Monthly Archive: March 2016

A Marvel Epic: Part 5 – Wins and Losses

In this final installment of the 5-part series looking at Jonathan Hickman’s epic work on the Everything Dies storyline, I’ll be looking at what succeeded and failed.  Since it was both a commercial and a literary undertaking in the medium of comic books, I’ll be looking at three broad categories:  commercial aspects, storytelling mechanics, and story content.

Commercial Aspects

There are two major aspects to consider when judging the commercial success of the Everything Dies story:  raw sales of books and positioning for long-term viability.

In terms of raw sales of books, there is no denying that Everything Dies was a consistent success.  As expected, when both the Avengers and New Avengers titles premiered back in Dec 2012-Jan 2013, they sold at or near the top.  As time wore on, the Avengers title mostly hovered in the mid-teens and low-twenties in sale rank – although the near the end, perhaps due to fatigue, the sales began to sag.  The New Avengers title consistently lagged behind, fluctuating between the high-twenties and mid-forties.  Secret Wars consistently scored near the top with an average sales rank of 2.


Month Title Sale Rank
Jan 2015 Avengers #40 19
New Avengers #29 30
Feb 2015 Avengers #41 26
New Avengers #30 36
Mar 2015 Avengers #42 24
New Avengers #31 31
New Avengers #32 42
Apr 2015


Avengers #43 40
Avengers #44 21
New Avengers #33 29
May 2015 Secret Wars #1 1
Secret Wars #2 3
Jun 2015 Secret Wars #3 1
Jul 2015 Secret Wars #4 1
Aug 2015 Secret Wars #5 1
Oct 2015 Secret Wars #6 4
Nov 2015 Secret Wars #7 4
Dec 2015 Secret Wars #8 1
Jan 2016 Secret Wars #9 2

In terms of positioning for future success, it is hard to argue that anyone else could have done better.  Hickman was able to adapt the storylines to handle changing situations in the movie-side of the Marvel mythos.  When both titles were launched, Marvel didn’t own the movie rights to 3 important franchises: The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man.  Each of these franchises was initially downplayed in the Everything Dies storyline.  As the relationship between Marvel Studios and the others progressed, the X-Men and Spider-Man made more of an appearance.  But a large component of the Everything Dies storyline centered around Thanos and the Inhumans – properties that have a significant role to play in the MCU.   As discussed in an earlier post, the Inhumans are essentially mutants without the name and the promotion of this property over the X-Men solidifies the MCU approach (e.g. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) over the Fox Studios X-Men.

The Fantastic Four is an interesting situation.  The movie franchise is not owned by Marvel nor is it developed in conjunction with Marvel Studios.  The poor showing of the Fantastic Four (2015) movie no doubt reinforced Marvel’s desire to distance itself from its once flagship group.  This approach is poignantly summed up in an exchange between Franklin and Reed Richards at the end of Secret Wars #9.

No More Superheros

Storytelling Mechanics

This is the one area where I would say that Hickman consistently falls short of the mark.  For every really nice thing he does there are others that detract from the success.  In the interest of ending on the positive, I’ll talk about the negative aspects first.

One of Hickman’s most used devices is the ‘Then & Now’ approach.  A few pages are presented with the what happened in the past, either as new material for the reader to digest or in flashback form.  The action then flips immediately and abruptly to the present where events happening ‘now’ are shaped by reactions and recollections from ‘then’.  Used every so often, this isn’t a bad mechanic, but Hickman over-relies on it.  Often times, there isn’t enough structure for the casual reader to note the transition.

In a storyline as complex as Everything Dies, a less haphazard mechanism should have been used.  Something as simple as changing the border style (the old rounded borders for flashbacks with appropriate captions always worked nicely) and color scheme would have worked.  When read and re-read sequentially, at one sitting, this mechanism works marginally.  But it is too daunting of a task to try to parse and piece the plot together when reading the book monthly with other titles (e.g. Infinity, Original Sin, etc.) interspersed and with no clear picture of where the whole is going.

Hickman’s other short-coming is the lack of exposition even with events progressing sequentially.  Although captions have fallen out of favor, a few well-placed ones would have been welcome.  The best example of this comes from Secret Wars #9.  As mentioned in earlier posts, the Black Panther confronts Doctor Doom with some version of the Infinity Gauntlet.  Although defeated, T’Challa provides the necessary distraction so that Reed Richards can find the Molecule Man and shut down the Doom’s ‘godhood’.   Just before Battleworld comes to an end, the Black Panther grabs one of the gems, clutches it tightly, and is whisked away.

Time Gem

The reader has no way of knowing which gem it was.  The official list of gems from Marvel’s database is


but as demonstrated in an earlier post, the color-coding of the gems is not consistent and so the reader is left to guess.  There are, of course, times to let the reader guess, but Hickman does it too often and with pivotal elements of the plot.

One the positive side, he does a nice job, given his page limit constraints, of touching upon elements that the reader may actually wonder about.  In over 50 years of written fantasy storeis, the Marvel Publication Universe has a vast amount of cosmic elements.  Each of these should figure into something as large as the complete and whole-sale structural rearrangement that is done in Everything Dies. Of course, there is no way for Hickman to explore each and every idea thoroughly but he does a reasonable job of at least mentioning what was tried and what failed when dealing with the incursions.  The following composite image shows how he deals with the Cosmic Cube, the universal Avatars, and the multiversal Captain Britain squad.

Various Other Ways

He also provides a nice set of symmetrical bookends to the tale.  The incursion threat begins in Wakanda in New Avengers #1 with a group of Wakandan youths on a coming of age trial.  Once he grabbed the undisclosed gem from the Infinity Gauntlet in Secret Wars #9, the Black Panther again finds himself in the Wakandan jungle where the same events play out but to a different end.  In New Avengers #1, his speech is interrupted with a rumble of rhinoceros fleeing the first incursion and the final outcome is the death of the young Wakandans at the hands of Black Swan’s group.  In Secret Wars #9, his speech is punctuated with the rumble of Wakandan rocket lifting of to space and hope.

Wakandan Symmetry

Even the Everything Dies mantra is closed out from despair to hope.  One of the minor tweaks that Reed Richards performs in setting everything right again is to restore the ravaged face of Victor von Doom, ending the whole storyline with a note of optimism

Everything Lives

Story Content

Overall, Hickman does well on the story content itself – particularly the logical structure and verisimilitude of his universe.  He clearly shows a love and respect for much of the source material that has come before.

While the Everything Dies epic has the three elements most able to destroy a comic story, Hickman does a good job working with two of them: alternate universes and magic.  His treatment of parallel/alternate universes is nicely done without badly undercutting the emotional content of the material.  It is easy, with an infinite number of Thors upon which to draw, to make it hard to feel for a particular instantiation of Thor.  Hickman mostly avoids the most common pitfalls by making the alternate versions different enough in both character and fate that the reader’s emotional investment isn’t undermined.  He also credibly navigates away from much of the mechanics of the end-times and focuses instead on the reactions of his characters.  In this way, he avoids the deus ex machina aspects of magic.

However, on the time travel front, the causality of his cosmology is quite a bit out of whack.  One of the crucial storylines in the Avengers is the time travel into the future of Captain America shortly after he remembers his betrayal at the hands of the Illuminati.  How the universe’s timeline/worldline can end with an incursion and yet still continue on into the future is totally unknown.  I suppose he wanted/needed to deal with the time-travel aspects of Marvel’s many stories but still it comes off as illogical and forced.  Much cleaner is his explanation for how Doom could stop the Beyonders.  The latter were constrained to move sequentially forward in time (linearly forward as is incorrectly said in the film industry).  Without going into details, Hickman simply offers this explanation for how the created can destroy the creators.  Far more satisfying than a badly-constructed time-travel plot.

The little details were a really big positive.  As mentioned above, he tries to cover all the bases for why a thing works in his universe/multiverse.  One of the most clever things he introduces is how to construct a vehicle capable of surviving when everything is destroyed – how to make the life rafts actually work.  It starts with the Beyonders assault on the Living Tribunal

Beyonders Take Out the Tribunal

which results in the Tribunal’s demise and a fragment of him ending up in each of the remaining universes.  His body forms the raw materials from which the life rafts are constructed

How the Arc Survives

Finally, little bits of humor and homages are worked into the story in various places.  Two of my favorites are the clear homage to the ‘All your base are belong to us’ engrish uttered by Cyclops powered by the Phoenix force

Classic Homage

and Amadeus Cho’s hilarious indictment of ‘the certainty in ignorance’ so common in everyday thought.

Amadeus Cho and Socrates

Parting Words

The Everything Dies storyline is a remarkable set of comics and fine addition to the world of literature.  It is the first real example of the epic being brought to fruition in the comic book medium and despite numerous flaws it is well worth reading.  I only hope that Marvel will make an Omnibus publication in which the story is told in is proper publication order (Avengers, New Avengers, Infinity correctly interleaved).  My congratulations to Jonathan Hickman for pulling it off.

A Marvel Epic: Part 4 – Revelations

Last week’s installment covered the Universe’s response to impending doom: the mounting of an assault on the Earth, which is the fulcrum between survival and Armageddon.  Several new groups were introduced – the Builders, the Ivory Kings, Rabum Alal, and the Black Priests – and some old favorites were cast into different roles.  The Shi’ar, Kree, Skrulls, and the rest of the star-faring races paired with the Avengers to deal with Builder’s siege while the Illuminati stayed on Earth to deal with Thanos and his Cull Obsidian.

At this point Hickman has all the major factions in the story as chessmen on the board.  But the connection between each and just who is moving which pieces is still murky.  The rest of the Avengers and New Avengers runs deal with the more personal aspects of the Everything Dies storyline.  Specific revelations put a human face to each of the factions.  The shifting allegiances and resulting clashes between individual egos add the final set of ingredients to the epic character of this tale and set the stage for the grand finale in the Secret Wars.

While there are numerous interesting character interactions, primary focus rests on these 5

  • Captain America and Iron Man
  • Black Panther and Namor
  • Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange
  • Reed Richards and Reed Richards
  • Doctor Doom and Reed Richards

Captain America and Iron Man

It might be more apt to describe this interaction as the love and betrayal between two friends – Steve Rogers and Tony Stark.  Or perhaps it should be thought of as a Civil War redux, in which the core differences in their character forces them into opposite sides of an issue.  In any event, from the very beginning Hickman hints at the coming conflict between these two – conflict made much more bitter because of the great friendship they have.

In Hickman’s own words, put down at the beginning of the Avengers series:

One Was Life and One Was Death

Their differing ways of facing the incursion threat is what drives them apart.  As mentioned earlier, in Part 2 of this review, the Illuminati wiped Captain America’s memory of the threat of the incursions when he would not go along with their plan to choose ‘the lesser evil’.

Having nothing but bad dreams that hint at his maltreatment at the hands of the Illuminati, Captain America continues to regard Iron Man as a loyal friend up through the end of the Infinity cross-over event.  However, the bad dreams eventually become full-fledged memories and the good captain, gathering a host of Avengers he trusts, confronts the eccentric genius with the cover-up

Cap Remembers

This revelation, part of the kick-off of the Original Sin cross-over event,  immediately pits the Avengers against the Illuminati – friend versus friend – as both the Avengers and New Avengers series race to completion.  It culminates in a bloody hand-to-hand confrontation to the death between the two in Avengers #44, the last of the series.

Black Panther and Namor

While the events between Captain America and Iron Man were running their course in the Avengers, an even more bitter hatred was developing within the Illuminati between the Black Panther and Namor the Sub-Mariner.

As monarchs of their own empires, one might think that the conflict between T’Challa and Namor only comes about due to Wakanda and Atlantis being on the brink of war

Wakanda and Atlantis at War

due to the massive tsunami that Namor unleased upon Wakanda

Namor Floods Wakanda

during the conflict between the Avengers and the X-Men.  But no doubt their personalities have a lot to do with it as well.  Both are proud men, willful men and it seemed inevitable that they would clash.  In particular, Hickman portrays Namor as the one member of the Illuminati most willing to end another Earth for the sake of his own.

Their conflict and the estrangement that it brings to the Illuminati, results in Namor aligning himself with Thanos’ new group the Cabal (more details below), which has no scruples in brutally ending alternate Earths.  The sadistic pleasure that the Cabal revels in eventually turns Namor’s stomach and he finally teams up with the Black Panther to provide the crucial distraction that allows Reed Richards to defeat Doctor Doom at the end of Secret Wars.

Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange

The strangest and, perhaps most important inter-character relationship is the unlikely one between Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange.  Upon it hinges most of the Secret Wars storyline.  However, its roots are firmly planted in the events of the New Avengers.

Throughout most the events in Everything Dies, the two doctors – Doom and Strange – seem to be ill-fit.  Doctor Strange was, of course, an original member of the Illuminati, but as the group seemed to be working towards a technological solution to the incursion problem what use did they have for a sorcerer.  Likewise, even though Doctor Doom’s home country of Latveria plays host to an incursion site and he, himself, manages to hold off the Mapmakers, he is afforded no role by the Illuminati.As a result, both of them go to extraordinary means to solve the incursion problem.

The good Doctor Strange finds himself in the curious position of selling his soul for the power needed to stop the incursions once and for all.

Doc Sells His Soul

Doing so, he then assumes the head of the Black Priests, one of the two groups who destroy worlds to prevent incursions and who were mentioned with fear and awe by Black Swan.

Black Priests

Doctor Doom takes a different route to power.  Using the physical evidence left behind at the Latverian incursion, Doom pieces together, using some type of spectral analysis, the frequency signature of the Mapmakers.  To his surprise, it matches the signature of the Molecule Man (aka Owen Reese), suggesting the two have the same origin. When confronted with this fact, Molecule Man launches them both into a journey through time, space, and the areas outside the multiverse.  In the first leg, the Molecule Man brings Doom to moment where the former gains his powers and explains

Molecule Copy

As soon as this alternate-universe doppleganger receives his powers, Molecule Man steps forward and murders him.  It seems that exact copies of the Molecule Man have been placed in every universe of the multiverse by the Beyonders, the Ivory Kings of Black Swan’s warnings, with the express purpose of ending all existence.

Beyonders Plan


The infinite copies of Owen Reese are a multiversal bomb awaiting detonation.

The Beyonders Plan

But Doom is wrong, something did happen when the doppleganger died, although the reader is left to infer this rather than having it spelled-out.  When the Molecule Man killed his twin he set in motion the first premature death of a universe and started the incursion process.

The Molecule Man then brings Doom to the Library of Worlds, a place outside the normal structure of the multiverse.

Library of Worlds

The Library of Worlds serves as a base of operations where Doom can start his own religion peopled by the Black Swans.  They will call him Rabum Alal and they will serve as his hands in killing all the copies of the Molecule Man so as to stop the simultaneous destruction of the multiverse at the hands of the Beyonders.  Incidentally, the creation of the Black Swans leads to the creation of the Mapmakers and the Sidera Maris by the Beyonders so that they could determine why their grand experiment was going awry.

Map Makers Origin

The Black Priests, who are another manifestation of the universe’s/multiverse’s attempt to prevent disaster are the natural enemies to both the Ivory Kings and Rabum Alal.  They eventually find the Library of Worlds

The Priests Find the Library

and penetrate it with Doctor Strange leading the way.  Unfortunately, it is a trap

Swans Trap the Priests

and they are overcome by not having the air they need to articulate their magic words.

Doom captures Doctor Strange and offers him a chance to help in stopping the Beyonders.  Strange agrees and a most unexpected alliance is forged, in which they, along with the Molecule Man succeed in stopping the Beyonders.

Killing the Beyonders

However, by this point, the multiverse had been destroyed.  Using the powers of the Beyonders, Strange and Doom (a strange doom?) piece together a patchwork-quilt of existence

Saving Some of Whats Lost

that is latter called Battleworld.

Reed Richards and Reed Richards

Only two life rafts escape the destruction of the multiverse – one from Earth-616, which is the most familiar of the Marvel Earths, and one from Earth-1610, which was the Ultimate Universe.  When Doom and Strange call Battleworld into existence, these vessels are drawn to the only reality available.  The life raft from the Earth-616 carried, amongst others, the Black Panther and Reed Richards.  The life raft from Earth-1610 carried, amongst others, the Cabal and the Maker.

The Cabal, a group of multiversal villains under the direction of Thanos, counts Black Swan, Namor, Maximus, members of the Cull Obsidian, and alternate-universe Terrax as its members.  The Maker, is an ‘evil version’ of Reed Richards from the Ultimate Universe.

Together, both Reed Richards’s seek out Doom’s power source, seeking to dethrone Doom.  They find that Molecule Man is that source.

Molecule Man as a Battery

The Maker, being truly made in the image of Machiavelli, betrays Reed in an attempt to wrest all the power for himself.  Unfortunately, he didn’t count on Molecule Man’s feelings and he is quickly devoured (literally as a pizza) to satisfy the former’s hunger.

Maker Pizza

Reed is now ready for the final showdown.

Doctor Doom and Reed Richards

In the final showdown, Reed confronts the god Doom.  Willing to hear Reeds argument that there may be a better way to fix things than backing Doom, Molecule Man is willing to sit back and see who ‘deserves’ all the power that he holds.  Reed and Victor slug it out both physically and mentally.  Reed gets the better in this test of wills when he badgers Doom into admitting that he could have done a better job with all the power at his disposal.

At this point, Owen is convinced that the best person to back is Reed.  At this point Battleworld cease to exist and Reed, vested with the power of the Beyonders, sets things right.  Using the power from the Molecule Man and the natural ability of his oldest child, Franklin, Reed recreates everything.  As explained by Valeria to her mother, Sue Storm,

Starting over with Owen

Franklin (the son) dreams up and shapes each new multiverse and Reed (the father) bestows the power to make the shape a reality and Owen (the spirit) becomes the life of the new world.  A truly Trinitarian concept.

The New Beyonders

Before I draw this penultimate installment to a close, I offer the following diagram as an abbreviated attempt to show the major players in the Everything Dies storyline.

Everything Dies Friends and Enemies

Next week, I’ll finish up with a discussion about what worked and what didn’t in Hickman’s epic.

A Marvel Epic: Part 3 – The Opponents Gather

The last column covered the basic tension in the Everything Dies storyline – namely that incursions between two universes in the Marvel multiverse pose a imminent threat to the existence of each and, ultimately, of the multiverse itself.  This threat forms the key element and the various ways in which it is dealt pose the central moral conundrum.

But every good epic needs more than a framing problem, it needs human conflict large and small.  There need to be many sides, strong loyalties and shifting allegiances, personalities working together and struggling against each other.  In Homer’s Iliad, there is often as much conflict within the Greek camp as there is between the Greeks and the Trojans.

By setting the stage with the biggest ‘save something’ scenario, Hickman provides himself with the vehicle to generate the conflict he wants.  Since the stakes are bigger than saving a group of people, a city, a planet, a galaxy, or even a universe, he can reach into any dusty corner of the Marvel publication history he likes.  In addition, since he is going to reboot the entire franchise, he can safely add new elements to the mythos without fear of being retconned.  In some sense, he is retconning the whole thing, so why worry about the last details of a string of soon-to-be-obsolete publications.

The single biggest new element is the idea of the Builders.  As discussed in Part 2, the Builders are the oldest race in the universe.

The Builders

Originally content to worship the mother-maker, i.e. the universe, the Builders soon became the creators of a universe-wide system to ensure the protection and stability of the universe.  How exactly their systems mesh with the avatar-based systems involving the abstract entities – such as Eternity, Infinity, Master Order & Lord Chaos, Galactus and the Celestial, and so on – is not detailed to my knowledge.  But the universe is big and it doesn’t really matter now anyway.

What does matter is that the Alephs, Ex Nihili, and Abysii are one aspect of that system.  Another aspect is a type of planetary defense built into the fabric of the universe and set to trigger when a world becomes advanced enough.  The Ex Nihili encountered on Mars triggers that system through his origin bombs and his creation of what he described as the perfect human.  This perfect human is born speaking Builder code so it takes a while until his name can be translated.  When it is, the reader is treated to the revelation that his name is Nightmask and that he is a herald of the White Event.

Why the White Event

In this way, Hickman is able to pull the New Universe titles into the main Marvel publication universe in a smoother way than Mark Gruenwald attempted in Quasar.  Of course, the New Universe is not complete without a Starbrand and, fortunately, soon after the introduction of Nightmask, one appears.

Where are the Others

Unfortunately, his appearance is accompanied by a catastrophic disaster that claims the lives of thousands of people.  When the Avengers arrive, the new Star Brand is out of control and they can’t control him.  Finally, Captain Universe steps in and shocks some sense back into him.

Kevin is the StarBrand

Here is one of the themes that Hickman returns to again and again.  That the system is broken, which itself is a pale reflection of the fact that the universe is dying, that everything dies.  Against this backdrop, he then casts all the actions and motivations.

One such set of actions are a whole set of new happenings around the sites of the origin bombs.  People located with the impact radius of the bombs are transformed into new, evolved entities as the system fights to find a remedy for what ails it.  One such, poignant story is when the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight penetrate a region where an origin bomb had detonated.   Some of the team are repurposed for the new system response and the painful goodbye between Vindicator and her father is punctuated with

The System is Online

These smaller stories provide the human interest but, for shear action, Hickman returns to the motions of the Builders, who, sensing the demise of all that is, seek to destroy the Earth hoping that since

Builders Reason Why

This reaction is not unexpected.  In addition to the incursion dynamic, the reader of the Avengers has been reminded numerous times by Captain Universe that the Earth is special.  Two such incidents are

Earth is the Axis


Why the Universe is Sentient on Earth
And so begins the Builder war.  Despite the alliance of the Avengers with the most advance star-faring races – the Shi’ar, the Kree, the Skrulls, Spartax, the Brood, and Annihilus , the Builders are still essentially unstoppable.   The primary reason for the unprecedented coalition is that the Builders are moving from one end of the universe to the Earth and are destroying everything in their way.

Hickman makes a point to explain why such an advanced race can’t just appear near the Earth and lay waste.  The superflow, the fluid that resides between the universes, and which, I suppose, embeds the individual universes, is breaking down

The Superflow

The Builders are no longer capable of using it to strike wherever they wish.  A fact they lament.

Builders Excuse

And so the Builders start from where they entered the Earth-616 universe just where they were shunted out of the superflow.  There first target is Galador, of Rom the Spaceknight fame.

The Spaceknights

Captain Universe shows up to see the destruction saying that

Everything Dies Redux

The shock of seeing Galador fall sends Captain Universe’s human host into a type of catatonia and disables her for a while and, as a result, she is not there to stop the Builders from waging war against everything in their way.  The threat the Builders pose is enough to pull the Avengers from Earth and into space, leaving Earth effectively unguarded.  It is at this time that Thanos and his inner circle the Cull Obsidian compel their ragtag crew to assault the Earth, despite the protestations about that special place,

Thanos Crew Balks

so that Thanos may kill the last of his children.  A fuller account can be found in the post on Thanos and Thane.

So, as the Avengers fight off-world, the Illuminati are all that is left to fend off the mad titan’s onslaught. Black Swan, her usual snarky self, derides the threat of the Builders.

Swan Foreshadows


Instead she speaks with awe and fear of the multiversal threats that actually accompany the incursions.  Of these, Black Swan talks cryptically about the Black Priests who destroyed her world

Swans World

And the Map Makers and Sidera Maris, servants of the Ivory Kings, who she has witnessed destroy other Earths.

Map Makers

The Builder war comes to an end when they capture Captain Universe, Nightmask, Starbrand, Abyss, and the Ex Nihilo from Mars.  The Builders are amazed that the humans possess the sentient systems they designed, especially an Abyss, of whom all were thought lost.

Builders grill Carol

But they are absolutely flabbergasted to realize that a human plays host to the mother-maker in the form of Captain Universe.

She who the Builders Rejected

As the drama unfolds, there are two particularly pivotal events.  First, the Ex Nihili, who are in the train of the Builders, are perplexed by the presence of the last Abyss.  They ask the Martian Ex Nihilo how such a thing could be.  Abyss answers by point out that the Builders had lost their way and had given up on life

Why no Abysii

Seeing the truth of her words, the Ex Nihili unite to stop the Builders.  But even their might when married to the intergalactic alliance of the Avengers and the star-faring races proves too little.  At the end, Captain Universe wakes and confronts the Builders.

Captain Universe Asks

Her might brings the conflict to an end.

Back on Earth, the Illuminati are able to hold off Thanos and the Cull Obsidian until the Avengers can return.  However, the costs are high including the loss of the Inhuman city of Attilan and the virtual destruction of Wakanda.  Like the Builders war, the fight between Earth’s mightiest and Thanos’ death-seeking cult comes to an end through the intervention of an outsider.  Thane consigns his father and two members of the Cull Obsidian to a living death (see the Is Anybody Up There Listening post from Dec. 2014).

The rest of the events in both the Avengers and the New Avengers titles are designed to strip away the hidden stratagems of the Illuminati and let the entire world know that the end is nigh.  Along the way, the reader finds a variety of smaller arcs.  One such arc involves a time-travel story (the explanation for why the Time Gem didn’t shatter when the rest of the Infinity Gems did) wherein Captain America discovers what the Illuminati did to him after he used the Infinity Gauntlet.  Another involves Doctor Strange selling his soul to dark forces to gain the power he hopes will stop multiversal armageddon.  Still others involve the creation of a new type of Super Adaptoid that can move between universes, eventually joining forces with the Sidera Maris and the mining of alternate worlds for various evil Dopplegangers.

Next week I’ll review the end of both series and the whole run of Secret Wars.  Along the way, I’ll delineate the final conflicts big and small that close out this epic.