There is a dark secret hiding in the Marvel Universe: Reed Richards may have cloned every single person in it. During the Secret Wars event, the Multiverse was destroyed by the Incursions, and, apparently, a new one was rebuilt anew, thanks to Reed Richards using the infinite power of the Beyonders, with the help of his son Franklin and Owen Reece, the Molecule Man. However, things may not be as they seem.
Defenders and Defenders: Beyond are two series written by Al Ewing with art by Javier Rodrìguez that have explored the foundations of the Marvel Universe. In both series, the Defenders visit the previous iterations of the Multiverse, as Marvel’s cosmology is built on a cycle of destruction and rebirth, where every Multiverse is periodically annihilated to make room for a new one. Starting from the Eighth Cosmos (the current Multiverse, built by Reed Richards after Secret Wars), the first place where the Defenders arrive in their journey is the Sixth Cosmos, not the Seventh. Silver Surfer even says it clearly in Defenders #1, talking about the spell that started their journey: “he has dragged us back in time, to the Multiverse before our own“. However, the current Multiverse, where Surfer and the Defenders come from, is not the Seventh, but the Eighth. So, what happened to the Seventh Cosmos?
The answer may lie in the events of Secret Wars, written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Esad Ribìc. The Incursions created by the Beyonders had finally destroyed every universe in the Seventh Cosmos. When the omnipotent creatures appeared to survey their work, Doctor Doom intervened, destroyed the Beyonders (apparently) using Molecule Man, then stole their powers and salvaged the surviving fragments of reality to create Battleworld. After some time, two rafts with the survivors of the Seventh Cosmos appeared and triggered the events that would lead to God Emperor Doom’s downfall. Reed Richards took Doom’s power and, with the help of Franklin and Owen Reece, used it to create a new Multiverse….except they did not in fact, create a new one, they re-created the previous. During the Defenders’ trip, every Cosmos they visit is wildly different from the others, while the Seventh and Eighth look essentially the same, and even have the same cosmic personification, Eternity/Infinity (while all other personifications look totally different from each other, as seen in The Ultimates 2 #100, by Al Ewing, Travel Foreman, and Dan Brown).
The All-New Marvel Universe Is Hiding A Huge Secret
It is true that archetypes of characters, heroes, villains, and concepts themselves (created in the Fourth Cosmos) recur throughout multiverses, but the Seventh and Eight are simply too similar. In The Ultimates #6 (by Al Ewing and Christian Ward), the Molecule Man says it outright: “That Omniverse died, but a lot of lives in it carried on to the new one […] So, did the Omniverse die? Are we in the Eighth Cosmos, or still in the Seventh?” This is why the Defenders’ trip begins in the Sixth Cosmos, and why the Seventh is the only one who does not appear in the series. Doom and Richards interfered with the natural process of destruction and rebirth of Multiverses, making it so that the Eighth Cosmos is not a new Multiverse, but a copy of the Seventh, meaning that every character readers see (except those few who originally survived the destruction of the Seventh) are actually copies, clones of the originals.
Ever since The Ultimates, Al Ewing has been painting a wildly evocative picture of Marvel’s cosmology. Defenders and Defenders: Beyond are exploring the history of the entire Multiverse since its beginning, and the story is not over yet. The conspicuous absence of the Seventh Cosmos from the series proves that there are still mysteries to be unveiled, and one of those could be the astonishing fact that the All-New Marvel characters as they appeared after Secret Wars are, in fact, clones created by Reed Richards.
Next: Marvel Finally Explains The Origins Of Secret Wars’ Beyonders