There’s been a lot of change at Marvel Comics over the past few years. There was All-New, All-Different. Then there was Marvel Now (err, again). Next up: the company is embarking on yet another major roster shake-up with Marvel Legacy—and if you don’t know where to start or how to make sense of it all, we’re here to help.
The Marvel universe has been in a rough spot lately. Major events like Civil War II and Secret Empire have created a fallout where most of Marvel’s superhero community is fractured and divided more than it has been in decades—whether that’s because they got ruthlessly character-assassinated, laid low by withering support from the public, or, say, turned into secret Hitler over the past year.
Legacy wants to act as a clean slate, a point of hope that not only offers a brighter future after the storm of Secret Empire, but one that also honors the history of Marvel’s myriad legacy heroes. That means, in some cases, returning faces like Bruce Banner, who was offed in Civil War II. In others, it means returns of long-absent familiar faces like the Runaways, who are starring in a brand new series following up on the beloved original. In others, it means heroes reverting to their iconic, best-known incarnations—everything from Tony Stark escaping his Civil War II-induced coma, to yes, Steve Rogers returning to his heroic self.
Just what returning classics are on the way—and how the characters who stepped in to take their place will react—actually begins before Legacy starts in the form of Generations, a 10-part event series beginning in August. Legacy will pair a modern version of a hero character—from Sam Wilson’s Captain America, to Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel, to Laura Kinney’s Wolverine and more—with their older counterpart. In some cases, those partnerships are easy: Steve Rogers can team up with Sam because he’s still around, same for Carol Danvers and Kamala. For others, like Captain Mar-Vell’s team-up with Carol, or Bruce Banner’s reunion with Amadeus Cho, it’s going to involve some returns from beyond some graves.
Just how Generations comes about has yet to be fully revealed—but one thing we know is that the adventures these key heroes go on will shape their destinies going forward into Legacy.
So far, Legacy might seem like it’s an attempt to undo the diversification and modernization Marvel has pushed heavily with its comic series over the past few years. But according to Marvel, Legacy won’t trample on a lot of the younger, newer heroes they’ve created over the past few years.
At the very least, we know some characters for certain who won’t be vanishing from the spotlight. Crucial characters like Ms. Marvel and Miles Morales will continue to have their own series, and characters losing their monikers—e.g. Sam Wilson, who will no longer be Captain America—are getting new series to replace their past titles. On top of that, lighter series like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl or Gwenpool that have come to represent the newer wave of diversified comics Marvel has been putting out will carry on as well. Marvel has said it wants Legacy to balance itself between catering to old-school Marvel fans and readers who’ve come to love their newer titles. So far, at least, that seems to be the case.
One completely wild part of Legacy is that, for many books, especially ones that are traditional titles that have been published through various runs for decades, are about to have a much larger number on them than they currently do. This is because Marvel is eschewing its love of resetting the clock to churn out a new #1 issue every few months. Instead, it’s bringing back the original numbering for multiple series.
But that doesn’t mean the issue numbers will pick back up from the last series these legacy characters had, before new heroes stepped into their mantles. No, instead, the issue numbers will represent what the character’s comic would be if Marvel had never reset their series—never given them a new numbering, never stuck a new “#1" on the cover. Instead, Marvel will add up every issue and series starring the character since their series first debuted, from the 1960s onward. So, as you can see in the graphic above, every single comic where Thor was the main star—nine full series—have been added up, and Thor’s Legacy series will pick up as if they’d all been numbered appropriately—which means Thor #700 will be published this October.
It is, frankly, ridiculous. For diehards, it means arguing over what exactly series “counts” enough to be rolled into the new number. For newer readers, it leads to the alarming scenario where you jump from, say, Invincible Iron Man #11 to Invincible Iron Man #593 and start wondering what the hell just happened to the intervening 582 issues. For people looking to jump on board for the first time, it’s a nightmarish task to comprehend of just where you should be jumping on, and how you shouldn’t, for example, try to read 671 issues of Avengers before you read Avengers #672, which also comes out in October.
We’ve talked a lot about the external affects of how Legacy begins, but what about within the fiction of the Marvel universe itself? Apparently, the Legacy #1 one-shot that will kick the whole thing off revolves around the original Avengers: no, not the ones who debuted in 1963's The Avengers #1. Instead, it’s about a team who operated in 1,000,000 BC.
Written by Jason Aaron and with art by Esad Ribic, the one-shot that follows these ancient Avengers—Odin, Starbrand, Aggmotto, Phoenix, and new predecessor incarnations of Iron Fist, Black Panther, and Ghost Rider—aims to track down millions of years of Marvel history, and telling the tale of how these original Avengers connect to the ones we all know and love. Suffice to say, things are going to get rather weird.
On top of some returning faces and some familiar status quos, Legacy will also be introducing a series of major new storylines for many of its characters, which comes with big changes. Here’s a few that we know about already:
- Jane Foster might be out of time—both in terms of being Thor and simply being alive. The new storyline for The Mighty Thor is ominously titled “The Death of Mighty Thor.”
- Peter Parker will be losing his billionaire status and his Parker Industries company, sending him slinking back to the Daily Bugle for a storyline that re-establishes the classic, down-on-his-luck version of the character.
- Tony Stark will be revived from his Captain Marvel-induced coma... and then promptly run off somewhere, necessitating his two Iron Man successors, Doctor Doom and Riri Williams, coming together to find him.
- After the years in the spotlight as one of Marvel’s most popular characters have softened his edge, Deadpool is returning to a more ambigious, mercenary lifestyle as the Despicable Deadpool.
- Speaking of which, although Spider-Man/Deadpool is continuing, the new antagonistic bent on Deadpool is turning it into Spider-Man vs. Deadpool, as the two allies’ relationship turns sour.
- With Secret Empire leading Sam Wilson to step away from Captain America for good, he’s returning to his roots as the Falcon in his own ongoing series.
- Steve Rogers himself, presumably shaken by the months he’s spent as the fascist head of a Hydra-run US, is pulling a 2010-era Superman and tacking a trip across America to reacquaint himself with how the average American sees Captain America.
One underlying mystery about Legacy, with all its talk of bringing back the glory days of Marvel, is just how the Fantastic Four could fit into the whole thing. After all, they’re icons of classic Marvel, and the team itself has been absent from comics all together for the past few years, thanks to Sue and Reed being off rebuilding the Marvel Multiverse after Secret Wars.
Legacy was announced with the tease of a “beloved Marvel mainstay” making a return, which has lead fans to wonder if Sue and Reed will reunite with Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm. Marvel has been hinting at the legacy of the Fantastic Four being a part of this new roster update... although that hasn’t really amounted to much.
The announcement of several storylines and series for Legacy using homages to classic Marvel covers was littered with new takes on classic Fantastic Four comic covers. One of them even involved the announcement of a new relaunch of the Marvel Two-in-One team-up series, featuring the Human Torch and the Thing together in FF-inspired costumes. But so far, it’s consisted only of teases—and some even turned out to be misdirects, like a “Fantastic Three” storyline that ultimately ended up being for Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur rather than anything to do with the actual Fantastic Four. But at some point, all this teasing has got to amount to something, right?