Discussion of new issues (including all tie-ins) on the Wednesday of their release should be tagged. The following Thursday spoiler tags will not be needed for discussion of events that have already happened in released books. This gives everyone the opportunity to download the comics or visit their local comicbook shop without being spoiled on new comicbook day and prevents the OT from being nothing but black bars.
Always tag any previews, reviews, or leaks of unreleased issues or their plot points.
Always tag covers that have not been officially released by Marvel.
When in doubt use spoiler tags to be safe.
As such this OP contains open spoilers for everything up to Secret Wars #1. Consider yourself warned.
Marvel’s Illuminati, a secretive group of Earth’s most intelligent and important heroes, have discovered the multiverse is dying as a result of Incursions. Incursions are the unnatural collision of two universes with their respective Earths as the point of contact. Only destroying one of the Earths can prevent an Incursion from annihilating both universes. In their attempts to hold off the apocalypse for a little while longer, the Illuminati have used deception, the impossible, and the unthinkable.
A schism eventually occurs within the Illuminati over their methods leaving Namor to form the Cabal to continue the grim task of killing worlds. The Illuminati's actions are eventually revealed to Captain America who assembles the Avengers to arrest them for their crimes. As the Avengers hunt their former allies, the Cabal is left free to continue planetary genocide.
Click each issue for a download link at Comixology!
The world is very different 8 months after Steve Roger's discovery. The Illuminati's actions are public knowledge and they find themselves being hunted by SHIELD and the Avengers, all while the Cabal's continued destruction of worlds becomes officially sanctioned by desperate world leaders. The price for the Cabal's services is no less than Wakanda and it is gladly payed. The Golden City is destroyed and what little remains now serves as the Cabal's staging ground. Worse still, Doctor Strange is missing and Tony Stark is held captive by Black Swan who soon admits that she is not who she claims to be. Namor's control over the group quickly collapses and he soon petitions Doctor Doom for help. Namor leaves Latveria with nothing as Doom is no man's second choice. Doom reveals he has added one of the most powerful beings in universe to his cause, Owen Reece, the Molecule Man, and as a result has formed his own plan to prevent the early end of everything. Meanwhile Valeria Richards concludes that there is no winning, it's time to figure out how not to lose.
Robert DeCosta, also known as the X-man Sunspot, meets with Cyclops in Nation X to discuss the Incursions. Scott agrees that it is time for his involvement and confides to Sunspot that the Nation possess a Phoenix Egg and intends to use it. On the other side of the multiverse Thor, Hyperion, Starbrand, Nightmask, Abyss, and the Ex Nihli are searching for the cause of the Incursions and soon engage in battle with the Black Priests. Despite losing many Ex Nihli, the Multiversal Avengers soon gain the upper hand until the priests' leader intervenes. The leader unmasks himself as the missing Doctor Strange who explains that he came to command the priests some time after his vanishing. Doctor Strange tells the group that the Incursions are the result of a war between the Ivory Kings and Rabum Alal, the great destroyer. Each also have their agents. The Mapmakers serve the Ivory Kings and the Black Swans are Rabum Alal's fanatical disciples. Strange and the Multiversal Avengers agree to simultaneously confront the two warring parties in an attempt to end the crisis. On Earth, the Avengers engage the Illuminati in heated battle until the intervention of Sunspot and Cannonball's New Avengers who have come together to help the two factions come to terms. The Illuminati, with the exception of Black Panther, eventually agree to surrender themselves to SHIELD. Namor's final act of freedom is to trap the Cabal on an Incursion world as an anti-matter bomb detonates but before he can make his escape, he is attacked by Black Panther and Black Bolt. The two kings leave Namor to his fate as the planet is destroyed behind them.
The Ultimate Universe is also dealing with the Incursions, though it does not have an Illuminati, or a Cabal, or Avengers to defend it. All that stands between Earth 1610 and annihilation is Ultimate Reed Richards now calling himself The Maker. Lacking any moral resemblance to Earth 616's Mr. Fantastic, The Maker is extremely proficient at killing worlds easily outperforming the Cabal while maintaining the absolute secrecy the Illuminati could not. Reed coincidentally encounters the abandoned Cabal who managed to escape the doomed Incursion Planet with Namor in tow. They quickly agree to join forces against all other worlds that stand before them including Earth 616. Things may not reach that point as back in 616 the other civilized powers in the galaxy have learned of Incursions and that destroying Earth will prevent more from occurring. Their solution is to simply destroy the Earth via orbital bombardment.
Things somehow get worse.
Hank Pym returns from his mission with impossibly bleak news. The Ivory Kings, better known as The Beyonders are undoing reality in a wholly different way than Rabum Alal and his Incursions. These all-powerful gods are killing the multiverse one abstract concept at a time and there is no stopping the structural collapse that follows. The Multiversal Avengers unfortunately also learn the truth of what they face. Similarly, Doctor Strange and his priests launch an assault on Rabum Alal's stronghold quickly finding their effort pointless. Rabum Alal, the Great Destroyer, is none other than Victor Von Doom and he is responsible for the Incursions.
Doom explains to Doctor Strange that the Beyonders had originally intended to destroy the multiverse in one single instant by simultaneously detonating the immense power within all existing Molecule Men like a bomb. Owen Reece, 616's Molecule Man, became aware of their plan and convinces Doom to help thwart them by prematurely murdering as many multiversal Molecule Men as possible. Reece's power combined with Doom's knowledge of time-travel allows them to go into the past to begin the great culling. Years of killing Molecule Men creates a multiversal disturbance resulting in the first Incursion. Only afterwords does Doom create the persona of Rabum Alal and recruits his Black Swans to help accelerate the slaughter. After 25 years Doom launches hundreds of thousands of collected Molecule Men corpses at the Beyonders, but the bomb fails as it detonates incorrectly instantly destroying countless universes leaving only two dozen surviving. On Earth, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark settle all debts with one last fight as the others decide to build an ark to survive in the empty white space left between destroyed realities, but first one last challenge must be met before they can make their desperate escape.
The main Marvel Universe now faces its final Incursion against the Ultimate Universe. Earth 1610 wastes no time and immediately fires the first salvo promting 616 to muster its superpowered community in response. Now there is only Secret Wars:
(Click each issue for a download link as they release)
Beginning with issue #2 the majority of Secret Wars will take place in Battleworld. Following numerous incursions across the multiverse, the remains of various realities have been fused together to create a new Battleworld. All of these realities are known as domains and have the ability to interact with each other, except for three (consisting of the Deadlands, Perfection and New Xandar) which are separated from the rest by the Wall for the simple fact that these domains contain threats that if set loose, would destroy all the others. A number of tie-in comics will detail the domains, their battles, and the people who live there.
Click the map for domain descriptions!
The Secret Wars tie-ins:
As a tip to you and everyone else overwhelmed by the number of issues in the OP: No one in their right mind is buying every single issue of this event.
The main story will be collected in Secret Wars #1-8. You can just buy those and be fine. If you're a Spider-Man fan then check out some of the Spider-Man books, but do it for the character and not because you want more background on Secret Wars.
Please also see this guide for more info on the tie-ins:
Last Days issues feature your favorite characters in their final adventures before the Marvel Universe comes to an end. They will expand on moments either briefly seen or not glimpsed at all in the main series, allowing one last look at the past before the Marvel Universe moves forward.
The Warzones series take place on the patchwork planet of Battleworld, but follow stories with more separation from the main title while providing building blocks for the future of the Marvel Universe. (Numbers Correspond to Map Locations)
In the Battleworld series you'll see your favorite heroes and villains take on unfamiliar roles as well as revisit classic incarnations. Battleworld contains stories that will directly affect the main story taking place in Secret Wars and characters who will play a part in the larger event. (Numbers Correspond to Map Locations)