THE TOP TEN MARVEL COMICS STORYLINES AND EVENTS
by Jeremy Mullin
We’ve looked at the Top Ten storylines and events of DC Comics. Now let’s take a look at the Top Ten of Marvel Comics, who have also released some major events that have done their part to draw readers’ attention and change the way comics are done.
10) Avengers vs X-Men (2012): Nova Corps member Sam Alexander had crashed to Earth with a warning: the Phoenix Force had returned and was destroying everything in its path. And Earth was the next target! Realizing that it was coming for Hope Summers, the first mutant child born following the events of House of M, the Avengers wanted to take the girl into protective custody. But the X-Men saw Hope as the mutant messiah, and refused to hand her over. It soon became all-out war between the two teams, the Avengers determined to protect the Earth and the X-Men to protect the last hope of their species. The battle would escalate all over the planet, but soon the two groups would have to join forces to stop the “Phoenix Five”, five X-Men members sharing the power of the Phoenix, before they changed the world to their liking… and before history repeated itself and Phoenix’s power became corrupted again.
It wasn’t the first time Marvel’s two major teams faced off against one another, having done so before in the X-Men vs Avengers mini-series where they fought over Magneto facing justice for his crimes. This new event, however, was done on a larger scale, involving the entirety of the rosters of the Avengers and the X-Men, as well as having a numbers of tie-in issues and mini-series. With a number of Marvel’s top creators behind it (including Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction), AvX would end up leading to a major change in the status quo of the Marvel Universe as shown in Marvel NOW!
9) Acts of Vengeance (1989-1990): A disguised Loki assembled and approached a group of some of Earth’s major super villains – including the Red Skull, Magneto, Dr. Doom, the Kingpin, the Mandarin and the Wizard – with a plan to destroy the Avengers. The plan: force the heroes to fight lesser villains (broken out of the super villain prison the Vault) that they had never fought before, using unfamiliarity to their advantage. Infighting, of course, would cause the plan to fall apart. Also during this event, Loki would fuses three robotic Sentinels into the powerful Tri-Sentinel, who would face off against Spider-Man possessing the cosmic power of Captain Universe.
This was the first major crossover event for the Avengers since the Kree-Skrull War, done so after Marvel having three consecutive events for the X-Men and other mutant-related titles. The story ran through all the Avengers-related titles (including Avengers, West Coast Avengers, Avengers Spotlight, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Quasar) and Fantastic Four, with tie-in issues featured in Spider-Man’s various titles and Uncanny X-Men and an epilogue running in Cloak and Dagger, Web of Spider-Man, and an Avengers annual. It also presented a unique concept in the heroes of the Marvel Universe fighting villains who were outside their normal “rogues galleries”, making the various fights that much more difficult.
8) Marvel Zombies (2005-2006): In an alternate Earth, a zombie virus was brought to the planet by an infected Sentry and quickly spreading amongst the heroes and villains. The zombies not only retained their powers, but also their minds and personalities, meaning they knew what they were doing and that it was wrong, but were consumed by their hunger for human flesh. After quickly going through the population of their planet, they made an attempt to invade the Ultimate Universe, but things would take a drastic turn with the arrival of the Silver Surfer and his master, the world-devourer Galactus!
The “Marvel Zombie-verse” made its debut in the pages of Ultimate Fantastic Four during the “Crossover” storyline, cleverly disguised as a potential meeting between the Ultimate and mainstream Marvel universes. However, it would take on a life of its own thanks to the writing of Robert Kirkman (a man who knows both superheroes and zombies) the covers by Arthur Suydam, all of them “zombie-fied” parodies of famous Marvel covers past and present! The mini-series would have numerous sequels and a prequel-crossover with Army of Darkness, with the true source and nature of the infection revealed and Ash Williams trying to find a possible connection to the Necronomicon.
7) World War Hulk (2007): After being shot into space by the Illuminati and landing on the planet Sakarr, the Hulk had found peace after defeating its villainous ruler, the Red King. But when the ship he arrived in exploded, killing his pregnant wife Caiera, the Hulk returns to Earth with his allies, the Warbound, in tow to take revenge. The ensuing battle would involve all of Earth’s heroes, still reeling from the events of Civil War, against the rage-fueled Hulk, undoubtedly one of the most powerful beings on the planet, and turn New York City into a ravaged wasteland.
The Hulk had always bordered on the edge of hero and villain in his various incarnations, but for the most part, he was given the benefit of the doubt. WWH (and its various tie-ins) forced the heroes of the Marvel Universe to face a Hulk who was not only at what may have been his angriest, but now had the brains and skill of a seasoned warrior thanks to the events of the previous Planet Hulk. In other words, a legitimate threat they had to deal with. The end of the story would lead to another change in the story of the Hulk, bringing about the debut of the mysterious and powerful Red Hulk who would shake up the Marvel Universe.
6) X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga (The X-Men #129-138, 1980): An encounter with solar radiation had apparently transformed Jean Grey into Phoenix, her psychic abilities boosted to seemingly infinite cosmic levels. It was power that longtime X-Men foe Mastermind would try to take control of so he could join the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club. Using his illusions, he tried to alter Jean’s view of reality, but ended up breaking her self-control and turning her into the villainous “Dark Phoenix”, who would destroy an entire star system and billions of lives. Though Jean was seemingly brought back under control, the alien Shi’ar Empire would force the heroes to fight the Shi’ar’s elite Imperial Guard for the life of their friend. In the end, it was Jean, about to once again lose control, who would end things by taking her own life before a devastated Cyclops. It would later be revealed that the “Phoenix Force” was really a powerful entity that had taken the place of Jean, who turned out to be still alive and would rejoin her old friends, first as a founding member of X-Factor and later going back to the X-Men.
The Dark Phoenix Saga, written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by John Byrne, was a major early event for the X-Men, and Marvel Comics in general. Not only were the mutant heroes forced to fight one of their own, but it possibly the first time a major and beloved character (and one of the first of the “modern” Marvel Universe) had died. Granted the “death” didn’t last long (and it wasn’t even really Jean), but it was still a major turning point in Marvel Comics.
5) Ultimate Spider-Man: The Death of Spider-Man (Ultimate Spider-Man #156-160): In the more reality-grounded Ultimate Marvel Universe, anything could happen. And anyone could die. Norman Osborn, thought to be dead and powerless, turns into the Green Goblin and breaks himself and several other of Spider-Man’s foes – Doctor Octopus, Electro, Sandman, Kraven the Hunter and Vulture – out of SHIELD custody to begin a new plan of revenge. Though wounded as a result of getting in between the battle between the New Ultimates and the Avengers, Spider-Man has no choice but to rush home to protect his friends and family and fight a battle against several foes, one that reveals his identity. It all boils down to a final battle between Spider-Man and Osborn, one that Peter has no choice but to give his life for to make sure the insane Osborn won’t hurt anyone again. Peter is given a hero’s funeral, courtesy of Tony Stark, while new character Miles Morales would use his own spider-powers to take up the identity of Spider-Man and pick up where Peter left off.
As mentioned, anything could happen in the Ultimate Universe. And when Marvel announced that the Ultimate version of Spider-Man would die, it was still a shocker to readers. While similar in nature to DC’s earlier “Death of Superman” storyline, the story had it own merits and impact, particularly in that, unlike Superman, Ultimate Spider-Man would stay dead, while another would permanently take his place. The event would lead to a reboot and relaunch of the Ultimate titles, featuring a change in the status quo of that universe.
4) House of M (2005): Following the events of “Avengers Disassembled”, the Scarlet Witch had become mentally unbalanced, and soon her reality-altering powers ended changing the world so that mutants were the dominant species and her father, Magneto, ruled. It also caused other heroes to have their desires brought to life: Wolverine had his memories back, Captain America wasn’t frozen during World War II, Spider-Man was a celebrated figure and married to an alive Gwen Stacy, among other things. But humans were treated as a lesser species, and it wasn’t long before some of the Marvel heroes realized that the world had been altered and had to fix it. It later revealed that it was Quicksilver, not Magneto, who caused the Scarlet Witch to alter reality, and she would end it all by not only restoring reality, but also decimating the mutant population, stripping all but a small handful of their powers.
While there had been reality-altering events before in the Marvel Universe, they usually had been done on a small scale, like “Age of Apocalypse” in the X-Men titles. House of M, on the other hand, was an event that spanned the entire Marvel Universe, made up of its main mini-series and various tie-in issues. It also led to the status change in the Marvel Universe with the decrease of the mutant population, leading to several major events in the pages of the X-Men titles. On the bright side, it also allowed for the return of Hawkeye, a popular Avengers character who had been killed off during “Avengers Disassembled”.
3) Avengers: The Kree-Skrull War (Avengers #89-97, 1971-1972): The return of the Kree hero Captain Marvel from the Negative Zone triggered a series of events that led to the Avengers and Earth getting caught up in the longtime war between the Kree and their enemies, the shape-shifting Skrulls. Several attacks and the revelation of Captain Marvel’s true nature would cause a wave of anti-alien sentiment, headed by Senator H. Warren Craddock (later revealed to a Skrull agent) and the “Alien Activities Commission”, as well as turn the public against the Avengers, who have no choice but to disband. But the team would soon reform to take the fight to the Kree and the Skrulls, with longtime Avengers ally Rick Jones unlocking hidden powers during an encounter with the Supreme Intelligence, the bio-computer who ruled the Kree. Both empires were forced away from Earth, though the Skrulls would begin their Secret Invasion to try and take Earth for their own.
“The Kree-Skrull War” storyline is considered a major event in the publishing history of the Avengers comics, noted for the scope of interstellar warfare used in the story. It was also the start of the romance between the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, which would become a theme for both the characters and the Avengers for years. It would also later be revealed to be the reason for the formation of the Illuminati, a group consisting of Iron Man, Reed Richards, Charles Xavier, Namor, Black Bolt and Dr. Strange who would secretly use their combined talents to work behind the scenes in the Marvel Universe.
2) Secret Wars (1984-1985): Observing the Earth, a cosmic being known as the Beyonder brought a number of heroes (including the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and the X-Men) and villains (including Magneto, Dr. Doom, Dr. Octopus, Kang the Conqueror, Ultron and the Wrecking Crew) to the artificially-created planet known as “Battleworld”. Wanting to learn about good and evil, the Beyonder has them all fight each other until one remains, with the winner being granted their greatest wish. A number of skirmishes begin, resulting in a number of events (including Spider-Man getting the alien black costume that would later lead to the birth of Venom, She-Hulk replacing the Thing on the Fantastic Four, and Dr. Doom stealing the Beyonder’s power, among others) before the assembled heroes and villains manage to make their way home. The Beyonder would later come to Earth during the following Secret Wars II, taking on human form and interacting with various heroes and villains before going mad with power and seemingly ending his life.
Secret Wars wasn’t the first of its kind (Contest of Champions came before it), but it was a mini-series event that had such a major impact on the Marvel Universe for years to come. In addition to the previously mentioned events, it also featured the debut of the second Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter, now Arcahne) and the revelation that the Thing’s girlfriend, Alicia Masters, was replaced by a Skrull agent named Lyja and would marry the Human Torch before being exposed. Not only that, but it was also tied in with a popular toy line from Mattel. As such, Secret Wars could may be considered the first major Marvel Comics event, but not as major as…
1) Civil War (2006-2007): Battles between costumed heroes and villains had always resulted in major damage, as well as injury and death to civilians. But when a battle involving the New Warriors results in the destruction of the town of Stanford (while taping their reality show), the public finally had enough, and the government passed the Superhuman Registration Act. Under the new law, any and all super-humans would have to register with the government to receiving training and act as superheroes, whether they wanted to or not. This led to a divide between the heroes, with Captain America, seeing the SRA as a violation of civil freedoms, leading those who were against registration and Iron Man leading those who were for it. A number of battles would follow, resulting in the death of Bill Foster, aka Goliath, and making many on both sides question whether they were doing the right thing, especially Spider-Man, who revealed his identity in support of the SRA. It all accumulated in a final battle that would force Captain America to realize how far things were going and surrender, leading to a number of major changes and events to the Marvel Universe.
Civil War was a crossover event unlike any other, one that spanned the entire Marvel Universe with various tie-in books. It was also one that maybe had the most impact on the Marvel Universe, with the repercussions of the war being felt all around. Spider-Man was forced underground and would literally make a deal with the Devil to save his Aunt May, Captain America would be assassinated on his way to trial, Tony Stark would become the new head of SHIELD, and the Avengers would be divided into two groups. Other events such as “Secret Invasion”, “Dark Reign” and “Siege” would follow before the SRA would be repealed and the “Heroic Age” would begin, making Civil War possibly the most major event in the Marvel Universe.