Story: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Stefano Caselli, Kev Walker and Frank Martin
New Avengers #33
Story: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Mike Deodato and Frank Martin
Congratulations, Jonathan Hickman, you did it. You blew up the Earth, on my birthday no less. Now I know how Molly Ringwald felt.
Hickman’s long-game multiverse-smushing saga comes full circle in his final issues of Avengers and New Avengers, in an everything bagel of a plot that involves the main and Ultimate Marvel universes colliding into (and waging war on) each other, the Beyonders as the architects of destruction, Dr. Doom as the god of a doomsday cult, Molecule Man (hey, comics geezers, remember this guy?) serving as a multiversal martyr, Marvel’s top minds fleeing Earth to rebuild it, Thanos playing one world off another, President Obama not understanding what’s going on and more.
But before the world ends, let’s watch Steve Rogers and Tony Stark play Civil War one last time. In the last minutes of pre-Secret Wars 616 Earth, the elderly Rogers, wearing a suit of armor, assaults post-Axis Jerkface Stark, realizing Tony had known since the current volume of Avengers began that their Earth’s destruction was imminent and there was nothing he or anyone could do about it (which seems not to gibe with the whole “I believe in the future” message of Kieron Gillen’s first arc on Iron Man, which ran concurrently). So he essentially tricked Steve into remodeling the Avengers and sending them running around in circles to busy themselves, hoping they wouldn’t notice. Circle imagery has been a hit-you-over-the-head big part of Hickman’s run, right down to the character lineup pages in the front of each issue. The final issue of Avengers also includes multiple flashbacks to the first issue, juxtaposing Steve and Tony building the “Avengers Machine” with Old Steve and Jerkface Tony just beating the snot out of each other because it’s all they can do as the world burns.
Meanwhile, in New Avengers, the bad guys are trying just as hard as the good guys to salvage Earth, for what good is a shattered world that Doom cannot rule? (Read that in your Dr. Doom voice. It’ll feel good, trust me.) The Beyonders, the cosmic beings whose existence date to the original Secret Wars in 1984, apparently set up retired supervillain Molecule Man as a bomb in every reality, so Doom has been dimension-hopping, seeking out each world’s MM and killing him, and amassing followers called Black Swans to speed the process along (and worship him, because why not?). The Beyonders, of course, saw all this coming, so the issue ends with Doom realizing his own hubris was once again used against him, with the punishment being the destruction of Earth.
There’s also a ton of B-plot to unpack, which frankly, if you haven’t been reading either or both books and the past years’ events, you’re gonna be left scratching your head about. The recap pages are like recap scenes before a TV show: If you have no context for them, you don’t know why they’re the on the Island, let alone what the significance of the Hatch is. But the important thing to know is this is the end for both books. Now, there is only Secret Wars.