What Is ‘Secret Wars’? A Guide to the Big ‘Avengers’ Sequel

The next Thanos-level event is coming…

Marvel Comics

Marvel Studios finally pulled back the curtain on what’s next in the MCU at Comic-Con, announcing that the next “Avengers” sequels — technically “Avengers 5” and “Avengers 6” — will be called “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” and “Avengers: Secret Wars.” This is the next Thanos-level event facing the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it can’t come soon enough.

Ever since “Avengers: Endgame” put a definitive button on the first three phases of the MCU, the output has been uncharacteristically disconnected, with disparate stories being told in both film and TV (on Disney+) that take place in the same universe, but lack the looming threat of Thanos that hung over the characters after 2012’s “The Avengers.”

That changes with “Secret Wars,” which will be preceded by “The Kang Dynasty.” But what is “Secret Wars” and what makes it worthy of a being an Avengers movie? All your questions answered below.

So What Happens in “Kang Dynasty?”

Before we get to “Secret Wars,” there will be “Kang Dynasty,” the “Infinity War” to its “Endgame.”

It gets its name from 16-part “Avengers” storyline written by the great Kurt Busiek that ran from 2001-2002. In it, Kang, in a nutshell, comes back from the 30th century and actually manages to take over the entire planet earth — destroying the United Nations headquarters in the process. Of course, eventually The Avengers stop him, but at great cost.

So “Kang Dynasty” could find Kang bringing the fight to Earth, while “Secret Wars” could be his revenge plot. As with “Secret Wars,” we don’t expect Marvel to adapt this storyline as a 1:1, but the basic plot gives us an idea of where Marvel is going with Phase 5.

What Is “Secret Wars,” Exactly?

"Avengers: Secret Wars" (Marvel)
“Avengers: Secret Wars” (Marvel)

“Secret Wars” was a run in Marvel Comics from 1984 to 1985 that served as the first company-wide crossover event in comics history.

In the story, a cosmic entity called the Beyonder has become fascinated by the presence of superheroes on Earth and kidnaps Marvel’s A-list heroes by teleporting them to an artificially constructed planet called “the battleworld,” where he orders them to fight to the death. “I am from beyond! Slay your enemies and all that you desire shall be yours! Nothing you dream of is impossible for me to accomplish,” he says.

The simple premise heralded huge changes for the then-Marvel status quo. Most famously, the Battleworld is where Spider-Man picked up his black suit, which of course turned out to be the Venom symbiote. But the series also resulted in She-Hulk replacing The Thing as a member of Fantastic Four, some interpersonal drama among the X-Men, and The Hulk sustaining injuries that restored his uncontrollable rage-version.

And as a side-note, the cool thing about those changes is that they occurred for readers months or even a full year before they were actually explained in the pages of “Secret Wars.” For instance, at the end of “Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man” #89, dated April, 1984 but released Jan. 17, 1984, Peter feels a strong compulsion to go to Central Park, where he encounters a mysterious cosmic doorway and upon going through it, disappears.

Then in “Amazing Spider-Man” #252 (dated May, 1984 but released Jan. 31, 1984, Peter, with a de-Lizarded Curt Connors in two and the Avengers close behind, returns from that portal wearing the black suit. Six months later in “Amazing Spider-Man” #258 (dated November 1984 but released July 31), Peter (with the help of the Fantastic Four) finally learns that the suit is a living parasitic organism attempting to bond with him permanently.

Finally, in “Secret Wars” #8, dated December 1984 but released Aug. 28, readers finally learned how Peter got that costume in the first place. While it’s unlikely, we can’t help but hope Marvel Studios springs similarly big changes on fans before “Secret Wars” lands in theaters. Even if just in various post-credit scenes.

What Does This Mean for the MCU?

For one, we can reasonably anticipate Kang the Conqueror – played by Jonathan Majors, who made his MCU debut in “Loki” – to be the entity who teleports all the characters, not the Beyonder. Especially because Kang is in the title of “Avengers 4.” And for another, we can expect the “Avengers” sequel to be packed full of surprises.

Remember, right after Thanos showed up at the end of “The Avengers,” most fans assumed the MCU story would follow the comics and have Thanos falling in love with Death. While that was considered, Marvel Studios took a different approach, and “Infinity War” and “Endgame” ended up serving as largely original stories based on the Infinity Gauntlet comics run.

Who Will Be in “Avengers: Secret Wars”?

We don’t know yet, but we do know the major MCU players still on the board. There’s Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), the Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Captain America (Anthony Mackie), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) and all those Eternals.

And that’s not to mention the characters introduced on Disney+ like Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany), Moon Knight (Oscar Isaac) and plenty more to come.

So some combination of the above and any number of characters we didn’t list are likely candidates for this “fight to the death” challenge that makes up the Secret Wars.

Will the Russo Brothers Direct?

After directing two “Captain America” sequels and “Infinity War” and “Endgame,” directors Joe and Anthony Russo have long said they’re interested in returning to Marvel at some point to direct “Secret Wars.” As recently as this month they’ve reiterated their interest, but have maintained that nothing has officially been settled, and they have their plate full with other projects right now.

So the answer is… maybe?