Over the last few years in particular but really going back all the way to Secret Wars, Marvel has made a habit of telling huge, earth-shattering crossovers. Some are great, and some are… not so great (looking at you Secret Wars II!). However, when they’re good, they’re GOOD. Here is a list of my 10 favorite Marvel events.
10. Fear Itself
The story centers on the return of The Serpent, the Asgardian God of Fear and Odin’s older brother (and by Asgardian law the true All-Father). This dude feeds off of fear, so the more afraid people are in general the stronger he gets. Not such a great combination when you see how he goes about spreading fear.
He is resurrected by the Red Skull (not Schmidt, but his daughter, Sin, the ‘new’ Red Skull), who finds an ancient Asgardian hammer that was created by the Serpent ages ago. When she grabs the hammer she is transformed into an avatar of the Serprent, and gets crazy, Thor level strong. Her awakening frees the Serpent, and a bunch more hammers drop to Earth, and are eventually grabbed by Atuma, the Absorbing Man, Titania, the Grey Gargoyle, the Thing, the Juggernaut, and the fucking Hulk! Each one of them loses their personalities in the hammers and basically do whatever they can to spread fear around the world, mostly by destroying every damn thing in sight.
The Avengers respond, and spread themselves perilously thin to combat the menaces. The Red Hulk is trounced by the Thing; Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, the Protector, and Ms. Marvel BARELY survive the Hulk, and just manage to save some people from him before he jumps away; the Grey Gargoyle turns every person in Paris into a statue and beats the holy living shit out of Iron Man; Titania and the Absorbing Man throw down with War Machine, Iron First, and the Immortal Weapons; Dr. Strange and Namor confront Atuma; and the X-Men are only able to ‘defeat’ the Juggernaut when Colossus agrees to become the new Juggernaut when he meets the demon Cytorrak (who grants the Juggernaut his powers pre-hammer)! Finally the Red Skull leads and army of her Hydra bastards to Washington, DC where they lay siege to the city, and she claims her greatest victory when she stabs Captain America (at the time Bucky Barnes) through the chest!
The destruction they cause spreads panic and fear everywhere, especially when Avengers Tower falls. This makes the Serpent strong and young again, and he basically takes over the Earth.
This whole while Odin has grabbed all Asgardians and fled to Asgard, where he readies his army to destroy mankind in order to rob the Serpent of his power source. This doesn’t sit well with Thor, who rebels and goes to fight on Earth.
The casualties come quickly, and things aren’t looking so great for our heroes. Iron Man makes a gigantic personal sacrifice to equip the heroes of Earth to fight back, and Thor spits in the face of fate in order to combat his super psycho uncle (not to mention fighting the hammer-possessed Hulk AND Thing at the same time!!!). There is a prophecy that Thor will kill the Serpent, then take 3 steps before dying. Some people would pause at that, but Thor’s all like “Pfft, in 3 steps I can kill him twice!” and straps up with Odin’s armor and sword to go smite some ass.
When the shit just won’t stop hitting the fan and all truly seems lost, Captain America finds the strength to rally the troops by lifting Thor’s hammer and being super badass, and Iron Man shows up with some new weapons and upgrades for a handful of heroes that, while sweet, are definitely ‘inspired’ by Tron, to put it kindly.
By the time the story is over Steve Rogers has a new (and old) role, Iron Man has given up damn near everything he’s ever worked for, and there’s a new wielder of Mjolnir in Asgard! The Serpent’s hammers are deactivated, and most of the people involved go back to their old lives for better or worse. Odin restores the people of Paris, but the Grey Gargoyle is still facing all kinds of death penalties for the shit he pulled. Colossus is stuck as the Juggernaut, and has never been quite the same since.
9. Age of Ultron
Sort of Marvel’s version of an ‘Elseworlds’ event, the “Age of Ultron” features just about everyone in the Marvel Universe being murdered by the insane robot. Most of the really bad shit has already gone down by the time the story starts, but you already know things are bad. Like “Batman and Robin” on a continuous loop bad.
The story begins with Hawkeye storming a safe house in New York and just straight up killing everyone inside, which is not like Hawkeye, but stresses right from the beginning how bleak things are, and how out of choices and patience our heroes are. Eventually we learn that the safe house belongs to the Owl and Hammerhead, and they have a drugged and beaten Spider-Man captive, and are planning to sell him to Ultron in exchange for protection!
Hawkeye kills his way through the house and frees Spidey just in time for an army of Ultrons to show up and start killing everyone! The two escape and make their way to a hideout in Central Park, where what is left of the Marvel heroes are hiding out. A ton of the big guns are dead, like Reed Richards, the Human Torch and the Thing of the Fantastic Four, almost all of the X-Men (Emma Frost, Wolverine, and Storm are pretty much all that is left), the Hulk, etc. All dead.
Captain America, Iron Man, and the rest come up with a plan to infiltrate Ultron’s operation when Spider-Man tells them that the Owl and Hammerhead were saying they were going to trade him for protection. They send Luke Cage and She-Hulk to Ultron, and Luke knocks out She-Hulk so that he can trade her to Ultron. When he gets inside Ultron’s massive structure he sees that Ultron is actually attacking them from the future by using a hijacked Vision!
The heroes travel to the Savage Land, where they meet up with the Red Hulk, Ka-Zar, Moon Knight, Black Widow, and Nick Fury. Fury explains that he has a plan to use one of Dr. Doom’s time platforms to travel to the future to kill Ultron. However, Wolverine has a different plan. Once the group leaves he (and unbeknownst to him, Susan Richards) travel to the past with one goal: to kill Hank Pym before he can create Ultron.
Unfortunately for them, getting rid of Hank Pym means the timeline is vastly different, and the present they come back to isn’t all that great, either. Morgan LeFey is at war with Tony Stark’s SHIELD, and she is winning. After a huge battle where Wolverine and Susan barely get out alive, Wolverine travels back in time again to STOP himself from killing Hank Pym, and instead gives Hank an idea the alternate present Tony Stark gave him to defeat Ultron.
Going back to the ORIGINAL timeline, the Avengers fight Ultron at his reawakening while Pym puts his new master plan into motion, and it’s down to the last second to see if Ant Man can save the world.
8. Avengers Vs X-Men
The culmination of events that really began at the end of House of M, Avengers vs X-Men centers around a conflict regarding how best to deal with the impending threat of the Phoenix Force, which is heading through space towards Earth, presumably to bond with a new host, which both teams believe is Hope Summers.
The Avengers believe that they need to save her and the world from the Phoenix, while the X-Men, and Cyclops in particular, believe that they have prepared Hope for the Phoenix Force, and that she will use its power to reignite the mutant race from the brink of extinction.
Things escalate very quickly when the Avengers (and Wolverine) show up on the X-Men’s doorstep with a few helicarriers and their entire roster. The X-Men are a dog backed into a corner, and come out swinging. In the chaos Hope escapes, and the hunt is on. Groups of Avengers and groups of X-Men fight in different locales around the world, each trying to get their hands on Hope, while Iron Man, Hank Pym, and a few others work to design a weapon capable of killing the Phoenix Force altogether.
Eventually the two teams converge on the moon, where Iron Man fires his weapon at the Phoenix Force. However, instead of killing it, it shatters it, and splits the power into five people who never wanted it: Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magik, Colossus, and Namor. While this is NOT what the X-Men wanted, they (and really, the Phoenix, which even while broken has already taken charge of its new hosts) quickly turn the situation to their advantage and beat the living shit out of any and all Avengers.
They then set about righting wrongs in the world. They are terraforming deserts into places that can sustain life, creating self-sustaining energy sources, wiping out aggressive militaries, depowering aggressive nations, etc. They are really making the world a better place. The Avengers really can’t stomach this, as they feel like the other shoe is going to drop at any moment, and keep fighting on, despite the fact that every time one of the now-dubbed “Phoenix Five” show up they get their asses handed to them and captured.
Eventually it is Namor that goes too far, and all but wipes out Wakanda, which really pushes things into high gear. The Avengers all attack him at once, and are just barely able to defeat him. Unfortunately for them, his share of the power is then split into the remaining four hosts, making them stronger. Spider-Man then tricks Magik and Colossus into attacking each other, and when they crush each other their power goes to Emma and Cyclops, which makes them incredibly strong.
At this point many of the X-Men, now becoming scared at the sheer power their friends wield, and the way that power has drastically changed them, begin switching sides. When they, the Avengers, and Professor X all attack at once, Cyclops attacks Emma and takes her share of the Phoenix, becoming the sole host and insanely powerful. He quickly begins losing control, and goes full-on Dark Phoenix, single-handedly beating the ever-loving shit out of all of the X-Men and Avengers like they’re nothing. It’s not until Jean Grey, his dead wife, comes out from the White Hot Room (a place where all past Phoenix hosts’ spirits live) and talks him down a bit that he realizes what is happening and surrenders the power enough so that the Scarlet Witch and Hope can wrest the Phoenix away from him.
When the smoke clears Hope has used the Phoenix to reignite the mutant race (Cyclops was right all along!), Professor X lays dead at the Phoenix- possessed Cylcops’ hand, mutants are as hated and feared as ever, Cyclops is in prison, and the rest of the Phoenix Five are all wanted men and women.
While it is a bit bloated at times with all of the tie-ins and spinoffs, this is a really crazy story with some huge fanboy moments. Also, if nothing else it has the appeal of seeing your favorite heroes beat the hell out of each other, like the Red Hulk vs the Juggernaut-possessed Colossus, Namor vs the Thing, and Iron Man vs Magneto!
7. Secret Invasion
While the main series itself was pretty good, what made Secret Invasion so great was the years of build-up. Beginning in New Avengers issue 1 with the mass breakout at the Raft, the super villain prison, the Skrull empire was working to infiltrate, undermine, and invade Earth.
What made this so great was that writer Brian Michael Bendis was seeding all of this for years, and nobody knew. No one knew that the Spider-Woman that joined the New Avengers was actually the Skrull queen Veranke in disguise. No one knew that Elektra, Hank Pym, Jarvis, and Dum Dum Dugan had been replaced by Skrulls. Nobody knew that the Inhuman king Black Bolt had been replaced by a Skrull, and was privy to secret meetings between the Illuminati group consisting of Iron Man, Reed Richards, Charles Xavier, Namor, and Dr. Strange.
The Skrulls inserted themselves masterfully into nearly every facet of the Marvel Universe, and waited until the perfect time to strike. They used the mutant decimation from the Scarlet Witch’s actions in House of M, Nick Fury’s ‘dethroning’ from SHIELD after the events of his Secret War, and the fact that the Hulk wasn’t around due to the Illuminati banishing him to another planet (see the awesome Planet Hulk) to their advantage, attacking when some of the most powerful players were off of the board.
After the events of the Kree-Skrull war and many run-ins with Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four, the Skrulls got smarter and started working on ways to become undetectable to human technology. They figured out a way around our technology, mutant telepathy, even Wolverine’s sense of smell. They then began manufacturing custom-super Skrulls, complete with power sets from pretty much every hero in the Marvel universe. My personal favorite was the Ghost Rider headed Skrull with the powers of the kid group Power Pack.
During an assault against the ninja group the Hand, the New Avengers’ member Echo killed Elektra. When she died she reverted to her Skrull form, which clued the Avengers in on the invasion and filled them with paranoia. The New Avengers, which featured members like Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Hawkeye (as Ronin) and Echo, were convinced that members of the Mighty Avengers, which featured members like Iron Man, the Wasp, Wonder Man, Ms. Marvel, Ares, and the Sentry, were all Skrulls, and vice versa. The heroes were so busy fighting each other that the focus was not where it needed to be, which really worked against them when the Skrulls finally made their move.
The real draw, as I said, of this story was the whole “Who Do You Trust?” angle. Nobody knew who was a Skrull and who wasn’t, and the tension continued to build month after month until both Avengers teams converged in the Savage Land to confront a crashed Skrull ship. When the ship opened and a whole host of 70’s versions of our heroes showed up, you legitimately didn’t know if they were all the real deals, if some of them were, or if none of them were.
The story culminates in a huge battle in Central Park between the newly reunited heroes (including Nick Fury, Thor, and the James Barnes Captain America!) and the Skrull army, which ended up claiming the life of the Wasp (or so we thought) and ended when Norman Osborn of all people was caught on camera killing the Skrull queen!
Norman was already in charge of the government sanctioned Thunderbolts initiative, and this victory granted him the position of top cop, supplanting the disgraced Tony Stark who was in charge of SHIELD when the invasion happened. Osborn used his new position to dismantle SHIELD and replace it with HAMMER, and filled the Avengers roster with villains disguised as heroes. He used his position to form his own Illuminati with Namor, Emma Frost, the Hood, Loki, and Dr. Doom, and made life miserable for the Avengers (and Spider-Man and Iron Man in particular).
Here we go. After years of Civil War, Skrull paranoia, and Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign, it was time to get back to the good guys kicking the hell out of the bad guys. But first, we had the bad guys kick the hell out of the good guys one more time, and this time it was a doozy.
Norman Osborn and his gang of thugs had taken down numerous heroes and had the world in the palm of their hands. Osborn was cavorting around in Tony Stark’s repurposed armor as the Iron Patriot, and used his influence to take over the Avengers and what was once SHIELD (now HAMMER). For this story, he sets his sights on Asgard.
Loki and Osborn use the U-Foes from the Hood’s gang of supervillains to incite an incident that Osborn uses as cause to invade Asgard, and shows up with a literal army of supervillains, an actual army, and a one-man army: the Sentry. His goal is to eradicate Asgard from Earth and to do it publicly, and he shows up prepared.
When Thor shows up like “da fuck is dis?” he is beaten down by Osborn and some of the villains. This is all caught on national television and broadcast around the world. Unfortunately for Osborn, this audience includes the Avengers, complete with a newly returned Steve Rogers…
Before the assault, Osborn consults Ares, the Greek God of War and a member of his Avengers, for strategy. Ares is a bastard, and hates his brother Hercules, but like Hercules, he has great respect for Asgard and its inhabitants. It takes convincing for him to come along on this attack, much less participate in the planning stages. He warns Osborn that if he is lying to him about the reasons for the invasion (Osborn claims Loki is in charge of Asgard and that is why things have gone down the way they have) he will cut his head off. During the assault Ares learns that Loki is not in charge of Asgard, it is his and Thor’s half brother Balder the Brave that sits on the throne. This ENRAGES Ares, who begins to assault Osborn before the Sentry swoops in like an omnipotent douche nozzle and starts kicking his ass. Ares strikes what would be a mortal blow against anyone else, but at this point the Sentry is verging on his Void personality, and he doesn’t even notice the huge gash in his side as he tears Ares in half like he’s a damn phone book!
Thor is down, Iron Man is trying to recover from a series health scare just outside of town, and things are looking bleak as shit when BAM! Captain America and the Avengers show up with Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors to start doling out some much needed ass kickings. They seem to have the upper hand when BAM! the Hood and his army of supervillains show up with reinforcements to even the odds. Chaos reigns as Thor fights the Sentry/Void, the Avengers and Fury’s team fight the Hood’s army and Osborn’s Avengers, and HAMMER continues assaulting Asgard.
Seeing the utter destruction he has caused to his home, Loki takes the power of the Norn Stones, Asgardian artifacts that he is using to empower the villains, and switches the power over to the heroes. They start quickly wiping the floor with the bad guys, and the President orders HAMMER taken down immediately (all of this was done not only without his order, but AGAINST his order). The Sentry has completely given in to his Void personality at this point, and notices that the power flow has changed hands. He immediately goes after Loki, and kills him right in front of Thor! This enrages the God of Thunder even further than seeing his friends and home destroyed, and he attacks the Void with renewed vigor, while the Norn Stone power has left the heroes. Fortunately for them, when the bad guys saw the tides turning most of them bolted.
Osborn is defeated, and when his mask is torn off we see has painted his face in Green Goblin colors and starts ranting about how he was going to save everyone from the Sentry because he was the only one that knew what he really was: the angel of death! The Void has taken the driver’s seat, and our heroes are in deep shit. But Tony Stark commandeers a HAMMER helicarrier and crashes it into the Void like a bullet, then Thor unleashes everything he has against the Void, finally killing him.
When the smoke clears the good guys have won the day, Steve Rogers has been named the new head of SHIELD, and the superhuman registration act he fought against in the superhero Civil War has been repealed.
This story is really a culmination of everything that has happened since Avengers: Disassembled, and really ties a bow on the epic run by Brian Michael Bendis(even though he would go on to write Avengers stories for a couple more years). Really cool, action packed story told in 4 kick ass issues.
5. House of M
Maybe the best ‘alternate reality’ story Marvel has ever told, the House of M focuses on a world in which Magneto and his family are essentially the rulers of the world, and mutants are the species at the top of the food chain. The story focuses on Wolverine, the one person who remembers the world as it is supposed to be, as he tracks down his former friends and teammates and ‘wakes them up’ so that they remember, too.
The story begins with Professor X and Magneto in the ruins of Genosha, as they try desperately to help Magneto’s daughter Wanda (the Scarlet Witch) regain control of her reality-warping powers. They have reached a stage where they feel like there is nothing they can do for her, and the Professor calls together the Avengers and the X-Men to decide what to do with her.
Wanda’s brother Quicksilver runs to his father, and pleads with him to do something, ANYTHING, to save his sister. He points out that as they speak the Avengers and the X-Men are planning on how they are going to kill her, and he owes her much more than that fate. To be fair, very few of the members of either team want to kill her. Most of them want to find some way to help her, even though no less than Dr. Strange and Professor X have failed at every turn, and there doesn’t seem to be any viable solution other than to put her down like a rabid animal.
The heroes travel to Genosha, where they find that they cannot locate the Scarlet Witch anymore. When they track her down the whole world burns away white, and reality as we know it has changed.
In this new reality everyone that was present at the event seems to have the life they, at least on some level, dreamed of. Spider-Man is publicly known as Peter Parker, and is world famous. His parents and his Uncle Ben are still alive, as is his wife Gwen Stacy, and they have a son together. Wolverine is the head of SHIELD, and has a personal crew of Spider-Woman, Toad, Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Spider-Woman. Luke Cage is a freedom fighter for humans located in Harlem, surrounding himself with Iron Fist, Moon Knight, the Sons of the Tiger, Colleen Wing, Misty Knight, the Black Cat, and Cloak (of Cloak and Dagger). Captain America was never frozen in World War 2, and has lived a life of peace since the war ended and is now an old man. Colossus is a farmer back home in Russia, Kitty Pryde is a teacher in Chicago, and the Hulk has been completely accepted in the outback of Australia.
Magneto rules the world with his family: his daughter Wanda and her two children, Thomas and William; his son Pietro (Quicksilver); and his other daughter, Lorna (Polaris). He seems legitimately happy.
Wolverine has no luck in ‘waking people up’ but runs into a little girl named Layla Miller who has the ability to restore people’s memories of the world the way it was supposed to be. This REALLY sucks for people like Hawkeye, who in our reality was killed by the Scarlet Witch, and Spider-Man, who realizes that everyone he has surrounded himself with his dead and the fault could at least partially be laid at his feet.
The heroes gathered, they decide to mount an assault against the House of M. Led by Cyclops, they are all furious, and want Magneto dead for what he has done to the world. It isn’t until Layla restores Magneto’s memory that we learn that he wasn’t the one that convinced Wanda to move reality around…
…it was Quicksilver.
When Magneto sees what his son has done in his name, he is beyond furious, and tries to kill him. As Quicksilver lays dying, Wanda lays into her father about how he never cared about them, only his damn war for mutant supremacy, and that it has robbed them and so many others of the lives they should have had. Then, with three words and another burn to white she changes the Marvel Universe forever:
The X-Men world would be radically changed for years as a result of this story, which wouldn’t really be reconciled until the events of Avengers vs X-Men.
4. World War Hulk
For any fan of the Hulk, this was like ice cream and crack had a beautiful baby. Deemed too dangerous for Earth, the Hulk was tricked by the Illuminati (Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Reed Richards, Black Bolt) into getting on a space ship which sent him far, far away. It was intended to go to a peaceful planet with no civilizations, but plenty of game for him to hunt and eat. Most importantly, he would get what he always said he wanted, to be left alone, and they would be free of the menace of the Hulk. Professor X was not there for the vote, and Namor was the only dissenting voice.
Of course, the ship malfunctioned, and the Hulk was sent to Sakaar, a war-like planet run by a despot called the Red King. The Hulk was enslaved and forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena. Over time he bonded with this fellow gladiators, and they became Warbound. He became incredibly popular on the planet, and eventually overthrew the Red King and married a shadow priestess named Caiera, and was named the new king.
Naturally, the Hulk’s ship then exploded, killing thousands, including the Hulk’s wife and, he thought, her unborn child (turned out eventually to be children, plural, and both survived thanks to Caiera’s mystical Old Power). Enraged more than he had ever been, the Hulk and his Warbound set for Earth to smash. And smash. And smash.
The Hulk’s first stop was Atillan, the Inhuman city on the moon, where he withstood the impossibly powerful Black Bolt and beat the living bejeezus out of him. He then broadcast a message to Earth: either deliver Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, and Dr. Strange, or he would destroy everyone and everything.
The Avengers, of course, were like “eff you bro”, which turned out to be one of the dumber things they’ve ever done. Hulk’s Warbound were each nearly as strong as he normally is, thanks to their months in the gladiatorial arenas, and the Hulk, who gets stronger as he gets madder, was beyond any level he had ever been near before. The dude was just unstoppable.
He crushed the Fantastic Four, who had help from Storm and the Black Panther, like they were gnats. He beat the hell out of the Avengers, including his friend Dr. Leonard Sampson and his cousin, She-Hulk. He beat the crap out of every single member of the X-Men, X-Force, and X-Factor. He beat Ghost Rider’s ass. He withstood Iron Man’s best shot like it was a light summer breeze.
Dr. Strange went beyond the pale, and allowed himself to be possessed by Zom, an interdimensional demon of impossible strength, but it was to no avail. They all ended up in the Hulk’s new gladiatorial pit, where he forced them to fight each other.
It wasn’t until the Hulk’s only real friend (the other ‘friends’ of his were mostly Banner’s, not Hulk’s) in the super hero community, the Sentry, showed up that anyone had any kind of real threat to him. Their fight destroyed most of New York, and in the end the energy they gave off was too much, and the fight came down to their human counterparts, Bruce Banner and Robert Reynolds.
When it looked like the fight was over, it was learned that the ship that exploded wasn’t the fault of the Illuminati, but rather orchestrated by Miek, one of the Hulk’s Warbound, who knew it was the only way to keep the Hulk full of rage and to keep fighting, which was all he (Miek) wanted to do anymore. This made the Hulk SO angry that you would have thought he had been forced to watch MTV or something. The energy he gave off just by transforming caused earthquakes and tidal waves, and each step he took was breaking the Earth’s crust and shattering the continental shelf. He crushed Miek and purposefully held still long enough for Stark and Richards to use a satellite to strip the Gamma radiation from his body, and Banner was taken into custody.
This story is so balls to the wall bad ass. Hulk fights everyone from the X-Men to the Avengers to the FF to General Ross and the US military to Dr. Strange to the Sentry, and he crushes them all, proving once again that Hulk is the strongest one there is.
3. Infinity Gauntlet
The mad titan, Thanos, had gathered the 6 Infinity gems, each an artifact of unimaginable power. Together the wielder is utterly omnipotent. This is a bad enough proposition in general, but when the dude wearing the gauntlet is already insanely powerful and literally worships Death, it’s generally shitty for everyone.
Thanos creates a shrine to Death in the middle of space, and is joined by the avatar of Death herself, Mephisto, Thanos’ brother (and Avenger) Starfox, who has had his mouth removed, and Thanos’ daughter Nebula, who he has fucked up in all kinds of ways. She is unable to move or speak, only observe and feel pain. Good times.
Back on Earth Dr. Strange notices the chaos and feels something is really wrong (duh). His fears are confirmed when none other than the Silver Surfer crashes through is roof with a warning: Thanos is now God. They are shortly joined by Adam Warlock and a few of his companions, and Adam explains exactly what has happened and what it means. He has a plan to stop Thanos, but will need all of the remaining heroes left to accomplish it.
In a short time they are joined by the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Namor, She-Hulk, the Hulk, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Quasar, Cyclops, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Drax the Destroyer, Firelord, Cloak, Nova, and Dr. Doom! With their forces gathered, Warlock explains that they are going to stage a full-on assault against Thanos while he tries to convince the cosmic entities (Galactus, the lords of chaos, Chronos, the Celestials, etc) to join the fight.
Knowing damn well this is a suicide mission, they all agree to join the fight, and Strange sends them to Thanos’ shrine. Being omnipotent, Thanos knows they are coming, but Mephisto gives the heroes a fighting chance. He convinces Thanos to reduce his power level so that perhaps Death will be impressed by Thanos risking a loss to show off for her. He lowers his power to 1% of its total to face them.
While the battle is beginning, Adam Warlock is busy convincing the cosmic beings to join the fight. He taunts Galactus and just shows that he’s generally a complete badass. He convinces them by convincing Eternity, the physical manifestation of the entire universe, to join. Unfortunately for our heroes, they will be joining the fight if Adam’s first plan fails. He and the Silver Surfer lay in wait, light years away from the fight, watching.
Right before the fight begins, Thanos is again rejected by Death, which really cheeses him off. In response, he creates the perfect mate for him out of nothingness. So right before a bunch of unprepared fighters show up he’s mad as hell and a bit nuts. Great.
The fight does not go well for our heroes. Not well at all.
Thanos cuts through them like a hot chainsaw through melted butter, even at his depleted power level. He covers Namor and She-Hulk in a fast growing fungal spore, which quickly suffocates them to death. He shrinks the Hulk down to the size of an ant. He smacks Drax and Firelord around like they’re nothing (and to him, they really are).
The first successful strike belongs to a combination of the Vision and Wolverine. The Vision distracts him with some lazer eye beams, and Wolverine jumps in and stabs Thanos in the chest! Unfortunately for Wolverine, this is like punching a semi truck as it is bearing down on you, and Thanos simply wills the adamantium in Wolverine’s body to turn into rubber.
Thanos sends Drax and Firelord tumbling through time, taking them out of the fight. He incinerates the Scarlet Witch, and kills Cyclops by putting an impenetrable box around his head, suffocating him. He tears the Visions’ insides out through his chest. Cloak tries to contain him by trapping him in the dark dimension his cloak accesses, but Thanos bursts through it (and him) like he was made of wet paper.
Thanos’ new girlfriend smashes Spider-Man’s face in with a rock, then pulls Iron Man’s head off like he was a LEGO figure.
Thor is the only one who is making any kind of dent in Thanos’ defense, but before he can really smash him up Thanos turns him into glass and shatters him. He turns Nova into a bunch of cubes, “like a child’s toys”. He blasts the living fuck out of Dr. Doom.
Finally it’s all down to one man: Captain America. Cap, being Cap, is like “whatevs” and strolls up to Thanos, talking shit. Right before Thanos deals a death blow, Adam Warlock sends the Silver Surfer after him. Flying like a gazillion miles an hour, he tries to snatch the gauntlet off of Thanos’ hand, but misses by less than an inch. Thanos then kills Cap, and wills himself to full power for the REAL battle: the cosmic entities have shown themselves.
From here there is more fighting, and some double crossing, and the gantlet actually changes hands a time or two, but the real appeal of the story was the first four issues I’ve described here. For one, the first three issues are illustrated by none other than George Perez, and he just destroys it. It’s a shame he wasn’t able to finish the story, but Ron Lim fills in ably.
Seeing all of your favorite heroes not only die, but get straight up massacred, is unsettling. I was like 9 years old when this was coming out, and it was like “OH MY GOD HOLY HELL WHAT THE SHIT NO” with the turn of nearly every page.
It’s the best ‘cosmic’ event Marvel ever told. At least until….
The Infinity Gauntlet was the peak of the popularity of Marvel’s cosmic level characters. After that they kind of floundered (I mean, where do you go from there?). Well, at least until Annihilation came along.
The story starts with an oversized one-shot that kind of checks in all over the universe, specifically with our main characters: Nova, Drax, Ronan the Accuser, the Super Skrull, and the Silver Surfer. After that the story splits into four mini-series, one each for the Surfer, Ronan, Super Skrull, and Nova. Then there is a 6-issue main series, where the shit really and truly hits the fan.
Everything is going on business as usual when some random overwhelming attacks being hitting around the universe. Xandar, home of the intergalactic Nova corps, is completely destroyed, leaving the Worldmind, the artificial intelligence that houses all knowledge and history for Xandar and regulates the insane power levels of the Novas, in the mind of the attack’s sole survivor: Earth’s Richard Rider.
What is left of the Skrull Empire is nearly completely wiped out. Kree outposts are falling right and left. Prisons, starships, settlements, it doesn’t matter. Everything is being hit, and hit HARD, by armies of bug-like creatures. Casualties climb into the billions within hours. Finally we see who is behind this invasion: Annihilus, lord of the Negative Zone, and all-around nasty bastard. He has unleashed his army, the Annihilation Wave, against our universe because he found that our universe is slowly encroaching on the Negative Zone, and the crossover was enough evidence to him to convince him that our universe is now part of his domain.
In the four series we follow our leads as they learn about the invasion, figure out how they can fight, and begin their fight. The Silver Surfer sees that a being named Ravenous and his compatriots are hunting former heralds of Galactus, apparently trying to hunt down the big G-Man himself. They capture Terrax the Tamer, and dig up the corpse of Morg, and kill Gabriel (Air Walker). Red Shift and the Firelord are travelling the universe, killing as many of Annihilus’ forces as they can, and the Surfer travels to Galactus’s side, where he tries to convince Galactus that with all the planets being destroyed, he’s losing out on his food source. Galactus convinces the Surfer that he will help intervene IF the Surfer agrees to be his herald again, which he reluctantly does (which makes him way stronger than he has been since the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby FF days).
Meanwhile, Ronan the Accuser has been betrayed by the Kree Empire, stripped of his rank, and is declared a traitor. He is travelling the galaxy trying to find clues to clear his name, and ends up on a refugee planet where he encounters Gamora and a handful of female warriors, including Thanos’ daughter Nebula, which results in some serious fighting (naturally).
The Super Skrull, who has been disgraced in the eyes of the empire due to his failures against the Fantastic Four, has become something of a running joke. So when he discovers a weapon the Annihilation Wave has that can destroy planets with a single shot (think the Death Star from Star Wars), nobody really believes him, but rather think he is just trying to recapture lost glory. He is forced to gather a group of prisoners, basically nobodies, and attempt an assault of his own against the Wave’s doomsday weapon. It is ultimately successful, but not without great cost, as he is too late to stop the weapon from destroying the world his ex-wife and only son live on.
Finally, Nova awakens in the ruins of Xandar, the last survivor of the thousands of Nova Corp members. He is now in sole possession of the Worldmind (as I mentioned earlier), which makes him about a billion times stronger than he’s ever been, and gives him the smartest AI in the universe as like a roommate in his brain. He runs into Drax the Destroyer and his human companion Cammi, and Drax volunteers to help Nova get a hold of this new insane power level, as every time he sees the Wave army he loses his shit (and destroys entire fleets in seconds). They run into Quasar, the former Avenger and wielder of the Quantum Bands, another crazy strong badass, and unite to help evacuate a planet that is under siege by the Wave. While fighting against unimaginable odds, even for them, they see that Annihilus is in charge of the invasion, and rush to attack him. Unfortunately for Quasar, Annihilus is able to consume energy, and Quasar is basically living energy. Nova is batted aside, and Quasar is gruesomely ‘eaten’ by Annihilus, who then takes his Quantum Bands and becomes even more powerful than before. Good going, guys.
When the main story starts, the war has been going on for a good while. Nova is in charge of the resistance, with his second in command Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, and his (Nova’s) on again, off again lover, Gamora. The war effort is not going well, despite the assistance of the Kree Empire. The Wave has converted everyone they capture to unwilling members of their army, including Terrax! Unbeknownst to the resistance, Annihilus has enlisted the king of a-holes, Thanos, to convert the power cosmic to a fuel source for his army, which they accomplished by capturing both the Surfer and Galactus! Holy shitballs! This influx of power has made the nearly unstoppable Annihilation Wave even stronger, and they crush the resistance. All that is left is guerilla (terrorist) tactics for our heroes.
Eventually, after much more fighting and dying, Nova decides he’s going on a suicide run to kill Annihilus, and Drax is going on a suicide run to kill Thanos, who has kidnapped Drax’s daughter Moondragon. Unfortunately, Drax doesn’t know that Thanos has planned to betray Annihilus the whole time, and when he shows up and actually KILLS THANOS, it was right before he was going to free Galactus and the Surfer. D’oh! Thankfully, Galactus’ restraints had been freed enough so that when Drax screams at him to save him and his daughter, he teleports them to another planet before unleashing the mother of all “FUCK YOU DICKBAGS” energy waves against Annihilus’ army.
After Galactus goes on the rag, Nova sees an opportunity. He goes at Annihilus head on, and after a crazy battle ends the whole thing by REACHING DOWN ANNIHILUS’ THROAT AND PULLING HIS GUTS OUT. I am not making this up. Nova is the shit.
Annihilation was followed up with a Nova ongoing series, which was really great, and some sequels that were also great. But nothing touches this masterpiece.
1. Civil War
The most insane Marvel crossover ever. While it didn’t quite have the build up as Secret Invasion, which was clearly planned meticulously for years, there was some noticeable build-up and increasing tensions across the board before this title hit like a bomb in the center of the Marvel Universe.
There was talk in the government about passing a law that would require any and all metahumans to reveal their identity to the government and to become SHIELD agents in order to continue operating as super heroes. The act seemed like it may or may not pass. There was legitimate concerns on behalf of the people, but concern that passing the law could result in a lot of collateral damage, as many of the metahumans would certainly fight against the law.
Then Stamford happened.
The super hero team the New Warriors had fallen on hard times, and had taken the position of stars of a reality TV show. However, ratings were tanking, and to improve viewership they attempt to capture some villains on camera. They track some villains to Stamford, Connecticut and find them hiding out in a suburban home. Unfortunately for them, one of the villains is Nuke, the former Captain Marvel villain and all-around asshole. When confronted, Nuke triggers his ability to cause massive detonations, killing the New Warriors (all but Speedball) and the rest of the villains, as well as thousands of residents of the town, including an entire elementary school.
The country goes nuts, and in response the Superhuman Registration Act is pushed through Congress overnight. Trust in superheroes is at an all-time low. Tony Stark becomes the face of the Registration Act, as Iron Man (and publicly reveals himself as Tony Stark). He knows that if the Registration Act doesn’t work the government’s, and SHIELD’s, next act will be something crazy, like Sentinels or something like that. He knows that as distasteful as the Act is, it has to work. He is joined by the likes of the Fantastic Four (other than the Thing, who in an uncharacteristic move goes to France to be a conscientious objector. Puss.), Henry Pym, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Doc Samson, and the guy he had recently taken under his wing: Spider-Man.
On the other side of the argument is Captain America. He feels, rightfully so, that the Act puts too much power in the hands of politicians and SHIELD, and is going to force a lot of heroes to either hang up the cape, so to speak, or go underground. When SHIELD orders him to help in the apprehension of super heroes, he politely tells them to go fuck themselves with a rusty saw, and beats the living hell out of a unit of ‘Capekillers’ (SHIELD agents specifically trained to fight superheroes) and pulls off a crazy escape from the Helicarrier. He then goes underground, and is joined by the likes of the Falcon, Daredevil, Hercules, Goliath, Luke Cage, Cable, Cloak and Dagger, and the Young Avengers.
Iron Man is ordered to hunt down Captain American and his anti-registration forces, who are making headlines by capturing supervillains right and left. In order to really be the face of the Act, and to have the public support he needs to ensure the act survives, Stark has revealed himself to the public, and in a huge asshole move, convinces Spider-Man to do the same. So Peter Parker, the man with everything to lose and more enemies than anyone, goes on national television and reveals himself as Peter Parker. Turns out it bites him in the ass eventually.
The first fight between the forces is an ambush set by SHIELD and Stark’s team. Things are going relatively well for Cap’s team, all things considered, other than the fact that Iron Man is beating Cap near to death and they are outnumbered. And then, to make things worse, they are all smacked down by none other than the long-dead Thor! Thor promptly beats ass and then shoots a bolt of lightning straight through the chest of Goliath, killing him. Cap’s forces escape, and we see that it wasn’t really Thor, but rather a cyborg clone created by Stark in Richards in one of the most ‘mad scientist’ moves either of them have ever pulled.
The death of Goliath and the sheer overwhelming strength of Stark’s forces causes some defections on Cap’s team. Cable leaves to fight his own battles elsewhere, and Nighthawk and the Young Avenger Stature leave to join Stark’s team and register. However, the Human Torch and the Invisible Woman are disgusted with Stark and Reed Richards, and defect to Cap’s team. Spider-Man does the same, but not before he has to fight Iron Man and then the new Thunderbolts (government sanctioned, of course) team, which consists of lunatics like the Jester, Jack O’Lantern, Lady Deathstrike, Venom, and Bullseye!
With their ranks replenished and a series mad-on for some payback, Cap’s team plans their attack: they storm Prison 42, the supermax prison Richards, Pym, and Stark designed that houses all the heroes captured since the Act passed (that happens to be located in the friggin’ Negative Zone). Using trickery and the Young Avenger Hulkling’s ability to shape-shift, they break into the prison and free all of the captives, but are promptly met by the pro-registration team. A huge battle ensues, and to give them room to maneuver Cloak teleports everyone out of the prison. Unfortunately, he teleports them to New York City, and the fight spills into the streets, which is exactly the kind of thing the Act was passed to prevent.
After a ridiculous amount of property damage, Cap’s team is winning, but he looks around and sees what his fighting the Act has wrought. He then surrenders to SHIELD, pointing out that they were winning ‘everything but the argument’.
After the war, Cap is put in prison and heads to trial, where he is assassinated on the steps of the courthouse by Crossbones and a brainwashed Sharon Carter (his own damn girlfriend). Tony Stark is made the new head of SHIELD. Teams are placed in all 50 states as first responders as part of the new Avengers Initiative. Stark picks his own dream team of Avengers, with members like himself, Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man, the Wasp, the Sentry, and Ares. The other Avengers go underground, and are made up of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hawkeye (as Ronin), Dr. Strange, Echo, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Norman Osborn is placed in charge of the Thunderbolts, which ended up biting EVERYONE in the ass. Iron Man became viewed as the ultimate dickhead: a guy that sold out his principals to be a government stooge, and in doing so put his friends in jail and got Captain America killed. The death of Captain America brought the Winter Soldier (formerly known as Bucky Barnes) out of hiding, and he eventually took up Steve’s mantle as Captain America.
The only downside to this story is that sometimes the characters feel a bit out of character. It feels like they act to fit the story, and not the way they normally would. I, for one, cannot see Reed Richards agreeing to clone Thor, or even going along with the Act in the first place. Spider-Man agreeing to remove his mask on TV rang hollow too, and he paid for that pretty much right away, especially after leaving the protection of Stark and SHIELD.
All in all though, Civil War is terrific. Hero against hero, and the starter of as many debates about who was right, Captain America or Iron Man, freedom vs security, as any in comics that I’ve ever seen.