It’s the end of the world. At least two of them.
That’s right – yesterday, Marvel announced at a press event that the upcoming “Secret Wars” storyline would destroy both of Marvel’s long-running continuities: The “Marvel Universe,” which has been amazing readers since the 1960s, and the “Ultimate Universe,” a Marvel staple since 2000, will be razed to make way for a single, unified continuity in which only one version of each of our beloved characters will exist. Like DC in 1985’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Marvel is consolidating their characters this May. At least until the next big event, there will only be one Marvel continuity in the comic books.
As you prepare to bemoan the loss of your favorite storylines and hope for the survival of the preferred version of your heroes, allow me to make a prediction: in the end, more than one person (maybe you) will be depressed because a story “didn’t happen now.” But why is the idea of continuity so important to us? If it’s all fiction, why does it grieve us when a world ends or is changed?
Redeeming Culture is here to help you cope.
“It Never Happened”
Cinemagogue reviewer James Harleman did a review of the 2009 Star Trek reboot wherein he recounted an interaction with a die-hard Star Trek fan. While crying into his beer (“there were tears, there was beer”) over the massive, sweeping changes to the Trek universe, the fan in question bemoaned the loss of those brilliant things that have happened in the Trek mythos since 1966. “It never happened!” he sobbed, to which Harleman replied, “I’m sorry to tell you…it never happened!”
To be sad about the loss of a fictional world seems funny on its face. Maybe not to you, as you prepare to grieve. But don’t worry; the feelings behind the loss of a fictional universe can be quite real. And it’s all because of the Truth.
A fictional world touches our heart because it’s resonating with some deeply wired desires on our hearts. When God wired us to love His story, that naturally overflowed into a love for any story that resonates on a similar level. This means we are more close to them, more impacted by them on a deep level. The most popular stories resonate strongest or most uniquely, and when they change, it subtly changes the way that resonance hits our hearts. Like when our real world changes with the death or relocation of a friend, the change of a universe we love triggers a shift in our hearts. As you will discover this May, that’s a painful shift. Don’t worry. This is normal. Embrace the true story and try to find elements of it in the new world.
The Beginning of the World
Another reason why continuity is so important is that it gives us a stable place to go back to. Like returning to Xavier’s school, the familiar continuity is a warm, comfortable place to stay: Superman is always Clark Kent, Iron Man is always Tony Stark, and Spider-man always makes really bad jokes. Comfortable, stable, and reassuring. We hate it when we don’t get that relief from the stress of our world.
As your stable world changes, keep an eye out for the new touchpoints to grab hold of. They will certainly be there. It will be a good way for you to cope with your grief. Because the combination and destruction of universes inevitably results in the death of characters. There’s just no way around it; the two versions of Nick Fury simply can’t live in the same world. And so, when a large-scale reboot like “Secret Wars” occurs, many of your favorite characters just won’t make it out the other side alive. DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” resulted in the deaths of hundreds of heroes and villains, some of which didn’t survive in the new universe in any form.
In a cosmic sense, the difficulty you’re about to face is no accident. Like a well-written setting in a comic book, we have a desire for a stable, steady place from which to begin and end our adventures; a warm and comfortable starting point that won’t let us down. We don’t find this anywhere in the natural world, but that’s no accident either; we were made to seek out a stability far greater than any on earth. Our warm, comfortable starting point is God Himself, and starting anywhere else is unsatisfying.
And since you won’t find that stability you’re looking for in the new Marvel universe, you should prepare for the death of your favorites. It will help you make it through to the other side with a minimal amount of pain.
If you’re terrified about the changes coming to the Marvel universes, don’t worry; this may not be the last you see of your character’s favorite form. Now, there’s always the possibility of a retcon in the Marvel universe that would put both worlds back into their proper places. Of course, if this is to happen, you will likely need to reread this guide so that you can further cope with that universe’s destruction. However, that’s not the only way a universe can change in the comics.
Both DC and Marvel have a long and proud tradition of creating continuity-bending one-off works; DC calls them “imaginary stories” (a rather funny moniker, considering we’re talking about caped superheroes and technicolor villains) or “Elseworlds,” while Marvel gets to the point by asking “What if…?”. And within these Elseworlds may lie your ticket back into the world you’ve always loved.
Don’t look down your nose at this gift! The reason we gravitate toward such continuity-bending tales is that we’re naturally driven to love the “what-if” or “what-might-have-been” story. We have a pretty messed-up world, and sometimes it’s hard to help wondering what might have happened if it were not so. What if Superman and Lois could be together? What if Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben had survived? The idea of a better world is always something that makes us truly wonder.
The Christian need not wonder for long. In the ages to come, we will see a complete reversal of fortune! The world will be restored to its former perfection, and we will see what-ifs resolved in a fantastically enjoyable way! Our hearts long for this, and that’s why the what-if stories are so dear to our hearts.
But until that final day, Redeeming Culture will be here to help you through the tough times. Like the fictional destruction of imaginary worlds.
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