Both Marvel and DC (and really most publishers) from time to time will throw a lot of their characters (sometimes nearly all) together for a really big story. These have been dubbed ‘event’ titles. Books like Final Crisis, Blackest Night, Metal, Civil War, Spider-Verse, and many, many others have their fans and detractors, but you can’t deny that they provide some of the coolest, most intense, most unforgettable moments in comics history.
Everyone has their favorites, but here are 50 of the best moments (in no particular order). If you have any favorites that we neglected to include, sound off in the comments.
The Hulk lifts a freaking mountain (Marvel Superhero Secret Wars #4)
Stuck on an alien world by the cosmic Beyonder, the heroes are caught in an attack by the gathered villains, and seemingly killed. They would have been, too, if not for the Hulk, who single-handedly holds up a freaking MOUNTAIN while the heroes find a way to escape. Just let that sink in: the Hulk held up A MOUNTAIN. In a series that had some really big moments, this is my favorite.
Death of Barry Allen (Crisis on Infinite Earths #8)
There aren’t a lot of superheroes out there more beloved than the Flash, specifically the Barry Allen version. Barry was the one that ushered in the Silver Age, helped found the Justice League, and was the first to discover the presence of multiple Earths. For decades he was the scarlet speedster that fans knew and loved, so when Crisis hit and the Flash seemed to be a big part of what was going on, you feel like things might be OK. The Flash is going to save the day. But he doesn’t. While he is able to send a message to the other heroes and he does destroy the anti-matter cannon created by the Anti-Monitor, he literally runs himself to death doing so. The Flash’s death mattered. It set up Wally West as the new Flash, but more importantly, Barry’s sacrifice was remembered and referenced for years after. Barry died saving everyone, everywhere.
Superman Defeats Anti-Monitor (Crisis on Infinite Earths #12)
The Anti-Monitor was winning for a long time. The majority of the Crisis series had him causing the destruction of parallel universe after parallel universe. Numerous heroes, including the Flash and Supergirl, had lost their lives trying to beat him. But it was the original, greatest hero who had the last say. The golden age (or Earth 2) Superman, aided by the female Dr. Light, Darkseid, Alexander Luthor, and Superboy Prime, unleashed everything he had in one last ditch effort to save the day. And, as you can see from the image above, holy shit did he succeed. It was fitting that the last time we would see that version of the big blue boy scout for over 20 years was saving everything and giving the universe a chance to start anew.
Thanos Murders Everyone (Infinity Gauntlet #3 & 4)
The Mad Titan, Thanos, was in possession of the Infinity gauntlet, and as such was the supreme being in the entire universe. He destroyed half of all life everywhere with a single snap of his fingers. The heroes that remained, led by Adam Warlock, launch a desperate attempt to defeat him before all is lost. Even with Thanos purposefully limiting his power to around 1% (he thought it would impress Mistress Death), they didn’t stand a chance. One by one our favorite heroes are killed in horrible ways until it’s just Captain America standing, holding the line to buy time for the Silver Surfer to make his play. Horrific, but great stuff in a great series.
The Death of Superman (Superman #75)
Despite the fact that the story is called “The Death of Superman”, it was still surprising (and honestly, a little unsettling) to see the Man of Steel fall. Say what you will about Doomsday being the one and not Lex Luthor, but this story felt BIG, and IMPORTANT. The build-up to the issue was intense, as each part consisted of less and less panels per page (part 1 would have 8 panels per page, then part 2 would have 7, and so on) until Superman #75, which was all single page splashes. It really felt like everything just kept ramping up and up before the ending that crushed us all.
Coast City Destroyed (Superman #80)
This was the big ‘carpet out from under your feet’ moment of Reign of the Supermen. Prior to this, the Cyborg Superman was the leader in the clubhouse for which of the 4 Supermen was the real deal (none of them were). Then he nearly destroys the Eradicator (another of the fake Supermen), blows Green Lantern’s home town to smithereens, and has Mongul kneeling at his feet. Things really took a turn here and it was crazy. This single act impacted years of Superman stories, and had a monstrously huge impact on the Green Lantern books for years and years.
Captain America Escapes Helicarrier (Civil War #1)
Civil War did a lot of things, but maybe none more-so than showing that Captain America is a complete and total bad-ass. In the act that leads to the beginning of the war, Captain America is onboard a SHIELD helicarrier talking to Director Maria Hill. He states that the Superhuman Registration Act will have heroes hunting down heroes, and it’s wrong. When he makes it clear he will not assist SHIELD in helping enforce the law and plans to fight it, Hill orders the newly revealed Capekiller Unit to arrest him. These guys are trained and equipped specifically for this moment, and Cap makes them look like a bunch of toddlers. He crushes his way through a wall of soldiers, jumps OUT OF THE HELICARRIER, blocking gunfire while he’s falling (!!!), lands on a jet and has the pilot fly him to ground. Wow.
Rise of the Black Lanterns (Blackest Night #1)
Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi had been building to this giant event for a couple of years in Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, respectively. But when it finally came, we weren’t ready for it. The first issue hits like a bomb. The Green Lanterns are decimated by a swarm of black rings that invade their crypt and resurrect thousands of fallen Lanterns. Black Lantern Ralph Dibny and Jean Loring murder Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who are then resurrected as Black Lanterns. Basically, everything sucks for everyone, everywhere. And then we get the above image, when you see the kind of problematic firepower the Black Lanterns are amassing all too quickly. That would be a hell of a team when they were alive, much less as unkillable zombies that keep their powers.
Titans vs Superboy Prime (Infinite Crisis #4)
In the original Crisis on Infinite Earths the Superboy from Earth Prime was a hero, and one of the few survivors of the original Multiverse. When Infinite Crisis rolled around, Prime had spent years on the outside of existence watching what he felt was a perversion of everything heroes were supposed to stand for, especially from Conner Kent, the main Earth’s Superboy. He confronts Conner and it quickly becomes apparent that Prime is mentally unstable and incredibly powerful. So much so that the entirety of the Teen Titans membership (from the earliest days to the present) all attack him at once. During the fight he begins to lose control and massacre Titans right and left. It’s chilling, and really sets Prime up as one of the biggest threats in the entire DCU.
Captain America and Iron Man Throw Down (Civil War #3)
The first major conflict between Captain America’s anti-Superhero Registration Act forces and Iron Man’s pro-act forces doesn’t go so well for the good Captain. Iron Man’s team sets a trap that Cap’s team falls into, and are forced to fight from a corner. Cap and Iron Man, previously best buds and teammates, are not holding anything back, physically or verbally. It’s unsettling to see them like this, and really unsettling to see what Iron Man’s armor can do to a human body. Hercules sees that Cap is losing and, enraged, starts charging through Iron Man’s team left and right to get to him. Maria Hill, watching from a helicarrier, orders Codename: Lightning, and things get a whole, whole lot worse.
The Savage Land Skrulls (Secret Invasion #2, 3)
For months the Marvel Universe had been building a sense of paranoia and dread; something was definitely going on but nobody was sure what. When it turned out that the shape-shifting Srulls had invaded and could be anybody, the paranoia was ratcheted up to 11. Nobody knew who to trust. Then a Skrull ship crashes in the Savage Land and both teams of Avengers go to investigate. When the ship opens they are greeted with the 1970’s versions of over a dozen characters, some long-dead and others in their classic versions. Nothing much really came from it, as the whole thing was a ploy to get the Avengers out of the way and distracted so the Skrulls could start their attack. But it was very intriguing, at least for an issue or so, as you really didn’t know who was a Skrull and who wasn’t.
Avengers: Reassembled (Siege #3)
It’s been a rough time for the Marvel heroes. Cap was thought dead, Norman Osborn and his Cabal of villains have been in charge, Iron Man has been on the run and suffering from a self-induced degenerate brain condition, and the Avengers are disorganized, at best. Norman “Iron Patriot” Osborn and his team decide they don’t like that Asgard is floating above a town in Oklahoma, so they send everyone they have to attack. And thanks to their overwhelming numbers and the God-like Sentry, they are winning. Thor is down. Suddenly, a shield is thrown at Osborn’s face, and just like that the tables have turned and the Avengers have, at long last, reassembled (for the first time since Disassembled a few years earlier). What follows is a battle royale between the Dark Avengers, the Thunderbolts, the Initiative, and Hammer vs the Asgardians and the Avengers, and it’s awesome.
Dark Phoenix Cyclops (AvX #11, 12)
This was insane. Cyclops and four other X-Men have a broken Phoenix forcibly bonded to them, and at first everything seems awesome as they are legitimately helping the world improve. But the cracks start to show and finally Cyclops, possessed by the full power of the Phoenix force and in no way equipped to handle it, effortlessly trashes the Avengers and X-Men’s combined forces. Professor X tries desperately to save his first student (and really the closest thing he has to a son, even though he actually DOES have a son), but Cyclops-Phoenix kills his mentor and goes Dark Phoenix, and the heroes have no chance of stopping him. It’s the ultimate fall from grace with one extra twist: he never wanted, asked for, or prepared to be a Phoenix host. And it cost him everything.
Avengers Assault on Utopia (AvX #2)
When the name of the event is “Avengers vs X-Men”, it’s not a stretch to think you’ll see the X-Men and Avengers fighting. But when it actually happened, it felt like a turning point; a ‘no going back now’ moment. The Avengers came to the X-Men’s home (at this point in continuity they were living on Utopia; an island off of San Francisco that was home to over 90% of the world’s remaining mutants) and demanded they turn over Hope Summers, who they had just lost people to protect. The X-Men had been hounded and attacked like never before leading to this, so they don’t take the Avengers’ demand well and all hell breaks loose. Great matchups and nice art from John Romita, Jr, but the highlights have got to be Cyclops vs Captain America and the X-Men all attacking Wolverine, who was there with the Avengers, and calling him a traitor.
Batman Faces Darkseid (Final Crisis #6)
Final Crisis is a huge mess, and it could easily find it’s way onto a ‘worst events’ list (hmm), but you can’t deny it had some great moments, and the greatest one was the Caped Crusader, armed with a gun that fired a God-killer bullet, staring down the great Darkseid. All seems lost, and Darkseid’s descent into our level of reality (which is causing everything to go crazy, even time) seems unstoppable. Then Batman, the least likely member of the JLA to be able to do a damn thing to Darkseid, uses a gun (which shows how desperate they have become) to save the day (sort of. It’s a whole thing), at the expense of his own life (sort of. It’s a whole thing).
Hulk vs Illuminati (World War Hulk)
This one is a bit of a cheat, because the Hulk fights the Illuminati members at different times throughout the first few issues. But each one is pretty epic, and it felt right to include them together. The Hulk withstands Black Bolt’s scream before smashing him, crushes Stark in his newest Hulkbuster suit, beats the hell out of both teams of Avengers (at this time the pro-registration Mighty team and the anti-registration New team) before taking out the Black Panther, Storm, and the FF, and then withstands Dr. Strange channeling an unstoppable demon until he can crush the Dr.’s hands. The savagery of his attacks makes the best efforts of Earth’s mightiest look like slaps from a schoolgirl.
Oh, crap… (Sinestro Corps Special #1)
Hoo boy. Things look bleak for the Green Lantern Corps. Sinestro, the renegade lantern, has created his own corps of psychopaths, sadists and murderers and they are dedicated to spreading fear throughout the universe. Kyle Rayner is stranded on the Sinestro Corps planet, Qward, and attacked by thousands of its members before being smacked around by Sinestro and forcibly bonded to the Fear Entity, Paralax. Can’t get much worse for our heroes, can it? Well, actually, it can. It can get A LOT worse. It’s bad enough that, in addition to his own army, and in addition to a possessed Kyle Rayner, Sinestro has allied with Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman, and his army of Manhunters. Oh, and he’s also allied with the monstrously powerful Superboy Prime, who beat a Superman to death and needed the combined power of two Supermen, an asteroid field of Kryptonite, AND the Green Lanterns to beat. OH, and he’s ALSO allied himself with his Corps’ new guardian: the Anti-Monitor. HOLY SHIT.
…Thor? (Civil War #3,4)
Civil War was a story that started big and never let off the gas. In the first issue Cap is labeled a traitor, fights his way out of SHIELD custody, and we see Iron Man, Hank Pym, and Reed Richards agree to bring him in for the government. Issue 2 shows Spider-Man reveal his identity to the world. Issue 3 shows Cap’s team get ambushed by Iron Man’s, and right when they are starting to fight to a possible escape a bolt of lightning crashes and they stand face to face with the Odinson himself.
…or do they? When issue 4 finally dropped (and it felt like it took forever) it was revealed (after he attacked his friends and murdered Bill Foster/Goliath) that this was actually a clone/cyborg hybrid of Thor that was created by Stark, Pym and Richards. The real Thor was thought dead at the time, so his appearance was genuinely shocking. The reveal that it wasn’t the real deal wasn’t as shocking, but his actions made up for it.
“No More Mutants” (House of M #7)
In Avengers: Disassembled, the Scarlet Witch lost control of her reality-warping powers and caused the deaths of multiple Avengers. In the ruins of the island of Genosha, the former mutant haven, Magneto, Professor X, and Dr. Strange have all done what they can to help her but it’s not working. The X-Men and Avengers get together to decide what to do about it, but before they can do anything the world goes white and is remade so that mutants are the dominant species on Earth. The heroes band together for one last-ditch effort to repair the world and stop the Scarlet Witch, but to no avail: she tells Magneto that the fact that their family is so screwed up is because he chose his crusade of mutant supremacy over them, and that in the end all mutants do is fight each other. So she casts one last spell and ruins thousands of lives forever.
Certainly one of the most impactful ‘event’ moments, the Scarlet Witch’s now infamous ‘No more mutants’ drastically changed the X-Men books for years to come.
War in Central Park (Secret Invasion #7)
For years the Avengers books had been focusing on a conspiracy in the Marvel universe, and it was revealed that Earth had been infiltrated by Skrulls looking to conquer the planet. After years of paranoia, deception, and trust issues the good guys (and the bad guys!) finally have an enemy to fight. Both Avengers teams (including the newly returned Thor and Bucky as Captain America), Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors, the Thunderbolts, the Hood and his gang of super-villains, and Reed Richards amass to fight the Skrull queen Veranke (in the guise of Spider-Woman) and her army of genetically engineered Super Skrulls. Both sides gather in Central Park, and it’s as large a fight as there’s ever been in a Marvel comic, right in the middle of New York. It’s cathartic to see the Skrulls get theirs, even if it costs a founding Avenger their life. And the resolution of the fight, with Norman Osborn getting the kill on the Skrull queen (and it being broadcast live around the world) and being set up as the new Top Cop in the land, set the stage for over a years’ worth of new story avenues and led to the launch of Dark Avengers.
Amazing Spider-Man Vs. Superior Spider-Man (Spider-Verse #3)
Admittedly, this one is probably not on everyone’s list. But as a huge Spider-Man fan, it was long overdue to see Octavius get smacked around a little. I loved the Superior Spider-Man (and Dan Slott’s whole run, really), but it was always a little disappointed that he went out somewhat heroically, giving Peter his (stolen) body back so he could save the day, never getting any real retaliation from Spider-Man from killing him and stealing his life. Well in Spider-Verse, we finally got it. Ock/Spidey had been his usual condescending, insufferable self in his Spider-Verse appearances, and Peter didn’t want to reveal that he was from a point in time AFTER Ock had lost everything. But everyone has their breaking point, and Peter finally hits his. And then Ock. In the face. It’s great.
Spiders Everywhere! (Spider-Verse #1)
The real draw of Spider-Verse, besides seeing Ock get punched right in the schnozz, is seeing all of the different Spider-Men from all of the different universes. I love the group shots (like above) where you can go through and recognize obscure characters (or be like ‘why the hell is there a spider-pig and a spider-monkey?’). Spider-Verse is full of these moments, and the writers do a great job playing with this. Like when the Spider-Man from the live action Japanese TV show appears with his giant robot, or when two spideys are talking about how they saw a Spider-Man that looked ‘just like Tobey Maguire’ and ‘I swear I saw that kid from ‘The Social Network”. Captain Britain Spider-Man, Captain Universe Spider-Man, punk rock Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, the steampunk Spider-Woman, Spider-Gwen, Mayday Parker… all in addition to Spider-Man 2099, Miles Morales, Spider-Woman, Silk, Kaine, the Superior Spider-Man, and our boy Peter. It almost didn’t even need villains or a plot.
The JLA Broken (Infinite Crisis #1)
The first issue of Infinite Crisis has a lot going on, but for me the most memorable moment is this scene on the moon between Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. They have a cool fight with Mongul, but the real importance of the scene is it essentially confirms that the Justice League, right when we’re about to need them more than ever, is finished. For the previous few years, Batman has become more and more of a loner (even manipulating and lying to his partners/sidekicks and just generally acting like a dick), Wonder Woman has steadily grown more and more violent (capped off when she killed Maxwell Lord to save Superman, which was broadcast worldwide) and Superman is just kind of there. His books have been fine, but not exactly garnering a lot of attention. And here Geoff Johns has the characters kind of address these things in-story. Superman condemns Wonder Woman’s use of violence, and both he and Diana call out Bruce for being a Bat-asshole. But it’s Batman’s verbal takedown of Superman that takes the cake. He tells him that sure, he’s putting out kittens and saving fires from trees, but at the end of the day people ‘need to be inspired. And let’s face it, “Superman”… the last time you really inspired anyone… was when you were dead.” Mic drop. The three leaguers go their separate ways and the shit hits the fan across the world(s).
The Sentry/Void Destroys Asgard (Siege #3)
Norman Osborn, aka the “Iron Patriot” and a combination of his Dark Avengers, Thunderbolts, the Hood and his gang, and the entirety of the Avengers Initiative attack Asgard and are holding their own fairly well against the gods. But when the Avengers show up and it looks like the tables have turned, Osborn tells the Sentry to “tear it down! Tear it all down! Don’t let them win!” he does just that, and in a matter of seconds destroys Asgard like it was made of tissue paper. In this same series he tears Ares in half like a phone book and murders Loki before shrugging off some of Thor’s strongest attacks, but it’s the cavalier, almost effortless way he decimates freaking ASGARD that is memorable.
Worst Day Ever (Avengers #500)
Brian Michael Bendis promised the ‘worst day in Avengers history’ to start his run with a story titled “Avengers: Disassembled”. When the Scarlet Witch goes nanners and decides to take out her crazy on the Avengers, things go to shit rather quickly. Jack of Hearts’ corpse shows up and kills Ant-Man and destroys the mansion, Tony Stark is suddenly drunk (despite not drinking in years) in front of the United Nations, the Vision crashes a Quinjet into the Avengers that show up to help, then spits out a bunch of Ultrons before breaking down, and the She-Hulk goes nuts, injuring the Wasp severely and smashing a car over Captain America. And that’s just the beginning. A really shitty day, to say the least, and a great way to kick off Brian Bendis’ years-long run on the franchise.
Reed Beats God Doom (Secret Wars #8)
Secret Wars is an insane story (and I love it so much) and really difficult to summarize, so I won’t even bother here. The long story short is that Doom has become God over creation, and it’s quite a mess. Reed finally gets a chance to confront him and beats him, not with some fancy gadget, but with words. And when Doom realizes he’s losing he screams at Richards that he thinks he’s better than Doom, and that he probably thinks he would have done such a better job as God. Reed answers, “Yes. And we both know it, don’t we?”. The look of horror on Doom’s face tells everything you need to know. He did know it, and when Reed takes his powers and quickly fixes everything he had neglected, or was not capable of fixing, it’s truly the ultimate defeat of Dr. Doom. (Reed being Reed, he uses his power to send Doom home to Latveria with a fixed face. Cause Reed’s cool like that)
Dr. Strange’s Secret Weapon: The Infinity Gauntlet (Secret wars #7)
Another awesome moment in Secret Wars (there could be a whole list of them, really) is when Namor and the Black Panther find the deceased Dr. Strange’s stash of goodies. Using a codeword from their time together in the Illuminati, they gain access to the Siege Courageous, which allows instant travel anywhere, and a freaking Infinity Gauntlet! Dr. Doom is so powerful that the Gauntlet is no promise of victory, but talk about a ‘holy shit!!’ moment…
Marvel Universe (616) vs. Ultimate Marvel Universe (Secret Wars #1)
Oh, look, another Secret Wars one! This story starts off with a hell of a bang, as two of the last remaining realities (for years in New Avengers it was shown that something was happening across the multiverse that was causing them to bleed into one another, causing mutual destruction) are bleeding into each other as they are about to collide. The odds are that this is the end of the world, but both sides are determined to go down swinging. Nick Fury and his Ultimates face off with the Avengers, Hulk, and some X-Men as chaos ensues everywhere. Some particular favorite moments are Colossus throwing the Hulk in a fastball special, Cyclops showing up with an army of repurposed Sentinels and a freaking Phoenix egg, Captain Marvel’s dismantling of Ultimate Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four’s desperate last-chance bid to save who they can. Hell of a way to start things off.
Avengers Vs Justice League (LJA/Avengers #2)
One of my all-time favorite series (and well worth its own articles), the fight between various members of the Justice League and the Avengers does not disappoint. If nothing else, you get to see Thor vs Superman, Flash vs Quicksilver, etc and it’s awesome. Neither team is used to fighting another team as skilled and powerful as they are and it makes for some cool moments. A personal favorite is when Captain America and Batman have a really quick fight: they start to test each other and then realize that the fight would take forever and both understand their teams are being manipulated so they stop fighting and team up (meanwhile the other teammates are smashing each other’s faces in). Great character moments plus some really cool stuff you never thought you’d ever see in an actual comic book. And George Perez’s art… good gravy.
Avengers, Justice League Team-Up (JLA/Avengers #4)
So what’s the one thing cooler than seeing the two biggest teams in comics (sorry, X-Men) fight each other? Seeing them team up to fight an even bigger threat, of course. Due to some reality warping shenanigans you literally get to see every single member of either team’s history in the course of this one huge fight. It’s freaking awesome. Want to see USAgent and Guy Gardner fighting side by side? Look here! And when all seems lost and Superman, already armed with Captain America’s shield, has to lift Mjolnir to save the day… well, of course Superman’s worthy. Right?
Spidey Unmasks (Civil War #2)
Maybe the biggest “HOLY SHIT” moment I can ever remember. Yes, it never should have been done and yes, they totally fucked up on following up with the fallout of the revelation, but for a couple of months there was a legitimate feeling that Spider-Man would never be the same (and really, he wasn’t), and that Civil War was going to be a really big freaking deal (it was).
Bane Breaks the Bat (Batman #497)
I don’t care if you knew it was coming and that it was probably overshadowed by the Death of Superman (both great stories), but when Bane actually defeated the exhausted, weakened Bruce Wayne it was dramatic, disturbing, and shocking. To see the unbeatable Batman run through the most hellish gauntlet he’d ever seen, and methodically be driven towards exhaustion and collapse, only to be confronted by the nearly unstoppable Bane, in his own home, was unsettling. It instantly made Bane a force to be reckoned with (ridiculous costume and all) and instituted a ‘holy shit what next’ feeling in the bat-books that would last for a couple of years.
Hal Jordan Returns (Green Lantern: Rebirth #4)
There are a ton of moments from Geoff Johns’ run on GL, but one of my absolute favorites is the way he started it all off with Rebirth, which brought the best Lantern of ’em all (fight me), Hal Jordan, back to the fold. And the moment was freaking sweet! Sinestro is beating the crap out of Kyle Rayner, Hal’s replacement, and Green Arrow, Hal’s buddy, when a flash of green knocks Sinestro away and we see that our boy’s back, and the first thing he does is tell Sinestro to get the hell away from his friends. It’s such a great moment that even if you’re not at all familiar with Green Lantern or Hal Jordan (he was my GL growing up) it will still totally work on you.
Magneto Removes Wolverine’s Adamantium (X-Men #25)
Part of the Fatal Attractions crossover, this was a big one. Easily one of the most memorable moments of the 90’s, this one was not only shocking but had lasting effects on Wolverine, Magneto, Professor X, and the entire Marvel Universe. Wolverine had claws made of bone and wouldn’t get his adamantium back for years; Professor X wiped Magneto’s mind in retaliation for the attack on his student and Magneto wouldn’t recover for years; the mind-wipe resulted in the creation of the Onslaught entity, which would terrorize the entire Marvel universe, eventually causing the deaths of both the Avengers AND Fantastic Four! All of that can be tied to this one moment, which is definitely one of the most iconic in X-Men history.
Meet the Phoenix Five (AvX #4)
The Phoenix Force was coming to Earth, and everyone knew who it was after: Hope Summers. The X-Men, led by Cyclops, were convinced that the Phoenix was there as a force of rebirth for the mutant race while the Avengers, led by Captain America, were of the opinion that, while that would be nice, they can’t just assume that since the Phoenix is so immensely powerful and capable of such destruction. Both teams are trying to get to Hope and the Phoenix, and clash on the blue area of the moon. It’s there that, right before the Phoenix gets to Hope, the Avengers (Tony Stark and Hank Pym in particular) fire an experimental weapon at it that they believe will destroy it. It sort of works. Instead of destroying the Phoenix it shatters it into five pieces, and each piece forcibly bonds with an X-Man (they did not ask for this). When the dust clears Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Magik and Namor are all powered by a portion of the Phoenix Force and have effectively become gods on Earth. The Phoenix Five, as they are dubbed, spend the next few months recreating the world and terrorizing the Avengers.
Death of Nighcrawler (X-Force # 26)
Part of the Second Coming event story, X-Force issue 26 has one of the most heartbreaking moments in X-Men history. The monstrous Sentinel Bastion has amassed an army with the intent of killing Hope Summers (who is foretold to save the mutant race from extinction). Nightcrawler and Rogue have been tasked with getting her away from X-Force and her adopted father, Cable, whom Bastion has discovered a way to track. Moving as quickly as they can, they are still not fast enough and are ambushed by Bastion, himself. Rogue, possessing the powers of all of X-Force and Colossus, tries her best to fight him off but is defeated in seconds. Nightcrawler is forced to teleport between Bastion and Hope, which causes Bastion’s arm to fuse through his chest. Kurt says a small prayer and puts everything into one last ‘port, taking Hope and Bastion’s arm with him. He lands at the X-Men’s headquarter island Utopia and the soul of the X-Men dies in front of his friends.
Batman’s Identity Revealed (Flashpoint #1)
Early in the Flashpoint we are introduced to a grizzled, older Batman that is not averse to shooting his enemies in the face. He is clearly every bit the urban legend our Batman is, but there is something different about him, even besides the obvious “willing to murder” thing. This Batman is rough around the edges, and doesn’t seem to be the same master planner and strategist our Batman is. By the end of the first issue we find out why: in this reality Bruce Wayne was gunned down in front of his parents! Martha Wayne went insane with grief and became a version of the Joker, and Thomas went the other way and became a version of the Batman (the gun he uses is the one that shot Bruce). The Thomas Wayne Batman is really awesome, but nothing will beat the shock of learning his identity and what happened to make him this way.
It’s Your Fault, Flash! (Flashpoint #5)
Ouch. The Flash woke up in a world where his mom was still alive, but pretty much everything else was awful. Bruce Wayne is dead, Superman was ‘raised’ in a government lab and has never seen the sun, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are at war and their war is destroying the planet… it’s just not a fun place. Barry has assumed that the architect of this is Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash. And we are left with that assumption until the final issue, when we learn that the Flash himself caused all of this! He tried to travel back in time to save his mom’s life (she was murdered when he was a child by the Reverse Flash who was time travelling, himself) and in turn destroyed everything and everyone he loved. His attempt to put things back led to the new 52 universe’s creation.
Deathstroke vs JLA (Identity Crisis #3)
The Elongated Man’s wife, Sue Dibny, has been murdered. A faction of the JLA suspects Dr. Light, who had sexually assaulted her years prior. In anticipation of the JLA coming after him, Light hires Deathstroke the Terminator as his bodyguard. The JLA attempts to go through Deathstroke to get to Light, but things don’t necessary go as planned… Deathstroke takes Elongated Man out with an explosive blast to the chest. As the Flash starts to move, Deathstroke detonates explosives he had planted in the ground, which causes Flash to move exactly where Deathstroke wanted him, and gets run through with a sword. He hits Zatanna in the liver, so she’s too busy vomiting to conjur a spell. He cuts off Hawkman’s flight harness and Green Arrow’s quiver. He knocks the air out of Black Canary and has her handcuffed and with a bag over her head before she can react. He then uses a laser pointer (!!!) to take out the Atom in a really cool sequence. That just leaves Green Lantern. Deathstroke catches Kyle’s punch (WHY ARE YOU PUNCHING? YOU”VE GOT A GREEN LANTERN RING!) and tries to use his superior (in his head at least) willpower to take control of the ring from Kyle. At this point Green Arrow jumps on his back and stabs him in the eye socket (his already blind spot) with an arrow and things get down and dirty. Eventually the JLA takes him out, but man, this sequence cemented how unstoppable Deathstroke can be.
Captain Boomerang Murders Jack Drake (Identity Crisis #5)
Man, this one was rough. After the death of Sue Dibny and an attack on Jean Loring (the Atom’s ex-wife), super heroes are nervous as hell. And when Lois Lane receives a threatening note saying that ‘they’ know who her husband is, everyone goes on red alert. But it’s the last target they suspect that ends up threatened: Robin’s dad, Jack Drake. The washed up villain Captain Boomerang accepted the job and sneaks into the house. Drake calls the emergency line Robin gave him and connects to Batman and Robin in the Batmobile. He tells his son he loves him and he’s proud of the life he’s made and the people he’s helped and tells him this isn’t his fault. Batman is driving like a fucking maniac to get there, knowing all too well that he will be too late. Robin is on the phone with his dad when he’s murdered. Batman and Robin arrive moments too late, and Robin, now an orphan, is changed forever.
Nova Kills Annihilus (Annihilation #6)
Annihilation did a lot for a lot of characters (I’m looking at you, Star-Lord and Drax), but the biggest ‘winners’ to me were Nova and Annihilus. Nova got a major power upgrade and more importantly a major stats upgrade as he went from a member of the Nova Corps to the LAST member of the Nova Corps and was gifted with the power of the full corps. Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave (a seemingly endless army of Negative Zone ‘bugs’) came into the story as upper level Fantastic Four villains and by story’s end are firmly established as one of the biggest threats in the entire Marvel Universe! In the final issue Nova confronts the monstrous Annihilus and after a brutal fight (and thanks to timely assistance from Phyla Vell) is able to destroy the creature by REACHING DOWN HIS THROAT AND PULLING OUT HIS INTESTINES THROUGH HIS MOUTH.
The Galactus Wave (Annihilation #6)
As part of Annihilus’ ceaseless quest for power he was able (thanks to Thanos and a few Galactus-like beings that survived the big bang) to capture and harness the power of Galactus and the Silver Surfer (!!!). After Drax kills Thanos (which could also make this list) he is able to do just enough to free the Devourer and his herald, and Galactus promptly throws a universe-wide shit fit. His initial attack obliterates the Annihilation Wave and takes out multiple planets. His attack is insanely powerful and so freaking awesome. We rarely get to see Galactus act directly, and when we do it is often portrayed very differently depending on the artist (like the Marvel heroes vs the big G in the Byrne-drawn Fantastic Four issues are very different than the way Galactus fought Terminus, or the way he fought Celestials in the criminally underrated Earth X), and unless I’m sorely mistaken we’ve NEVER seen him go off like this.
Ultron Rules the Phalanx (Annihilation: Conquest #1)
The sequel to Annihilation, Conquest had its work cut out for it from the get-go. It would be hard to top the threat that was Annihilus and his armies from the Negative Zone. But when the Kree empire initiates a new security grid (aided by Star-Lord) it is quickly infected by the techno-organic conquering race known as the Phalanx, and the Kree home world of Hala is quickly overrun entirely. Kree space is blocked from the rest of the universe so no help is coming. Most of the heroes from the Annihilation War are consumed by the Phalanx and things can’t seem to get any worse.
Then we meet the architect of the attack, and the new intelligence driving the Phalanx: Ultron. And the universe crapped its collective pants.
Apocalypse: Now Half Off! (Age of Apocalypse: Omega)
The story driving the Age of Apocalypse event is the war between Apocalypse and his forces and Magneto and his X-Men. In the finale there are battles going on left and right while nukes are coming in from Europe. In the chaos, the real battle is fought as Magneto does his best to withstand the onslaught that is Apocalypse. Magneto doesn’t appear to be doing that great, until he reveals that he’s been focusing his energy for one attack AND RIPS APOCALYPSE IN HALF LIKE A PHONE BOOK. Our man Magneto was doing this something like 20 years before the Sentry. The Age of Apocalypse is such a ballsy, intense story and while the last issue is easily the weakest one (and is very rushed), it’s totally worth it for this one scene.
Angel: Grounded (X-Factor #10)
From one of the early X-Men crossovers, “Mutant Massacre”, this one was a big deal when it happened and an even bigger deal from the fallout. The Marauders, a group of homicidal mutants, enter the sewers of New York and begin the wholesale slaughter of the Morlocks, a group of mutants that have found sanctuary living together under the city (they are the types of mutants that can’t blend in with regular people due to obvious mutations). The X-Men and X-Factor both enter the sewers to stop the slaughter, but it doesn’t go well. Over in X-Men Shadowcat, Nightcrawler and Colossus are all seriously injured, but it’s what happens over in X-Factor that is important here. Angel, one of the original X-Men, is attacked by numerous Marauders while saving Artie, a mute mutant child that is under X-Factor’s protection. Angel is mauled by the more powerful mutants, and his wings are broken and pinned to the wall. The damage to his wings was so severe that doctors were forced to amputate them to save his life, which led to him suffering an emotional break and attempting suicide. He would be found by Apocalypse and transformed into Archangel, aka the Horseman Death, and he would never be the same.
Thor vs the Hulk and the Thing (Fear Itself #5)
The Serpent, the God of fear and Odin’s older brother, is awakened by the Red Skull. At his awakening a number of hammers fall to Earth, each transforming those that touch them into avatars of the Serpent. The more fear they instill, the stronger he becomes. Thor, determined to stop the worldwide madness before Odin enacts his plan to eradicate all life on Midgard (Earth) to destroy the Serpent’s fuel source, faces down the Serpent’s two strongest fighters: a possessed Thing and Hulk! Each much stronger than they normally are, the God of Thunder is in for it. When the dust settles you are reminded how incredibly powerful and badass Thor is.
Captain America Lifts Mjolnir to Rally the Avengers (Fear Itself #7)
Things are really shitty. Thor is down, Tony Stark is MIA, America has all but fallen, enemy forces swarm everywhere and the Serpent’s victory seems assured. All seems lost. Then, with a bolt of lightning and a shouted rallying cry, the fight begins anew. Captain America, one of the only mortals ever to do so, lifts Thor’s enchanted hammer, Mjolnir, and shows (yet again) that he’s the best of us.hat when the chips are down and there doesn’t seem to be a reason to keep fighting, Captain America is at his best.
Thor Stands for All (Infinity #4)
The Builders, an ancient race, have begun conquering and destroying empires around the universe. A team of Avengers, led by Captain America (who else?), have joined with the remaining forces of the Shi’ar, the Skrull empire, and the Kree. to fight what seems like an impossible battle against the superior forces and technology of the Builders. Captain America sends Thor to negotiate a truce with the Builders at the newly conquered Kree throneworld, Hala. Thor throws Mjolnir into orbit to show submission, as he does not have any other weapons. The Builder sent to speak to Thor makes sure the surrender can be viewed across the galaxy. He begins to taunt Thor about the recent successes the Avengers have been able to eke out: “Your victory is hollow. Others live, but your kind will die with you. And how dare you think it could have ended any other way? Humanity should have the good sense to know their story is over. Manking should know they are done.” We see Mjolnir, having gone through orbit, streaking towards the surface. Thor, with a slight smirk: “And what if I am not just a man?” Suddenly Mjolnir, going like Mach a billion, plows through the Builder’s torso and into the Thunderer’s waiting hands. What was supposed to be the moment the universe knew the fight was pointless becomes a rallying point and the tides begin to turn.
All Seems Lost… Enter: Captain America! (Spectacular Spider-Man #202)
Remember what I said before about Cap being at his best when all seems lost? Maybe the best example of this in a single moment is from the latter half of ‘Maximum Carnage’, a storyline that ran through the Spider-Man titles in 1993 (sweet lord that was 25 years ago. I’m so fucking OLD!). Carnage has teamed up with Shriek, Carrion, the Demogoblin, and the Spider-Man doppleganger from the Infinity Wars (the so-so sequel to the excellent Infinity Gauntlet). The combination of freaks has gone on a killing spree in New York the likes of which has never been seen before. The combined forces of Spider-Man, Cloak, Venom, the Black Cat, Morbius and Firestar are not enough to stop them and have been handed yet another loss. There doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of this tunnel, and Spider-Man, who has been running himself beyond ragged for days trying to stop this, is at his wit’s end. He is desperately trying to find a spark; something to give him the will to keep going, but is coming up empty. It’s then that a familiar hand reaches out to him, and with a simple “How about a hand, son? You look like you could use it.” everything seems like it might somehow be all right. At least now there’s a chance; Captain America is here.
Cyclops Vs Wolverine (X-Men: Schism #5)
Wolverine and Cyclops have never been the best of friends. They are two very different people, and Wolverine being a douche and always trying to steal Cyclops’ wife didn’t help things. Despite this, they had found a common ground and there was a respect shared that at times bordered on genuine friendship. But when the new Hellfire Club attacks, Cyclops’ methodology clashes with Wolverine’s and all that respect and friendship is out the fucking window. When these two finally throw down they do it DIRTY. While they are trying to murder the crap out of each other a giant Sentinel is making its way towards them. It’s actually a pretty good metaphor: these two are busy trying to kill each other over semantics while the real threat is closing in. After everything is settled Wolverine and those who feel Xavier had it right the first time go back to New York to open the Jean Grey School (an asshole to the end, that Wolverine) while Cyclops remains on Utopia with those that feel that a school is nice and all, but they are up to their necks fighting extinction and don’t have time to play teacher. The real appeal here, besides the bummer of seeing the X-Men break up like this, is the actual fight between the two. They are legit trying to murder each other, and it really feels like nothing will (or even CAN) be the same again.