So the last Wednesday marked the last issues of Avengers and New Avengers and today, Free Comic Book, marks the beginning of Secret Wars with Secret Wars #0. But what, exactly, is Secret Wars? And how did Avengers and New Avengers end? Let’s find out!
Be warned: this article is full of spoilers for Avengers and New Avengers. Also, it’s super complicated.
It started in the pages of New Avengers: Black Panther discovered an area where he was able to see another Earth in the sky. And then he witnessed that other Earth being destroyed.
He called the Illuminati (Iron Man, Captain America, Black Bolt, Mister Fantastic, Namor, Doctor Strange, and Beast) together in order to figure out what was happened and they did: planetary incursions. Two parallel Earths were occupying the same space and if one Earth wasn’t destroyed, both universes would die.
During an Incursion, they discovered the woman who destroyed the other Earth, Black Swan. She revealed that the Incursions were caused by someone called Rabum Alal, the Great Destroyer.
At first, the Illuminati tried to prevent the Incursion with the Infinity Gauntlet wielded by Captain America. The Gauntlet was able to push both Earths away from one another but in the process, almost all of the gems were shattered. In the wake of this failure, Captain America realized that the rest of the Illuminati would eventually build world-destroying weapons, so Iron Man ordered him to be mind-wiped.
During another Incursion, the Illuminati encountered the Mapmakers, Adaptoid androids who map alternate Earths before stripping their resources during Incursions. Black Swan then tells them of another players in the “Game of Worlds”: the Black Priests and the Ivory Kings.
Meanwhile, over in Avengers, Tony Stark got the idea to expand the Avengers and create an “Avengers Machine,” a continually evolving team that could respond to any type of problem. The first type: Abyss and Ex Nihilo, two alien creatures who had landed on Mars and were launching evolutionary attacks on Earth.
It was eventually revealed that Abyss and Ex Nihilo were created by the Builders, an ancient race who could travel the multiverse. The Builders, in turn, realized that Earth was at the center of the Incursions and decided the best thing to do would be wipe it out. This resulted in the Infinity crossover.
(Before Infinity, however, there was the White Event, which was apparently the universes self-defense, but it went wrong due to the destruction of the Superflow.)
The Illuminati have a bit of luck at first with Incursions — the first alternate Earth they have to destroy is uninhabited by people and the second is actually destroyed by Galactus first.
But then, after weeks, they encounter an alternate Earth which has survived multiple Incursions with a number of heroes called the Great Society. And the Illuminati suddenly realize that they can’t kill the Society and can’t kill billions of lives.
Doctor Strange, on the other hand, can. After trying to sell his soul before, he is overcome by dark powers and kills the Great Society...and Namor activates the doomsday device, killing their world. He then claims that the rest of the Illuminati are cowards and leaves to do what they could not.
During Original Sin, Captain America discovers that he was mind-wiped and tells Tony off. And then, after he informs the rest of the Avengers about the Incursions, the story cuts to eight months later, where a lot has changed.
Namor has gathered a group of villains called the Cabal to destroy the alternate Earths during the Incursions. However, he becomes sickened by their actions during them and goes to Doctor Doom, but Doom rebuffs him, saying that Doom is no one’s second choice.
Meanwhile, there are multiple Avengers teams: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Avengers, led by the Invisible Woman and Sunspot’s Avengers (he bought A.I.M., too). And Captain America — now an old man — is still hunting for Tony. And Doctor Strange was now the head of the Black Priests, sorcerers who destroy Earths in order to save the multiverse, and searching for Rabum Alal.
Black Bolt and T’Challa try to kill the Cabal, but the Cabal ends up traveling to the Ultimate Universe, where they meet Ultimate Reed Richards (called “Maker”), who has been destroying alternate Earths for months in order to save his own.
The Avengers first send out Hank Pym to find out what is happening with the multiverse and when he comes back, he reveals that the Ivory Kings are actually Beyonders. Then a group of Multiversal Avengers — which includes Hyperion and Thor Odinson — set out to find and stop the Beyonders. And Doctor Doom uses Owen Reece, the Molecule Man, to journey into the multiverse in order to find answers for himself.
Doctor Strange eventually finds out that Rabum Alal is actually Doctor Doom and, in the last issue of New Avengers, Doom states what happened: Owen Reece, the Molecule Man, brought him to an alternate Earth to witness the Molecule Man’s origin...and kill him. Reece, now somewhat sane, tells Doom that he is, in fact, a product of the Beyonders, one of their experiments: they want to see the “simultaneous end of everything.” So Owen Reece is a multiversal bomb — all Owen Reeces across the multiversal are, in fact, one mind/person and when one explodes, all of them will explode, taking out the entire multiverse at once. And so Doom has to become a multiversal serial killer, killing the Molecule Man over and over again in order to prevent this, even if killing Reece early sometimes causes the Incursions.
While he does this over twenty-five years, he ends up creating an entire religion around him. And he comes to realize that the Beyonders are linear — they cannot travel back in time. So he tries to attack them outright...and ends up doing something which reduces the total number of universes from hundreds of thousands to a dozen.
And the Beyonders have been busy: they have been killing godlike entities, including the Living Tribunal. The Multiversal Avengers then encounter them and realize this is all a “grand experiment” for them. Ex Nihilo and Abyss end up killing one Beyonder at the expense of their own lives, but a dozen more Beyonders bear down on Hyperion and Thor, presumably resulting in their deaths.
And then the universes are down to two: the 616 universe and the Ultimate universe. The Cabal has already convinced Ultimate Reed Richards and Ultimate Nick Fury to attack the 616 universe when it appears. And the 616 Avengers have almost given up, considering how little time remains.
In the last issue of Avengers, after the last Incursion begins, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark finally duke it out, with the fight ending with a Helicarrier crashing down upon them. And with the Ultimate universe attacking, the war officially begins.
Well, we know both Earths will be destroyed. Deadpool #250, the last issue, already showed that everyone outside of New York will die (including Deadpool and his family).
What’s left will be merged with what’s left of the Ultimate universe Earth and with over a dozen different alternate Earths to become Battleworld.
Beyond that, nobody really knows. Some books will show the “Last Days” of the characters in the eight hours before destruction; some books will become “Battleworld” books, showing what happens across multiple different areas of Battleworld; and some books will become “Warzones!” books, showing different areas of Battleworld, different Earths where alternate events resulted in different things happening.
Check the Wikipedia article for all the areas of Battleworld and the books involved.
I hope that cleared things up.