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What The Marvels tells us about Secret Wars and the MCU’s future

The Marvels might seem like some throwaway fun (and it is!) but it also tells us a lot about Secret Wars and the future of the MCU.

Monica Rambeau, Captain Marvel and Kamala Khan

The Marvels marketing had us convinced that it would be a terrific team-up film, but I didn’t expect it to set up the entire future of the MCU. That Kevin Feige, ey, just when you think you’re out, he pulls you back in! Warning: massive spoilers ahead!

For those who don’t know what I’m babbling on about, let me explain. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been heading toward a cataclysm for a while now (no, we don’t mean the box office reports) as it builds to the Secret Wars release date. Doctor Strange 2 introduced incursions, No Way Home had Spider-Man villains from across the multiverse causing chaos on Earth-616, and then there was the omnipresent threat of Kang the Conqueror.

Based on that, it’s been clear for a while now, to those who read comics at least, that Secret Wars will be an adaptation of Jonathan Hickman’s 2015 epic of the same name. This seminal story destroyed the Marvel comics multiverse, with only a handful of our favorite Marvel characters surviving the devastation. Well, a few heroes and Doctor Doom who stole the powers of a literal race of gods to merge the ruins of the multiverse into a planet he called Warworld (no not the DC one).

I’ve been curious how Marvel would take such an epic story — that took full advantage of the countless alternate universes in comics — and make it digestible for moviegoers. Now I have the answer, though. After seeing Fox Studio’s Beast and the X-Mansion in The Marvels post-credit scene, it seems obvious to me that Marvel doesn’t intend to throw away the work Fox put into building its own universe of X-Men characters.

Instead, it will use the X-Men movies as an alternate timeline in the same multiverse as the MCU we know and love. Basically, the X-Men timeline will be one of the alternate universes fused by Doom (although it will likely be Kang or one of his variants who serves as the Secret Wars movie’s big bad) into whatever the movie’s version of Warworld ends up being.

Presumably, the X-Universe won’t be the only old franchise revived either. We could see Fox’s Fantastic Four films? The Daredevil timeline? Hell, maybe even Eric Bana’s Hulk if Universal is willing to play ball? Normally, I’d lambast bringing back old favorites as pure fanservice, but I think it’s probably a rather canny move from Marvel and effective storytelling.

After all, Secret Wars isn’t a story that all the heroes should walk away from, and killing off these famous characters, whom we’re already familiar with, will save the film a lot of narrative legwork, and in theory, we already care about them from having watched their other movies. It may sound a little cynical, but we already have an attachment to these particular versions, so why not take advantage of it?

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Going deeper, though, I think The Marvel’s post-credits sequence lends more weight to the rumors of a complete MCU reboot after Secret Wars. This way, Marvel gets its cake and eats it, too. It can use the popular versions of the X-Men and Fantastic Four (Editor: There’s a popular version of the Fantastic Four?) before wiping the slate clean and rebooting into a universe where the X-Men and Fantastic Four have always been part of the timeline.

That’s basically what the comics did after Secret Wars. They took the popular bits of the Ultimate Universe (Miles Morales) and merged them with the 616 comics timeline. It worked there. Why couldn’t it work again? As a cherry on top of this particular ice cream, it will also allow Marvel to bring back some characters they might regret killing with a brand new actor.

If you’re on the fence about the latest MCU movie, then read our The Marvels review here and make up your own mind. We’ve also got a guide explaining if the Marvels is streaming and a thorough feature breaking down The Marvels cast.

If that’s not enough, we’ve also got an article listing all the upcoming Marvel movies so you know what’s coming in Marvel’s Phase 5 and Phase 6. Finally, if you’re a bit lost, don’t worry, we can help. We have an article explaining how to watch all the Marvel movies in order (yes, it’s more complicated than it sounds).