the Marvel Universe.

Thor's team finds the Beyonders in a distant corner of the multiverse, and discover that they intend to wipe out all life throughout the multiverse before being wiped out by the all-powerful space predators.

Doctor Strange eventually finds Rabum Alal, and learns that he is in fact Doctor Doom.

Kev Walker/Marvel

Doom learned about the incursions in the first New Avengers volume, and secretly hatched a plan to stop the incursions with his immensely powerful ally, the Molecule Man.

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The Molecule Man is aware of the Beyonders, and explains to Doom that he is their "bomb" – a single consciousness shared throughout the universe across infinite versions of himself.

Mike Deodato/Marvel

When a Molecule Man is killed, his entire universe is destroyed along with him. The Beyonders exist outside the multiverse, and want to find out what happens when every universe is destroyed at once.

Doom and Molecule Man traveled back in time to create the "Rabum Alal" persona to serve as a deity that their servants, the Black Swans, would obey.

Mike Deodato/Marvel

This is a cover for Doom and Molecule Man's true mission, which is to thwart the Beyonders' plan by killing every Molecule Man throughout the multiverse.

Doom discovers the Beyonders' only weakness – they only exist in linear time, and are restricted to their own sequential timeline.

Mike Deodato/Marvel

In the final issue of New Avengers we see Doom, Molecule Man, and Doctor Strange attempt to destroy the Beyonders by tossing a mysterious box into their realm in wild space. It's unclear exactly what happens, but the apparent result of this is the multiverse immediately shrinking from hundreds of thousands of earths to less than two dozen.

The Maker, an evil version of Reed Richards from the Ultimate Universe – home to the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man – becomes aware of the multiversal collapse and destroys several earths on his own.

Mike Deodato/Marvel

In the final issue of Avengers, the Ultimate Earth and the primary Marvel Earth are about to collide in an incursion, and only one world can survive it.

This brings us to Secret Wars. By the end of the first issue, the Marvel Universe as we know it will be replaced by Battleworld, which appears to be a conglomerate world merging all the remaining Earths.

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The second issue of Secret Wars will essentially be a tour of Battleworld, and its many domains based on classic Marvel stories.

Marvel

This will include Civil War, Days of Future Past, Age of Apocalypse, Age of Ultron, Marvel Zombies, Old Man Logan, Infinity Gauntlet, and many more.

According to Marvel, each domain of Battleworld will provide a key element of the new Marvel Universe. They've already said that some Secret Wars titles, like the all-female group of Avengers in A-Force, will continue into the new Marvel Universe.

Secret Wars #0 will come out on Free Comic Book Day, which is this Saturday. The first issue of Secret Wars will be out on Wednesday, May 6th, and the second issue will be out a week later on May 13th.

Dozens of Secret Wars Battleworld tie-ins will be released through the summer.

The final issue of Secret Wars is due in the early fall, and by that time, we'll see a new line of comics set in the new post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe.

Jerome Opeña/Marvel

The first glimpse of the new Marvel Universe will be in a Free Comic Book Day issue of All-New All-Different Avengers. The team will include the Falcon version of Captain America and the new female Thor, suggesting that recent storylines will carry over into the new Marvel, and the Miles Morales Spider-Man, who appears to be joining the proper Marvel Universe.

Here's a suggested reading order for the Hickman Avengers comics leading up to Secret Wars, if you'd like to catch up first.

ACT ONE:

New Avengers Vol. 1: Everything Dies
Avengers Vol. 1: Avengers World
Avengers Vol. 2: The Last White Event
Avengers Vol. 3: Prelude to Infinity
Infinity
(includes Avengers Vol. 4 and New Avengers Vol. 2.)

ACT TWO:

Avengers Vol. 5: Adapt Or Die
Avengers Vol. 6: Infinite Avengers
New Avengers Vol. 3: Other Worlds
New Avengers Vol. 4: A Perfect World
Time Runs Out Vol. 1
Time Runs Out Vol. 2
Time Runs Out Vol. 3
Time Runs Out Vol. 4

Everything up through the first volume of Time Runs Out is available in Marvel Unlimited, which is basically like Netflix for Marvel's vast catalog of comics.

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