'Secret Wars': How the 'Avengers 4' Directors Could Bring X-Men to the MCU

What’s next for the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Joe and Anthony Russo, the former television comedy directors who have helmed some of the biggest Marvel movies of all time, say they’ll return to the MCU after Avengers 4 only if they can direct a Secret Wars movie.

That the Russos are even joking about Secret Wars potentially being in the pipeline from Marvel Studios is a really, really big deal.

On Wednesday, a screening and directors Q&A of Avengers: Infinity War was held at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood in Los Angeles, with the Russos in attendance. Among the bevy of new insight the Russos revealed, including how they nearly included the Marvel/Netflix heroes in the films, the directors said they’ll only return to the Marvel franchise (after having completed 2019’s Avengers 4) if they can direct Secret Wars. (We’ll update this post with the exact quotes out of the transcript when the Q&A is uploaded on Collider’s YouTube channel.)

The name “Secret Wars” carries a lot of weight in Marvel history. Conceived of as a marketing ploy to appeal to kids (based on focus group testing performed by toy manufacturer Mattel, which then held the license for Marvel toys), Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars was one of Marvel’s first big “event” crossovers that featured dozens upon dozens of characters in one story. Transported to the distant planet Battleworld by the cosmic god Beyonder, dozens of Marvel heroes and villains are forced to fight to the death.

Marvel Secret Wars
Cover of 'Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars' #1.

Commonly called just Secret Wars, the twelve-issue series was published between 1984 and 1985 and written by Jim Shooter with illustrations by Mike Zeck and Bob Layton. The series introduced characters and concepts that would have a major impact on years to come, primarily the alien symbiote that created Spider-Man’s black suit. A few later, that same symbiote created the anti-hero Venom when it bonded with disgraced reporter Eddie Brock.

A loose adaptation of the ‘80s Secret Wars could be huge (hello, Tom Holland’s symbiote), but it’s the 2015 spiritual sequel, also titled Secret Wars, that might have even bigger and dire stakes: A Secret Wars movie could be the thing that unites all the Marvel movie franchises, including even the X-Men from Fox.

2015’s Secret Wars, written by Jonathan Hickman, borrows the same concept of Battleworld, but instead smushes both the “main” Marvel universe (Earth-616) with the parallel “Ultimate Marvel” universe, where characters like Miles Morales originally emerged. Tie-ins also included the return of continuities like the “Marvel 1602” universe (where the Marvel heroes live in the 17th century) and the “House of M” alternate timeline.

Marvel Secret Wars
Cover of 'Secret Wars' #1 from 2015.

Though not a reboot, what 2015’s Secret Wars allowed Marvel to do was present a “fresh start” for its landscape. In the aftermath, there was an “All-New, All-Different” Marvel Universe where the identities of popular characters like Wolverine and the Hulk shifted to other people.

Either version of Secret Wars presents the MCU blueprints to how to reorient an unwieldy continuity. With the X-Men franchise about to reenter custody of Marvel after Disney’s expensive buyout of 20th Century Fox, there will have to be something to conceivably include the X-Men alongside the Avengers.

Especially considering how big 2019’s Avengers 4 could be, the MCU could use a major event-level storyline. As always, there’s no bigger resource to look to than the comic books.

Avengers 4 will be released in theaters on May 3, 2019.


Related video: Rewatch the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War.

Media via Marvel Entertainment