Thanks to Sylvie and the TVA’s self-realization, fans now have the next decade of MCU storytelling right in front of them. Not only that, but they have it magnificently illustrated in the form of the Sacred Timeline branching out into the endless beauty of true chaos: the Multiverse.
While Loki was an exploration of self and identity, the show’s wider purpose was to introduce audiences to the concept of various timelines, and the many things that the Multiverse will bring to the table.
Fans have been told time and time again that WandaVision was set to be majorly important for the future of the MCU––something that wasn’t all too clear coming out of the show’s season finale. But now that picture may be getting clearer.
Thanks to both Loki and WandaVision, fans may have just witnessed the first stones being laid for the foundation of what could be Marvel’s biggest event ever: Secret Wars.
THE SECRET WARS OF OLD
The Secret Wars event has worn several faces in the comics. The first happened in 1984 and was written by then Editor-in-chief Jim Shooter. It all started when a massive mechanical ring mysteriously appeared in Central Park, drawing together a large group of chosen heroes who felt called to it. When the various characters arrived, they were all transported to a place called Battleworld.
The entire situation was orchestrated by a brand-new villain called The Beyonder, a being capable of manipulating both matter and energy on a cosmic scale. This Battleworld came into existence through his powers and was littered with alien weaponry and technology—basically, making it out to be a fancy coliseum.
Massive groupings of characters were pulled into this world, including the heroic likes of The Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, and many more. The Beyonder also made sure to bring in some villains, such as Kang the Conqueror, Molecule Man, and Doctor Doom, to name a few.
The event didn’t amount to much besides random pairings of fights between heroes and villains. The true purpose behind the venture was to drive the sale of Marvel’s action figures at the time, which it did just fine. Even decades later, figures are being sold that originated from that very run.
The story came to a close after many separate battles unfolded, much like a tournament, when Doctor Doom successfully stole The Beyonder’s power - one that could grant omnipotence, an idea that Doom briefly flirted with. Instead, he chose to end the whole charade, and with it, the event.
There were, however, some lasting effects from Secret Wars. Spider-Man got the black symbiote suit, which would go on to become Venom and spawn many troublesome symbiotes. She-Hulk ended up temporarily becoming a member of the Fantastic Four, as The Thing ended up stuck in space for a year. And brand-new characters were introduced, such as Titania, Volcana, and Julia Carpenter’s Spider-Woman.
Of course, as comics do, there was a sequel in the form of Secret Wars II, which didn’t quite receive the same reception that the first did. The follow-up event started when The Beyonder came to visit Earth, this time in an attempt to understand humanity. Of course, given Earth’s Defenders’ last experience with the godlike being, many conflicts were had.
To make matters worse, there was no real purpose to the event at the end of the day, with memories being wiped, and dead characters resurrected as The Beyonder undid any damage he left behind. Many thought the event was far too bloated to function on even a basic story level.
With such a big brand name as Secret Wars, Marvel tried to capitalize on it time and time again. This involved various renditions of the story, from expanding on the mythology of everything that happened, to a kid-friendly retelling of the original event, and even series such as Secret War and Secret Warrior that were nothing but the similar notion of heroes coming together to fight an unknown enemy.
Finally, after many years, Marvel Comics set themselves up to create a proper follow-up event. And this time, they got it right.
HICKMAN’S SECRET WARS
For this effort, the foundation was being built for years before the actual event, across Jonathan Hickman’s runs of both The Avengers and New Avengers. Introduced within those pages was a key concept: incursions.
Alternate versions of Earth within the Multiverse were starting to vibrate out of sync, and in doing so, breached parallel universes. The problem was that this would eventually result in the annihilation of both universes.
The one catch was that it could all be prevented if the invading Earth was destroyed first. This provided a huge ethical dilemma for the new Illuminati, who were among the first to realize that these incursions were happening. Was genocide on such a massive scale worth it if it saved two entire universes?
That moral crisis caused so much strife that, when the world needed them most, The Avengers splintered into several factions—leaving the Illuminati as the main force trying to stop the incursions. The group even teamed up with Thanos, alongside other villains, in a desperate last attempt to hold back the end of existence.
Since Secret Wars exists, needless to say, they failed. The Earth of the 1610 universe, also known as the Ultimate Universe, collided with that of Earth-616—ending all of existence. Thankfully, there were several factors at play in the background.
Reed Richards was able to create a Life Raft prior to Earth-616’s end, something he hoped would enable its passengers to survive the incursion and live to see whatever may happen after. Its passengers included characters like Spider-Man, Star-Lord, Thor, Captain Marvel, and even Cyclops. The Raft was successful and barely made it into the brand-new existence: Battleworld.
Battleworld is what saved all of everything. It was a patchwork planet, made of continents that were basically salvaged universes squeezed onto one section of land. For example, there was a nation that was run by nothing but a Thor police force, then one where The Avengers were established in 1872 in the Old West, and also a place where the superhero Civil War never truly ended—the list goes on. It was an opportunity for endless creativity.
But why, and how does Battleworld exist? Well, because of its God, and Emperor: Doom. Before the Incursions, Victor Von Doom had overpowered the Beyonders and used their powers to salvage the remains of several realities to build the patchwork planet that was Battleworld. In a way, Doom was a hero—he saved all of existence after all.
Of course, those heroes that survived the Raft eventually get out, and the story unfolds as they piece together where they are and what the general situation is. Eventually, they are able to band together, as well as convince some of the various lands to rise against God Emperor Doom.
This led to a massive battle, involving an endless number of crazy moments, as nations fought against Doom’s tyranny. The key moment in the struggle came down to an extremely personal and emotionally driven fight between Reed Richards and Doctor Doom. But how could Reed Richards stand against a God?
Doom’s God-like powers over this world didn’t come from nowhere. They came from Owen Reece’s Molecule Man. One of the most powerful beings to ever exist, his powers stem from being able to control, transform, and manipulate the molecules of all matter and energy. His many Variants played a key role in why the incursions were happening in the first place—and how Doom found a solution to the end.
The problem, though, is that the Owen Reece that was powering Doom and his creation wasn’t being treated the best. He was hidden away inside a chamber within the garden of Castle Doom. Reece was taken for granted, and not put into the best of conditions.
So when Reed Richards and God Doom faced off, Reece sided with Richards—stripping away a majority of Doom’s power to provide a fair fight. The fight didn’t end with fisticuffs though. For those that aren’t aware, Richards and Doom have a long-standing, emotional history with one another throughout decades of comic book history.
The big moment came when Doom accused Richards of believing that he could have done better had he had the same power. Reed conceded, saying Doom was right, he did believe himself to be better. Upon Richards' concession, Doom did the same. They had come to an understanding with one another.
A conclusion was made, leading to the solution: Molecule Man was to give his power to Reed. This would destroy Battleworld, but give Reed Richards, alongside his son Franklin, the opportunity to reconstruct the Multiverse. And so they did, and Marvel Comics began anew.
HOW THE MCU GETS THERE
The very idea of a Secret Wars adaptation was actually teased by the Mad Titan himself. At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Thanos realized his mistake. A world that knew what once was would never be able to accept what had to be done. So he would start from scratch, creating a new world. Sound familiar?
It’s the 2015 Johnathan Hickman incarnation of Secret Wars that the MCU is likely to end up adapting in some form—though there are lots of things that need to be put in place before the event can feasibly happen, the first of which happens in Loki: the Multiverse.
The entire storyline is founded on the idea of the instability of the Multiverse. The thing is, while Loki showed the visual creation/existence of the Multiverse, it seems pretty stable overall—even if it goes against He Who Remains' warnings.
When He Who Remains explained his whole situation to both Sylvie and Loki, he had some very purposeful wording: in the 31st Century, he had discovered that there were parallel dimensions “stacked” on top of one another. Stacking infers that there’s a lot of weight on any particular one, or that the whole stack could simply collapse given just the right push. Say, something from a Scarlet Witch?
Destabilizing the Multiverse is likely to have already started, thanks to Wanda’s exploration of her grief and trauma. That power surge did a lot, and alongside her overall power-up, it will all likely lead right into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a film all about this new—or always existing?—Multiverse.
Given the name of the film, though, something is bound to be wrong. Knowing that fans will be getting Spider-Man: No Way Home prior, which is rumored to feature super-villains accidentally breaching into the MCU timeline, Multiverse shenanigans will have already begun.
By the time audiences get to Strange’s adventure, something will be up. It’s very likely that the main threat will only be something like Shuma-Gorath. So don’t expect the concept of incursions to come up just yet. The audiences need time with the Multiverse before any talk about everything imploding occurs.
Remember that Secret Wars is likely to be the MCU’s next Avengers: Endgame-level event. That doesn’t happen overnight. There are bound to be countless events and huge character introductions before the MCU is ready to tackle the end of everything. Things such as Galactus, Annihilus, Korvac, and many other threats the MCU has yet to face.
One of the most important things that need to be established are the Fantastic Four. In doing so, throughout their time in the MCU, it needs to become clear how high stakes their expertise is, and how someone like Reed Richards can solve problems on a cosmic level—not to mention his son Franklin Richards, who ends up being one of the most powerful beings in existence.
With the Fantastic Four comes the need to place the foundation for Doctor Doom. Much like Thanos, Victor Von Doom is someone who needs to be slowly built over time—especially if Marvel takes the route of him becoming God Emperor Doom in Secret Wars. Fans need to connect with him, and not only that, but truly understand the emotional core of the character.
Thanos thought he was the hero of his own story. Doctor Doom operates the same way, but when the character is at his best, he leans far closer to being a hero than Thanos ever has, which is what makes the character all the more interesting. He’s always trying to prove himself, something that shows in how the entire Secret Wars event ended.
Of course, at some point, the MCU will arrive to the likes of The Beyonder and Molecule Man, two people that are key to realizing the event. Whether the two have a build-up or not is hard to say. But they could easily make their initial appearance in the first part of the story if Marvel does make Secret Wars a multiple-part movie event in the same vein as the Infinity Saga did with The Infinity Gauntlet.
There are, of course, many other blind spots that fans simply don’t know yet, the big one being the introduction of the X-Men and mutants. How will that work? How quickly will Marvel get into their more cosmic and/or massive-scale endeavors? Their presence in the MCU going forward is one of the biggest mysteries.
It’s important to note that while Kang the Conqueror just had his introduction, and will go on for years to be an overarching villain, he more than likely won’t be the key villain that Feige and co. are working towards in the long term. That is all but certainly going to go to be Doctor Doom.
How Kang will be resolved is anyone’s guess––it's just that he isn’t likely to play into any of the key elements of the Secret Wars storyline when that comes rolling around. Instead, he will likely be one of the key focuses in the coming years, but will end up being resolved in some fashion before the next "Endgame" begins. Though, at the same time, never say never.
Maybe, in the end, Kang will be crucial to the incursions and their devastation. In fact, it probably wouldn't be a long shot to say that the Kang-drive Multiversal War will lead to the very first Incursions in the MCU.
The entire concept of Secret Wars would give Marvel an endless creative playground, but this time in their Cinematic Universe. It could spawn countless Disney+ spinoff shows, in the same vein as the comics, that would explore some of the many patchwork realities at play. The concept of Secret Wars also opens the door to using characters and actors that have retired, and doing so in unique and surprising ways.
With the power of streaming at Marvel Studios' fingertips, alongside the expanded movie release quota, the build-up to their next massive culmination event will be far more expansive than what fans saw for Avengers: Endgame. It’s a shame that the possibility is so far away, though that’s a necessary evil, as the foundation has to be laid and built upon before something like Secret Wars is placed upon it.
Loki only gave a small glimpse at what is to come over the years for Marvel fans. The future looks bright. With the Russo Brothers even admitting that they’d love to do a Secret Wars film, it’s hard to see a future without it.