In the decades since “Flash of Two Worlds” in Flash #123 in 1961, the story that introduced Earth-Two and the basic concept of the Multiverse in comics, the idea of parallel universes have gone from science fiction theory to science fact. The Multiverse is more relevant now than it ever has.
While DC Comics has been the place the Multiverse is most bandied about, Marvel has done its share of play there as well. Marvel’s past in parallel dimensions seems about to come back and bite it in its butt in recent issues of Avengers and New Avengers. It’s a coming crisis in the Marvel Multiverse, after the jump.
The New Universe
In 1986, just a year after DC Comics eliminated its Multiverse in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Marvel Comics decided to literally create a new universe to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The New Universe was born. The concept was to start an all new universe in the same way that Stan, Jack, and the gang started the Marvel Universe a quarter of a century before.
Conceptually, this New Universe would feature heroes that were more reality based. No gods, magic, super-technology, and the like. And not only would this world exist in real time, but events would affect the average man unlike the way things worked in traditional comic book universes. Sort of a What If the Marvel Universe was kick started in the year 1986.
Through the power of something called the White Event, a cosmic light show that bathed the Earth in bizarre radiation, metahumans emerged. Two in every million human beings on the planet experienced some sort of genetic mutation after the White Event. Heroes and villains showed up overnight. It was similar to the Big Bang that happened in Milestone Comics a few years later.
Among the heroes and concepts that were utilized when the New Universe was launched included Star Brand, D.P.7, Justice, Kickers Inc., Nightmask, and Psi-Force, among others. Despite a huge marketing push, the New Universe was saddled with a reduced budget, a lack of big names, and let’s face it, lackluster ideas. It lasted roughly until 1988 or ’89, going through several revamps. Its death knell came when John Byrne used the line, and specifically Star Brand, as a veiled attack on former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter.
In the decades since, the new Universe character have popped up here and there, in places like Spider-Man 2099, Quasar, and Exiles. Gaming materials for Marvel Comics RPGs even designated the New Universe world as Earth-148611. In 2006, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the New Universe, Warren Ellis wrote a reimagining of the concepts in his critically acclaimed newuniversal.
The newest volley in multiple attempts to revive the mediocre concepts of the New Universe have taken place in recent issues of Jonathan Hickman’s adjective-less Avengers. In the last issue, #6, it’s not only revealed that the strange talking visitor, born at the hands of Ex Nihilo, now living at Avengers Tower is not only a new Nightmask, but that the White Event, the last White Event, is coming to the Avengers’ Earth in the 616.
“The Last White Event”
That’s the title of Avengers #7, and what happens in its first few pages. The White Event occurs on Earth-616. Plainly speaking, the White Event specifically chooses a Star Brand, grants the power to protect the planet to an individual, but, there’s always a but, to do that, it also must have enough power to break a planet. Captain Universe and Nightmask keep suggesting that the system has been broken, so odds are, it’s going to choose badly.
Throughout the issue we are treated to one-page vignettes about possible choices before we learn who the new Star Brand really is. It’s going to be bad, of course. But that’s not all that’s in this issue. Flashing back to the first story arc in this series, we get to see the Caretakers, who were put in place by the Builders. They monitor the Superflow, a concept from Ellis’ newuniversal, the space between universes. Monitor seems to be the operative word as they much resemble in function and attitude the Monitors over at DC Comics.
There’s not very much in the way of the Avengers in this issue of Avengers. Tony Stark gets some face time, it’s true, but very little of anyone else. Last issue proved that Hickman could do character work as he ran Superior Spider-Man well against the team. His Shang-Chi, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk also shine, but his focus so far in this series has been on story, and on new characters primarily.
I wouldn’t expect an Avengers comic to be principally about Hyperion, Smasher, Captain Universe, and Nightmask. Even Sunspot and Cannonball are getting more play than say, Hawkeye and Black Widow. I don’t get it. I would probably do all sorts of heinous things for just a chance to write Avengers just once. If it happened, you can be sure I wouldn’t be writing the B-, C- or Z-teams…
All that said, I can’t wait to see what happens next, and how it ties in with events in New Avengers and the upcoming Infinity. It seems like Marvel Comics is heading full force into its own Crisis on Infinite Earths…