Marvel had been hinting at Thursday night's big announcement since earlier in the year. When Dan Buckley, Marvel's president and publisher of print, TV and digital, officially revealed that they were bringing back the popular line-wide crossover Secret Wars, it was, indeed, welcome news. The storyline was a huge score for Marvel both in comics and merchandising, and apparently it was something that writer Johnathan Hickman had been planning since 2012, when he started his run on Avengers and New Avengers. Also welcome: The incredible announcement painting created by Alex Ross, which you can see above.
But this is Marvel, and if there is one thing they have consistently proven over the last few years, it's that everything in their 'verse is connected on every level -- meaning print, TV and, of course, movies. As hugely successful as Secret Wars was for the Marvel of 30 years ago, bringing back the storyline means they are going to be doing it on a much bigger level today. While there wasn't too much given away at Marvel's VIP Event at Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. during Day 1 of New York Comic-Con, there's enough information out there to speculate about how this announcement is setting up for the next phase of Marvel Studios.
What We Know
Buckley didn't divulge much, other than stating that many more announcements will be made leading up to and beyond the May 2015 launch of Secret Wars. He did make a point to mention that the story was being told "in a different way." How different? Well, the original Secret Wars crossover included all the Marvel titles. Noticeably absent from the artwork this time around were X-Men and Fantastic Four. Anyone who's half paid attention this year knows that Marvel has been not-so-passive-aggressively sending a message to Fox. First came the rumors that they were pulling the plug on future Fantastic Four comics, which were officially confirmed by Bleeding Cool earlier this month. Then, last month, X-Men writer Chris Claremont appeared on a Nerdist podcast and made it very clear that no new X-Men characters were being created soley because doing so was promoting Fox properties. To add more fuel to the gossipy fire, there has been some buzzing that Deadpool may be the next X-Men character who gets killed off; conveniently, that news popped up right after Deadpool's movie got the go-ahead. In contrast to the Fox-Marvel drama, Spider-Man is front and center in Alex Ross' Secret Wars painting. Again, in their own not-very-subtle way, this could be Marvel more than hinting that the rumors about those talks with Sony aren't only true, but are going a lot better than people think. Spider-Man could very well end up being back under Marvel control in the next few years, or at the very least Sony will grant them permission to use him in the future. For a price.
What We Think
First, let's start with Iron Man. It's general consensus that replacing RDJ will be damn near impossible, at least in the forseeable future. It's also ridiculous to expect him to play Tony Stark forever. Avengers 3 won't be in theaters for another four years, which would put another Iron Man film even futher out. After A3, it's a safer bet that Rhodey takes over as Iron Man versus seeing Downey continue in the role.
Speaking of people bowing out, both Chrises are nearing the close of their six-picture contracts. Hemsworth has already completed four movies (Thor, Thor 2, Avengers, Avengers 2) and after Thor 3 will have one more left. Evans is right behind him (Captain America, Avengers, Winter Soldier, Avengers 2), and Captain America 3 is already slated for 2016 release (his cameo in Thor 2 was negotiated seperately and not part of his contract). His final film is likely to be his final film, period. Chris Evans had never made a secret of his difficulty with the Marvel press machine or his desire to move behind the camera (his directorial debut premiered at TIFF and received distribution). At some point, both Thor and Cap end up being portrayed by someone else. We already know, for example, that Winter Soldier becomes Captain America, and Sebastian Stan's nine-picture deal pretty much confirms he will be taking the reins after Evans fullfills his obligation.
This is where Secret Wars could make even more sense as part of MCU's Phase 3. Not only does it set up the exit of the familiar faces that moviegoers have been invested in all these years, but it presents new storylines in a fresh way that keeps people interested without leaving them pining for how things used to be. One thing Marvel has managed to do where other studios have occasionally misstepped is holding off on rebooting too soon, which often leads to fan backlash and kills franchises. Warner Bros. has been guilty of this on more than one occasion, and it's possible that Sony's beginning to feel the same effects with Spidey, which may explain why Sinister 6 and Venom have been pushed back and how the recent Marvel talks came to be. If all goes well, Spidey's future in the Secret Wars comic could be the setup needed to introduce him into the studio's movies.
A closer look at the artwork for the Secret Wars storyline shows that the "different way" it's being approached opens up multiple options for Marvel without having to factor X-Men into the picture. Fox's successful management of the franchise means it will be a long time before Marvel wrangles the property back from their hands, and who knows how or whether that will ever happen? Bottom line, Secret Wars gives Marvel a clean slate and plenty of material for years to come. And if we were just looking at who is definitely part of the Marvel lineup the next few years, in addition to Sebastian Stan, it's Mark Ruffalo and Chris Pratt. Ruffalo's Hulk has yet to have his story told, and with four more movies left after his appearance in A2, there's plenty of time to tell it. As far as Pratt is concerned, do we really need to state the obvious future of Star-Lord after GOTG dominated this summer? Even before the sequel was announced, Pratt's seven-picture deal was proof that he was sticking around for a while. And a bonus for Marvel: Pratt is most likely the next poster boy for the studio when Downey is no longer playing the part.
What do you think? Are you excited for the return of Secret Wars? Do you think this could have repercussions for the MCU? Let us know in the comments!