Okay so I like to consider myself a pretty smart guy, but if there’s one writer out there who can confuse me, it’s Jonathan Hickman. His stories are great, hell they’re some of the best I’ve ever read, but his Avengers series has been moving at light speed introducing new concepts and characters incredibly quickly so it can be rather difficult to stay up to date on everything that’s been happening. There is also the New Avengers series (which is freaking awesome), that deals with some pretty complicated stories. Based on what Hickman has done in the past, you can be pretty sure that both of these books are only going to become more intertwined as time moves on. Obviously it goes without saying that this post will be full of spoilers.. so ya know.. don’t be spoiled or something. I don’t really delve into what’s actually happening in the story, more just what certain things mean, who people are etc. So I took it upon myself to read over the past 15 issues of Avengers, and the last 7 of New Avengers and just try to straighten out everything that has happened so far in Hickman’s Avengers, emphasis on the word ‘try’.
The Illuminati - The team was originally formed in the aftermath of the Kree-Skrull War by Iron Man, Namor, Mr. Fantastic, Prof. X, Black Bolt and Doctor Strange, because Iron Man realized that together they could have stopped the war. Black Panther was also party of the group, but he wasn’t too pleased with the idea of the secret council of super humans running the world, so he told the group to disband and he left. The group (obviously stayed together) and got up to a few shenanigans back then; most notably they were the ones that decided to send the Hulk to another planet (which eventually led to Word War Hulk). Shortly after the end of Civil War it is revealed that Mr. Fantastic had gotten his hands on the Infinity Gauntlet. It’s around this time that Captain America is offered membership in the group and the Illuminati decide to split the gems between them, each member taking one gem for safe keeping. Also during the event’s of Avengers Vs X-Men Namor was infused with a portion of the Phoenix and attacked the Avengers in Wakanda (that is the technologically advanced African nation that Black Panther used to be king of, now he is second to his sister). Now Black Panther is the king of Necropolis, Wakanda’s city of the dead, which serves as the Illuminati’s base of operations. After Prof. X’s death in Avengers Vs X-Men, Beast has taken his place on the team.
Black Swan – She first appeared in New Avengers issue #1 where she destroyed another Earth and was defeated by Black Panther. In issue #5 she tells the team her back story. She was born Yabbat Ummon, third sister to crown Prince Dadingra. Her brother was heir to the throne of ‘The Hidden City’ and ‘Keeper of the Great Hey’. She said that the key unlocked the planets greatest treasure, a library of worlds, basically a nexus, which would allow someone to navigate the multi-verse. Black Swan described it as a gift from Sinnu Sarrum, the ivory kings. Legends on her world said that only ‘The Great Ladies’ whom no one had ever seen could find their way between worlds in there. Her brother would open the door every day hoping the ladies might appear. Then one day an incursion happened, the sky turned red and the black priests killed everyone except Yabbat, she took her brothers key and escaped to the library of worlds where she was greeted by three women, Black Swans, who raised her as one of their own. They informed Yabbat that their world was an offering to Rabum Alal. The Black Swan also informs the Illuminati that the library of worlds has since been destroyed and the black swans have scattered.
Incursion – Basically the multi-verse is contracting. Something happened on an Earth in an alternate reality which caused that universe to die earlier than it should have. This has resulted in the universe tightening and essentially causing other realities to start pushing into each other. The point these realities touch at is Earth of course. Basically meaning that the multi-verse is going to continue to contract and Earths are going to continue to push off each other. Unless someone intervenes and destroys one of the Earths, both will be destroyed. When the two parallel Earths touch off each other it creates a sort of localized area where both Earths exist side by side for a period of time (a few hours). This is called an incursion. They can happen anywhere in the world. The Illuminati have managed to set up an early warning system to notify them in advance of when and where one will happen.
During an incursion, within the localized area where both Earth exists the sky either turns blue or red. If the sky turns red it would seem that a variety of different things can happen, but that’s more or less dependent on what the people on those respective Earths will do. Although Black Swan mentioned that when the sky turned red on her world, that the black priests descended. These are probably people that worship Rabum Alal. If it turns blue it means ‘Sidera Maris’ or mapmakers. Mapmakers are some sort of life form that evolved in the multi-verse. They move from Earth to Earth devouring as they go. It was revealed by Black Swan in issue #5 that this is all happening because that first universe that died earlier then it should have was destroyed by the birth of Rabum Alal, the great destroyer. Of course this is brushed off by the others as gibberish, but it obviously is indicative of something. My guess is that blue glowy tentacle type monster that we saw destroying the Builders way stations in Avengers is Rabum Alal, or else it’s just Thanos again.
The Illuminati have been building a number of weapons/defense systems in order to defend their Earth from incursions. These include rebuilding a version of Black Swan’s planet bomb from New Avengers #1, a dyson sphere to harness the power of the sun and some mystical solutions from Doctor Strange.
The Builders - The oldest known species in the universe. Ex Nihilo described them as a perfect people. Originally they worshiped the universe, however the later grew beyond that, abandoning their beliefs, deciding instead that they would shape the universe. To this end they created ‘aggressive systems to direct, shape and control the very structure of space and time.
The Garden. The Garden is a team, consisting of an Aleph, and siblings Ex Nihilo and Abyss. Ex Nihilo appears to be the leader. They travel from world to world, either evolving life or destroying it.
The System. A system is process put in place by the builders. Essentially it was created to shape the universe. The first system they created were Gardeners, robots called Alephs that were sent out across the universe to purge species that were deemed unsuitable for the builders universe, and preserve species that were found worthy of evolution. Each Aleph carries two seeds, and each two seeds are different, when life is found worthy of evolution the Aleph releases these two seeds creating two new life forms. In the Avengers series we saw Ex Nihilo and Abyss which were born from these seeds
Hyperion - An incarnation of Hyperion from Earth-13034 was saved from his dying universe by A.I.M. Hyperion was liberated by the Avengers and subsequently joined the team to battle the Garden. It is revealed in his origin issue that this Hyperion’s Earth was destroyed by an incursion. Hyperion is extremely strong, can shoot lasers from his eyes, fly and is near indestructible. The full limits of his powers have not been stated. This Hyperion has taken a strong interest in the hatchlings from the Savage Land origin bomb site, and has stated that the most significant moment of his life was not the destruction of his old world, but the gaining of a new one. It would also appear that him and Thor are quite friendly, possibly due to having similar power levels and perspectives.
Captain Universe - Captain Universe is the physical manifestation of the Uni-Power once it possesses a host, granting immense power to the end of protecting the universal balance. The current host is Tamara Devoux. She became Captain Universe after she was involved in a car accident which left her in a coma for 10 years. The Uni-Power then possessed Tamara to become sentient on Earth due to the planet being “significant.” It chooses Tamara specifically as it states that both she and the Uni-Power are dying.
Smasher – Isabel “Izzy” Kane is the first human member of the Imperial Guard of the Shi-ar empire. Smasher possesses super strength, the ability of flight, and penta vision. Penta vision allows for powerful laser like blasts from Smashers eyes although excessive continual usage may harm her retina. She initially begun as one of forty three Smasher class sub-guardians but was recently promoted to a Superguardian.
Manifold – A man with the ability to bend time and space, allowing for teleportation to anywhere. He is a member of the Avengers. A manifold from another universe was shown in New Avengers #1. He was killed by Black Swan who later informed Reed Richards that a Manifold only has his powers in his home universe.
Aleph – Alephs are robots, also called Gardeners, that were part of the Builders first system, who were sent out into the universe to purge it of life that was deemed unworthy of existing in their universe. Each Aleph carried with it two seeds, and each two seeds in each Aleph is different. When an Aleph finds life worthy of existing in the builders universe, it releases it’s seeds and they grow into life forms such as Ex Nihilo and Abyss. The Aleph that was seen in the Avengers series was destroyed by Captain Universe.
A.I.M. - Advanced Ideas Mechanics is an organised group of international science-terrorists. They became involved in the events of the Avengers as they were investigating the sites of Ex Nihilo’s origin bombs.
Infinity Gauntlet - The Gauntlet is basically a glove which has 6 ‘infinity gems’ embedded in it. It grants the user omnipotence and omniscience. There is one in every parallel universe, but the gauntlet and gems are only effective in their home universe. Prior to the current events of New Avengers the Illuminati separated the 6 infinity gems, keeping one each. But in order to stop an incursion they reassembled the gauntlet. They were successful in stopping the incursion, but the gauntlet and gems were destroyed in the process, except for the time gem which vanished.
Terrax – A herald of Galactus from another universe. He is currently the prisoner of the Illuminati. It would seem that Galactus took note of the Infinity Gauntlet shattering when Captain America used it so it’s possible that if Galactus plays into this story that Terrax will be involved.
Ex Nihilo – Literally meaning ‘Out of Nothing’, Ex Nihilo is the first major that the Avengers face off against. Along with his sibling Abyss he was one of two seeds carried by an Aleph that was grown when the Aleph found life worthy of preserving. He came to Mars with the intention of terraforming it, and Earth. He turned Mars into a lush jungle planet and sent a number of ‘origin bombs’ to Earth which completely changed the environment and life forms that they came into contact with. Ex Nihilo has stated several times that he wants to build worlds, not destroy them. It was revealed later in the series that the origin bombs he sent to Earth were part of his plan to do something new, make the Earth sentient. This is part of the reason that the builders system is broken and in conflict.
White Event – A white event occurs when a world is on the verge of ascending on a universal scale. A white event creates/alters heralds/avatars to shepherd the ascension. A Nightmask always acts as a forerunner, Adam who was created by Ex Nihilo became a Nightmask. The white event that happened on Earth in Avengers #7 was described by Captain Universe as not being a normal white event. Nightmask said after it happened that the machine is broken, the universe is broken. The white events and everything that happens as a result of them is part of a system that the Builders put in place to assist in the evolution of the universe. It would seem that they are or rather were initiated from space stations that the Builders created in the superflow of each universe. Since those stations were the damaged, the white event did happen occur properly, and as a result not all of the avatars that should have been created, were created.
Origin Bombs These were organic delivery systems that Ex Nihilo sent from Mars to Earth in order to transform the Earth to prevent its destruction at the hands of The Builders system. There were 7 sent in total. The bombs landed at a variety of sites around the world including Japan, The Savage Land, Croatia, Norway and India. The Savage Land site was where some highly evolved hatchlings were born. Tony Stark said that they were not like anything else on Earth and said that they were possibly like Thor, i.e. immortal. Various members of the Avengers then took the hatchlings to different places in order to teach them various things.
Ex Nihilo explained to Starbrand and Nightmask that he tried something new with the Earth, that he designed each of the origin sites to serve a different purpose, to make the world sentient. The Croatia site was for self-awareness, but since Starbrand destroyed that it’s safe to say that the world is now alive without a brain. The Australia site was for communication, the Japan site for reproduction, the india site for self-repair, the savage land site for self sustenance and the Canada site for evolution. Whatever landed at the Norway site was not discovered by the Avengers and it was taken by AIM, it would seem after the events of Avengers #15 that this site is for defense. There was also one origin bomb that was destroyed by the Avengers in issue #1, it’s yet to be seen if this will play some role in the series.
Nightmask – Also known as Adam, he was an advanced Human created by Ex Nihilo during his efforts to terraform Earth. After the battle between the Avengers and The Garden, Nightmask is taken back to Earth under the custody of the Avengers. When the white event happened, he was altered and he will now act as a shepherd for the ascension of the universe. He is now on Tony’s dyson sphere with Starbrand on the other side of the sun to the Earth.
Starbrand – A Starbrand is an avatar created by a white event. It is a planetary defence system created to protect a planet as it evolves. The current and only Starbrand was created by a broken white event. When he was given the starbrand he was at college, which was destroyed, killing everyone there except him. After a short battle with the Avengers, Nightmask teleported himself and Starbrand to the Superflow, to show him the partially destroyed Builder station that responsible for creating both of them. After this they visit Ex Nihilo on Mars who reveals to them that he has done something different, he has attempted to make the Earth sentient. Starbrand and Nightmask return to Earth and destroy the Earth’s consciousness. After another battle with the Avengers they are sent to the other side of the sun to Tony Starks Dyson Sphere (which was shown in New Avengers as one of the fail safes the Illuminati have built to help protect the Earth).
- Captain America disagreed with what the other members of the Illuminati were planning, so he was kicked from the group and had his memory wiped.
- Black Panthers sister is now the Queen of Wakanda. Wakanda and Atlantis have been formally at war since AvX.
These two are both pretty useful!
Further explanation of the Incursions