The secret is out! Avengers: Secret Wars is officially on its way to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though it'll be a while before it gets here.


With the return of an in-person San Diego Comic-Con this year, fans expected to find out more about Marvel's upcoming slate, and they weren't disappointed. Perhaps the most intriguing of all? In 2025, we have Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars airing just six months apart.

For a while, fans have been hankering for a big superhero team-up to return to the MCU – and now two are on the cards. And just like Infinity War and Endgame before them, the next two-part epic is set to redefine the franchise.

In particular, though, it’s Secret Wars that could be the MCU’s big reboot, catapaulting us into Phase 7 and beyond. So, just what is Secret Wars and what does it mean for the MCU? Time to find out...

What is Marvel’s Secret Wars?

Avengers: Secret Wars logo revealed at San Diego Comic-Con
Avengers: Secret Wars logo revealed at San Diego Comic-Con 2022 Marvel Studios on Twitter

In typically complicated style, there were actually two separate Secret Wars stories to grace the pages of Marvel Comics. A quick 'Secret Wars for dummies' guide should start with the 12-issue series from 1984. Essentially created as a way to sell a new Mattel toy line, the OG Secret Wars featured an omnipotent being known as the Beyonder pitching his favourite heroes and villains against each other on a planet known as Battleworld. Basically, he was like a big kid smashing his action figures together, but with reality-warping abilities.

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Still, it seems more likely that the MCU is heading toward Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribić’s more recent Secret Wars of 2015. In that story, following the Avengers and New Avengers’ 'Time Runs Out' arc, our heroes fought to save the Multiverse after a series of incursions started destroying different realities.

If any of that sounds familiar, it’s because Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness had the Illuminati of Earth-838 trying to stop “our” reality of Earth-616 doing just that. In fact, the movie ended with Doctor Stephen Strange dashing off with Charlize Theron’s Clea to prevent another incursion.

Back in 2015’s Secret Wars, a race of Beyonders tried to wipe out the Multiverse. A cocktail of surviving dimensions were stitched together as Battleworld, where survivors fought to topple the Beyonders and Doctor Doom – who appointed himself God Emperor Doom. Because comics.

The various Battleworld regions alone are a struggle to wrap your head around, with the strange world encompassing everything from the zombie-ravaged Deadlands to Bar Sinister (populated by clones of X-Men baddie Mister Sinister), the Valley of Flame as a prehistoric wasteland, and a domain called Doomguard that housed a team of alternate Thors known as the Thor Corps – essentially Battleworld's police force.

How will the MCU adapt Secret Wars?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Marvel Studios

Even if it’s taken a while to get there, the MCU is finally embracing the potential of multiple realities. Spider-Man: No Way Home cracked open the Multiverse with villains from the Maguire and Garfield eras, What If...? canonised Marvel Zombies, and Multiverse of Madness gave us a whistle-stop tour of more realities than we could count. All of these could become part of a live-action Battleworld map, then get torn apart and picked up for a new story in a post-Secret Wars reboot.

Arguably, Multiverse of Madness’s highlight was the Illuminati roster of Marvel faces old and new. The latest rumours claim John Krasinski won’t return as Reed Richards in the upcoming Fantastic Four movie – but given that a conflict between 616’s Mr Fantastic and his Earth-1610 version (known as the Maker) was a major part of Secret Wars, maybe there's room for his return here.

Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange movie also cued next year's X-Men ‘97 with the return of Charles Xavier in THAT yellow wheelchair – putting another potential Battleworld territory in the mix.

There are already theories that the MCU of Earth-616 isn’t even the 'main' continuity. As a get-out-of-jail-free card, it could be that what's happened so far in the MCU is part of a much bigger picture. Secret Wars (2015) famously merged the Marvel 616 Universe with the Ultimate Marvel 1610 Universe and allowed Miles Morales to join the main continuity of the comics. Onscreen, the X-Men could jump into the party in a similar way – although we guess Ms Marvel’s finale twist means they’re out there somewhere already.

In the same way that Avengers: Endgame concluded the first three phases of the MCU, Secret Wars seems set to do the same for Phase 6, meaning it’ll need some jaw-dropping moments to rival Cap’s "Avengers....assemble".

And the options are limitless. Who’s to say Secret Wars won’t introduce a reality where the Avengers continued in a post-Snap world without trying to reverse it? Maybe Robert Downey Jr could be lured back to play an alternate version of Tony Stark – by 2025, enough time will have passed since "I love you 3,000" to make Iron Man’s return pack a punch.

In the world of superheroes, no-one's gone for good – much like the long-rumoured return of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, is anyone really buying that RDJ has put down his armour forever?

Kang is the key

He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) in Marvel Studios' LOKI, exclusively on Disney+
He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) in Loki Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios

So what might kick Secret Wars into high gear?

Mythical franchise reboots are all well and good, but you need someone to put it into motion. While Kang the Conqueror isn’t a major player in either Secret Wars in the comics, he’s clearly where the MCU is heading.

The title of Avengers: The Kang Dynasty implies the time travelling villain will appear in different forms, which is handy because there are multiple iterations of the character who have appeared in the comics. Taking a leaf out of Rick and Morty’s book, the comics even introduced the Council of Kangs, which featured Kangaroo the Conqueror (among others).

Live-action Kang was established in a different way for the Loki finale, when Jonathan Majors’s variant He Who Remains was slain by Sylvie and allowed the “main” Kang to come forward. The Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania poster puts Majors front and centre as a comic-accurate Kang, Moon Knight teased his Rama-Tut persona, and his young Nathaniel Richards/Iron Lad form is a potential candidate for the Young Avengers.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania poster
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania poster featuring Kang Marvel Studios

For those who still aren’t convinced Kang is key to futures and reboots, Kevin Feige recently told ComicBook that Majors will be “shouldering” Phase 5 and 6 – calling the whole thing the Multiverse Saga. There are only three years until 2025, and although it's possible to introduce another classic villain like Dr Doom and set him up as the big bad of Secret Wars, Kang makes more sense right now. Even if not as the de facto villain of Secret Wars, Kang can replace the Beyonder/s as a puppet master from the shadows. After all, it worked for Thanos.

And maybe some kind of Secret Wars reboot is just what the doctor (not Doom this time) ordered. Despite there being a lot of love for the MCU, that doesn’t mean we won’t be overdue at least a slight facelift and tidy up after 17 years. Secret Wars gives an easy out for any big-name star who wants it. How many more movies can Bruce Banner be the stoic science guy or Thor the bumbling near-immortal? By that point, even Brie Larson will have played Captain Marvel for six years.

If Feige and co pull off Secret Wars, the MCU can move forward into the mythical Phase 7 doing what it wants. It’s a clever trick that 2015’s Secret Wars did by folding in loose parts of canon that worked but largely shuttering other lines that had gone stale (for example, saving Miles Morales's Spider-Man but ending the Ultimate universe more generally).

From the return of characters who helped make the MCU what it was or as a vehicle for long-desired new heroes, Secret Wars is the perfect opportunity to reconvene or reboot. Here’s hoping that throwing the kitchen sink of actors and characters at this comic-book epic pays off, or we might end up with a bloated Marvel version of the DCEU’s Justice League instead of the next Endgame.

There are exciting times ahead with plenty old, new, and possibly blue (thanks to the Fantastic Four) characters making their way to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here's hoping it survives what's coming...

Avengers: Secret Wars comes to cinemas in 2025. Check out more of our Sci-Fi and Fantasy coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.


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