The Marvel Universe may be a convoluted mess, but that's part of the fun. Tracing the history of Wolverine or Peter Parker back through their decades is a daunting task, but one that die-hard fans relish. That is why, when Marvel announced it's new Secret Wars storyline last week, there there was as much trepidation as there was excitement: Will this be the first-ever Marvel Comics reboot? What will happen to our favorite heroes' shared histories? Who will wear the Spidey-Suit when all is said and done?    

What we know so far (which isn't all that much) is that this year's Secret Wars series will end with the Marvel Comics characters and stories smashed together into one single, totally-bonkers new universe called Battleworld. And what happens on Battleworld could eventually lead to a new start for some of your favorite heroes. Whether or not that's a full-on "reboot" may be a matter of semantics, but needless to say, it's a very exciting (and very confusing) time to be a Marvel fan. So confusing, in fact, that we decided to put together this handy guide to the Marvel Universe as we know it. (Or, more accurately, Marvel Universes—but we'll get to that.) For comic book readers looking catch up before Secret Wars, or casual fans looking to dig deeper than the occasional summer blockbuster, this is the place to start.

Nathan Reese is a freelancer writer. If you want complain that he didn't include Earth-712, he's on Twitter

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