Marvel’s Secret Wars: Why It’s Worth Reading And Where To Start

Both DC Comics and Marvel Comics have had their fair share of large crossover events that brought their whole roster together in an epic battle against an evil that threatens to destroy the universe as we know it. In this article, I am going to focus on one such crossover event, one that Marvel published between 1984 and 1985 in twelve monthly issues, one crossover event that became a classic. Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars, better known simply as Secret Wars, was a major crossover event and despite the lukewarm reception at first, it certainly merits an article. 

Marcel Superheroes Secret Wars is one of the biggest and most important events in Marvel’s history, which is why it is definitely worth reading and analyzing. 

In today’s article, I am going to be discussing the impact of the Secret Wars crossover event. You’re going to find out why it is worth reading and why it was so important, but also where to start reading it if you want to be fully on track with all the events. Enjoy!

Is Marvel’s Secret Wars worth reading?

As far as Marvel’s crossover events are concerned, Secret Wars is certainly one of the most famous ones. Written by Jim Shooter, and illustrated by Mike Zeck and Bob Layton, this 12-issue crossover event was published between May 1984 and April 1985 on a monthly basis. 

The story of Secret Wars featured the Beyonder, one of Marvel’s most powerful characters, gathering a group of Earth’s heroes and villains for a brawl on “Battleworld”, a planet created by the Beyonder himself. The heroes include members of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men, but also solo heroes like Spider-Man and Spider-Woman.

The villain list includes Absorbing Man, Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, the Enchantress, Kang the Conqueror, Klaw, the Lizard, the Molecule Man, Titania, Ultron, Volcana, and the Wrecking Crew. Magneto and Galactus also appeared on the side of the heroes and villains respectively, but both ended up being non-aligned entities. 

The story itself was enormously thrilling and it was arguably the best crossover event Marvel had produced up to that date. The series was a bestseller for Marvel and although it initially received a lukewarm reception for being infantile, it has been reevaluated by critics in recent years and has gained the status of a true cult classic. This also explains why I am absolutely certain that Secret Wars is a crossover you absolutely have to read. 

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Why is Marvel’s Secret Wars worth reading?

Aside from the general reasons – which include a great story, great character development, and great art – Secret Wars is a crossover event that also has a well-established legacy and there are several cultural and narrative reasons because of which it definitely deserves your attention. 

As far as the narrative reasons are concerned, Secret Wars includes several extremely important developments and novelties that shaped the future of Marvel’s stories.

For example, Spider-Man wears his black costume for the first time ever in Secret Wars, unaware that is actually a symbiote, the same symbiote which would later bond with journalist Eddie Brock to create Venom; Doctor Doom steals the Beyonder’s powers temporarily, after having fallen in love with the alien healer Zsaji, who would later sacrifice her own life to save the heroes on “Battleworld”; Colossus, one of the best-known X-Men, ends his relationship with Kitty Pride, breaking her heart; and the Thing ultimately received the ability to revert back to his human form, which also influences his decision to remain on “Battleworld” to explore its galaxy for a year. His role in the Fantastic Four was temporarily given to She-Hulk. 

Aside from that, Secret Wars also introduced several important new characters. The symbiote that would later become Venom had its debut in Secret Wars, as Ialready said, as well as villainesses Titania and Volcana. Secret Wars also introduced Julia Carpenter, the second Spider-Woman, to the main narrative continuity. Spider-Man’s black costume was inspired by Carpenter’s in the story itself. 

Credit Marvel Comics

On top of all of this, Secret Wars remains one of Marvel’s bestselling stories and a crossover event that really influenced all future events in Marvel’s stories. Today, it is considered to be a masterpiece, and it has been adapted and/or referenced in several other works. Marvel also released a sequel, Secret Wars II, and a new miniseries of the same name, which came out in 2015. All of this shows just how important this story was and why it is really worth a read. 

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Where to start reading Marvel’s Secret Wars?

Aside from the main series, Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars #1-12, the series also encompasses several different crossover titles, which are The Amazing Spider-Man #249–252, The Avengers #242–243, Captain America #292, The Incredible Hulk (vol. 2) #294–295, Iron Man #181–183, The Thing #10–22, Fantastic Four #265, Marvel Team-Up #141, Thor #341 and 383, and The Uncanny X-Men #178–181.

Due to the large number of issues that form this event, I have decided to give you a proper reading order of all these titles so you know how to approach the story to benefit from it in the best way possible. What you have to know is that there is no one story that directly precedes Secret Wars, but the so-called “prelude” stories are scattered throughout several issues, as well as the continuation of the Secret Wars storyline. Here we go. 

Before reading the main series’ #1-12, you should definitely check out these titles (in case the list above includes more issues that precede the ones in this list, be sure to check them out as well):

  • Amazing Spider-Man #251, collected in Spider-Man: Origin of the HobgoblinPeter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #89; and Marvel Team-Up #140; these issues show us Spider-Man’s entrance to the event.
  • Avengers #242, collected in Avengers: Absolute Vision Book 2; this issue shows us the Avengers’ entrance to the event.
  • Captain America #292, collected in Captain America: Death of the Red Skull; a retelling of Avengers #242 but from a different point of view.
  • Fantastic Four #265, collected in Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne Vol. 4; this issue contains a brief flashback scene that shows Sue Storm’s reaction to The Fantastic Four’s entrance to the event.
  • Incredible Hulk #293; this issue shows us the Hulk’s entrance to the event.
  • Iron Man #181, collected in Iron Man Epic Collection: Duel of Iron; this issue shows us Iron Man’s entrance to the event.
  • Thing #10, collected in Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne Vol. 4; this issue shows us The Fantastic Four’s entrance to the event.
  • Thor #341, collected in Thor by Walt Simonson Vol. 1; this issue shows us Thor’s entrance to the event.
  • Uncanny X-Men #180, collected in Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men Vol. 10; this issue shows us the X-Men’s entrance to the event.

After you’re done with these issues, you can read the main series but that doesn’t mean you’re done. There are also some issues that directly follow the events of Secret Wars and show us what happened to some of the characters after the crossover event, which is why I think you should also read those as well. They are (in case the list above includes more issues that follow the ones in this list, be sure to check them out as well):

Credit Marvel Comics
  • Amazing Spider-Man #252Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #90, and Marvel Team-Up #141; these issues show us what Spider-Man did after Secret Wars, and they deal with his costume change in more detail.
  • Avengers #243, collected in Avengers: Absolute Vision Book 2; this issue tells us what the Avengers did after Secret Wars, although in a very limited capacity. 
  • Fantastic Four #265, collected in Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne Vol. 4; this issue tells us what The Fantastic Four did after Secret Wars, mostly dealing with the changes within the team. 
  • Incredible Hulk #294; this issue tells us what the Hulk did after Secret Wars, mostly dealing with the changes he went through during the event. 
  • Iron Man #182, collected in Iron Man Epic Collection: Duel of Iron; this issue partially deals with Iron Man’s return after Secret Wars, while the subsequent issues deal with the changes made to his armor.
  • Thing #11; this issue starts The Thing’s story after Secret Wars and is heavily impacted by the events that happened in the event, as well as the issues that follow. 
  • Thor #383; essentially just shows a part of the event from the Enchantress’ perspective.
  • Uncanny X-Men #181, collected in Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men Vol. 10; shows us what the X-Men did immediately after the event, with some events being heavily influenced by Secret Wars.