In the landmark 50th episode of the Gabbing Geek podcast, the Geeks had a lengthy discussion about the current Secret Wars event. Part of the exchange went something like this:
Ryan: Armor Wars is awesome!!!!! You guys should read it!!!!
Watson: You’ve lost me already. I need to know the details from a nearly three decades old Iron Man story to read this? I don’t think so.
Ryan: You don’t need to know anything about the old Armor Wars story.
Watson: Uh huh.
Ryan: Na uh.
Watson: Uh huh.
Ryan: Na uh.
Watson Uh huh.
Ryan: Uh huh.
Watson: Na uh…dammit! Ok, I’ll read it.
The conversation did get me thinking though…what prior knowledge do you need to read some of these books? Many share the names of events I may not have read. What if, for example, I haven’t read the original Infinity Gauntlet (and why haven’t you…but that is another column) can I read the new series?
You can find the answer to that question about every Secret Wars series after the cut.
What you need to know for almost every book:
- Doom is God
- As the Marvel Multiverse collapsed, God-Doom saved what he could from every universe and transformed it into a domain. And cobbled all the domains together into a patchwork planet called Battleworld.
- Each book is in its own domain of Battleworld.
- Domains are separated by giant border walls.
- Travel between domains is generally forbidden without permission from Doom (or his counsel).
- Every domain has one person worthy enough to wield Mjolnir and be Thor.
- All the Thors act as the police for all of Battleworld.
- If you do something that angers Doom, you get sent to work for the rest of your life on The Shield, which is an immense border wall that keeps out the likes of Ultrons, Marvel Zombies and the Annihilation Wave, domains south of The Shield, from spreading across Battleworld. If you REALLY anger Doom, you end up sentenced to a short life on the other side of The Shield.
- To speak out against or to doubt Doom is considered blasphemy and usually punishable by banishment over The Shield.
With that basic knowledge you are essentially equipped to read almost all of Secret Wars. But some of it will be easier or more enjoyable if you’ve read some other material. With that in mind we’ve divided the Secret Wars books into three categories.
The first category, Jump Right In, are books where you can just start reading from page 1 of issue 1 and you’re in the same boat as every other read. Enjoy!
The second category, Immediately Readable But…, can also be read by anyone but if you happened to read something else you may appreciate it a bit more. We’ll identify what you should have read if you want that extra layer of awesomeness.
The third category, Prereq Alert!, are books where you really should have read something else before picking up this Secret Wars series.
Jump Right In: These books are highly readable just with the background provided on the introduction page.
- Thors – Thors are cops. Now go read it.
- Armor Wars – Armor Wars was an incredible Iron Man storyline in the late 1980s. It has virtually nothing to do with this series.
- Siege – Shares no ties with the 2010 event of the same name that centered around Norman Osborn and Asgard. What you’ll need to know here is the concept of The Shield.
- Secret Wars Battleworld – Short stories told from different Battleworld domains. These are all designed to be one-off stories with no connections to other books or storylines.
- Secret Wars Journal – More short stories from around Battleworld. In contrast to Secret Wars Battleworld, these stories tend to have at least some ties to other books in the event.
- Secret War Secret Love – More short stories with a love focus.
- 1872 – No previous readings required.
- Planet Hulk – Aside from the occasional reference to someone being “warbound” there isn’t anything particularly connected to the original storyline. The original story had one Hulk and no Captain America or Devil Dinosaur. This one has wall-to-wall Hulks and only got the name for the name recognition, A La Armor Wars.
- Inhumans Attilan Rising – A passing knowledge of the Inhumans characters will add to this, especially the juxtaposition that Black Bolt cannot speak without his voice causing mass destruction in the standard Marvel U. But otherwise stands alone.
- Howard The Human – You don’t need to know anything heading into this.
- Captain Marvel And The Carol Corps – Helps to know who Carol Danvers is, and the whole Doom as God thing, but otherwise stands alone.
- A-Force – Doom, Thors, travel between domains all play a role with the new team of female Avengers made up of familiar 616 counterparts.
- Captain Britain And The Mighty Defenders – A passing knowledge of Iron Man’s origin will add to the initial set up, but otherwise the usual Doom is God and don’t question it knowledge required.
- Where Monsters Dwell – No prior knowledge required.
- Infinity Gauntlet – Besides the fact that Thanos is involved and there are infinity gems/stones, this really has no ties to the original classic series.
- Guardians Of Knowhere – No previous knowledge besides the usual Doom, Thor stuff required. General knowledge of the current roster of the Guardians of the Galaxy may be of benefit but not necessary.
- Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows – There is way too much backstory here to recommend anything particular to read, and it plays loose with Spider-Man continuity anyway. All you really need to know is that Peter and Mary Jane are still married (their marriage was not wiped out of continuity by one of the worst Marvel stories of all time) and their daughter (who was written out of continuity years earlier in a different story) is alive and well and they all live together in one happy family.
- Weirdworld – no knowledge required.
- Ghost Racers – Doom is God stuff, but otherwise, just know that it stars as many incarnations of Ghost Rider as they can jam in there.
- M.O.D.O.K. Assassin – No previous reading required.
- Red Skull – This book deals heavily with the concept of Doom as God and the domains on the wrong side of the Shield, in particular the Marvel Zombies. A knowledge of the Red Skull and his relationship with Captain America and Winter Soldier would be an asset.
- X-Men ’92 (Infinite) – A supposed continuation of the X-Men cartoon from the 90’s, it mostly deals with characters and concepts never really dealt with on the cartoon. As long as you know who the X-Men are you should be ok.
- Master of Kung Fu – No prior knowledge required.
- Korvac Saga – I haven’t read the original Korvac Saga, so I can’t say. Hopefully it is better than this. But I don’t feel lost in any way reading it, outside of not really knowing the characters in this incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Giant Size Little Marvel AvX – You just need to know that these are the Avengers and the X-Men with the cute factor cranked up to 11.
Immediately Readable But You’ll Get More If You Read…: These books are highly readable just with the background provided on the introduction page.
- Secret Wars – I can see you feeling lost at times if you haven’t been reading the Avengers titles for the last couple of years.
- Squadron Sinister – You might get more out of it with some knowledge of the Squadron outside of them basically being an evil Justice League.
- Old Man Logan – While this series does pick up after an earlier book the important events are summarized in the introduction and have little impact on the rest of the series.
- Civil War – A true What If? style book that alters the conclusion of that event and the story continues on from there. What you need to know is mostly explained, but a solid foundation in Civil War wouldn’t hurt.
- Hank Johnson Agent Of Hydra – Nothing required besides a sense of humor and knowing that Hydra are the bad guys. The only reason this falls in the second category is because there are a lot of references to various bad guy organizations and some well known evil characters are used without much introduction. Readable, but if you know the difference between HYDRA and AIM then you’ll like a lot more.
- Runaways – The story is unique enough that you don’t need to read the original Runaways first. But if you did you’ll appreciate how true to the overall tone of the story this new book can be–plus the total inclusion of one classic character.
- Marvel Zombies – This can be read without having read any prior Marvel Zombies books (though you should), all you really need to know are the concepts of The Shield, and that the Marvel Zombies are representations of Marvel characters who’ve all turned into zombies. On Battleworld, all the MZ appear to be villains, which was not the case in the source material as that focused on the heroes.
- Mrs Deadpool And The Howling Commandos – Some familiarity with Marvel’s horror characters as well as Deadpool and his current wife may add to it, but can mostly be read on its own.
- Future Imperfect – I don’t think you need to know all the ins and outs of the original storyline, but a knowledge of who the Maestro is and what he did would be of great benefit. It also has some cross-referencing with Peter David’s X-Factor work as well (Ruby Summers and Layla Miller weren’t in the original Future Imperfect).
- Star-Lord And Kitty Pryde – This book hinges on a major event that occurs in the main Secret Wars series. As it features the actual 616 version of Star-Lord, some knowledge of the recent Guardians books and his relationship with the 616 Kitty Pryde would be helpful. Familiarity of the Age of Apocalypse event may help as well with who exactly this Kitty Pryde is.
- Spider-Verse – You can get by with the knowledge that this is a collection of Spider-People from across various worlds in the multiverse that are all jammed here together in one domain that seems to be very similar to the main 616, where Norman Osborn has killed Gwen Stacy.
- Secret Wars 2099 – Familiarity with the alternative 2099 universe will help with knowing who many of these characters are, but also leaves you wondering about why and how some of those characters are different?
- Ultimate End – As long as you know about the existence of the Ultimate Universe and Marvel Universe you should be fine. The biggest mention of previous storylines is the Death of Spider-Man in the Ulimate U, but even that is mostly just a set up for a running joke.
- Age of Ultron Vs Marvel Zombies – Similar to the other Marvel Zombies book, all you really need to know of that equation is the Marvel Zombies concept. From the Ultron side of things, it doesn’t really tie into the Age of Ultron event besides Ultron rising up and destroying everything.
- Inferno – Like Civil War, a twist on the end of the original event sees the story continue onward here. They explain it enough that you can get away with it, but a knowledge of Inferno especially the more demonic characters would be useful.
- E Is For Extinction – The story mostly stands alone, but I think a greater appreciation and understanding of it comes with having read Grant Morrison’s X-Men run.
- House of M – another What If?, change the ending, continue on book. You can read without having read the original series, but it would help.
Prereq Alert!: These books should be read if you’ve read something else we list.
- Years Of Future Past – Continues the storyline from the classic X-Men issues (Days of Future Past). A knowledge of those books would help.
- 1602 Witch Hunter Angela – Although the story presented has little to do with the original 1602 series, some of the descriptions in the first few issues are lacking and can be confusing if you haven’t read the original 1602.
- Spider-Island – While it is explained up front, you might feel a little lost without haven’t read the original Spider-Island event.
- Age Of Apocalypse – I find I’m a little lost on this book having never read Age of Apocalypse.
- X-Tinction Agenda – Like Age of Apocalypse, I find this book a tad confusing having never read the original material.
- Hail Hydra – I haven’t read Rick Remender’s Captain America, so it is hard to comment, but it sure seems like you need to have read that run to understand 2/3 of what the hell is going on in this book.
- Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars – A retelling of the original Secret Wars from the 80’s, but with Deadpool added for some reason. You can get by without having read the original book, but a good knowledge of that series really adds to the story and the jokes.