2022 is shaping up to be a big year for exciting Marvel events. Chip Zdarsky is leading the Devil’s Reign event that shifted the paradigm in a big way for Daredevil, Kingpin, and Elektra beginning last year. It will end with an “Omega” issue in May. Dan Slott’s and Carlos Pacheco’s Fantastic Four: Reckoning War just started at the beginning of February, harvesting seeds Slott’s been planting since he first started writing for Marvel. Jonathan Hickman’s revitalization of the X-Men titles is continuing with X Lives of Wolverine and X Deaths of Wolverine, both leading into Destiny of X. Then this summer, Marvel’s biggest crossover event, Judgment Day, will see the Avengers, X-Men, and Eternals battling it out.
If you’re not well-versed in how the Marvel and DC operate, these big crossover events are like pay-per-views in WWE: they save the biggest, most dramatic stories for these events. Alliances shift, heroes and villains die, the landscape of the universe changes in these huge events. They’ve been happening for decades, pulling in new fans and introducing existing fans to characters they didn’t know very well. Want in on the fun? Here are some of the most exciting Marvel events in their storied history.
Disclaimer: This list is SEVERELY lacking in women. Only four of these have women involved, and I had to drill down to the editor or colorist level to find them. Despite the progress it seems like comics are making, DC and Marvel still don’t seem to trust women with their biggest events, which is shameful.
Absolute Carnage by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman
Carnage is definitely one of Spider-Man’s most brutal villains. A serial killer with a symbiote will do that. When he’s resurrected by a cult and bonded to a primordial symbiote, he sets out on a warpath to become basically a symbiote god. To get there, he has to kill everyone who ever bonded with a symbiote. Filled with horrifying Carnage doppelgängers and turning enemies into uneasy allies, this story reinvented the symbiote mythology in an action-packed adventure.
Avengers Disassembled by Brian Michael Bendis, Robert Kirkman, Paul Jenkins, John Jackson Miller, Mike Oeming, Christopher Priest, Mark Ricketts, Mark Waid, Joe Bennett, Jim Cheung, Olivier Coipel, Anil Prasad, Scot Eaton, Steve Epting, David Finch, Gary Frank, etc.
A zombie Jack of Hearts explodes in Avengers Mansion, killing Scott Lang. Thor dies during Ragnarok. Iron Man is back on a bender. One by one, the pieces that make up the world’s greatest heroes start to fall in one way or another. Loved and hated in equal measure, Avengers Disassembled changed the state of The Avengers in a big way, breaking rosters and launching a new Thunderbolts and the Young Avengers.
Avengers vs. X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, John Romita Jr., Olivier Coipel, and Adam Kubert
The Phoenix Force is returning to Earth, and Hope Summers has the power to contain it, representing a savior for mutantkind. The Avengers, on the other hand, worry that Hope is a threat to all of humanity, especially if she possesses such limitless power. Thus begins a bombastic story that pits the Avengers against the X-Men, including some really genius interpretations of the Phoenix Force and a true villainous turn by one of Marvel’s oldest heroes.
Civil War by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
The story so good that they adapted it into one of the MCU’s greatest films, Civil War begins with a horrific accident: a powered individual destroying a school full of children. America takes notice, demanding that all with powers register with the government for oversight. Captain America and Iron Man split, coming to blows over the new legislation. But they weren’t the only ones. The Fantastic Four, X-Men, and every corner of Marvel split down the middle, changing the Marvel Universe in dramatic fashion.
Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
After an adventure in space, Jean Grey returns to Earth with her powers amped up. She has become the host for the immense Phoenix Force. Soon, the cosmic entity overrides Jean’s own personality, escalating to galactic genocide and a battle for the fate of the solar system. Sweeping in scope and still deeply human, it stands as one of the greatest of all X-Men stories.
House of M by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel
Set in an alternate version of Earth-616, Magneto uncovered a government conspiracy against mutants back in the ’70s, setting up a chain of events that makes mutants the dominant species. Non-mutants with powers like Spider-Man are illegal, but nothing in this world is as it seems, but rather a product of Scarlet Witch’s delusions mixing with her reality-warping powers. It ended with the best three words ever spoken in Marvel Comics: “No more mutants.”
Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin and George Perez
The story that inspired the biggest event in the history of cinema happened in the early ’90s. Thanos, the Mad Titan, battles most of the known universe to get his hands on the Infinity Gems and create the Infinity Gauntlet, granting him godhood. And to think, it was all over the love of a woman who is about as emotionally unavailable as they come: Death.
Secret Invasion by Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Francis Yu
Brian Michael Bendis shows up on this list a lot and for good reason. He was one of the biggest creative forces in Marvel during his tenure there, and this was something he set up with little hints for years before it came to fruition. The Skrulls, shapeshifting aliens, have invaded Earth. In fact, they’ve been slowly and secretly invading for years, replacing some of Marvel’s greatest heroes. Now is the time to spring the trap, and no one can be trusted.
Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic
Not to be confused with the original Secret Wars from the mid ’80s (which was pretty cool, too), this crossover marked the end of the Ultimate Marvel universe as well as bringing in several other popular alternate Marvel universes. The Beyonders, mostly for their own entertainment, have decided to make the various universes fight for their existences. Ultimate, 616, Age of Apocalypse, 1602, and others all collide in Battleworld in this epic brawl that brought many popular characters into the main 616 universe permanently.
Spider-Verse by Dan Slott and Olivier Coipel
You might notice a pattern here. Several of the best, most exciting Marvel events have been adapted to film, like this one. If you thought the animated Into the Spider-Verse movie was bananas, this story featured almost 20 Spider-people slinging webs across its pages. In this case, a villain named Morlun is intent on destroying all of them, and only together across space and time can they defeat him.
War of the Realms by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman
Leave it to Jason Aaron to bring a Ragnarok-level threat to Marvel’s Earth. After imprisoning Thor in Jotenheim, Malekith the Accursed (who is way scarier and cooler than the MCU version) opens his Dark Bifrost Bridge to Midgard. Earth. Now he and his allied evil forces are pitted against The Avengers, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and everyone else. If Midgard falls, then Malekith will rule all ten realms. No biggie, right?
X-Cutioner’s Song by Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Peter David, Brandon Peterson, Andy Kubert, Jae Lee, and Greg Capullo
Oh, the early ’90s, when comics sold by the millions, filling our longboxes with cool stories that are now worth less than cover price. Still, exciting Marvel events like X-Cutioner’s Song were amazing. While Professor Xavier is giving a speech, Stryfe (disguised as Cable) shoots Xavier, infecting him with a techno-organic virus. Full of twists, turns, and double-crosses, this story embodies ’90s mutant mayhem with time travel, cloning, the indecipherable Summers family tree, and a whole lot of fun.
Of course, there are many more exciting Marvel events than this. What are some of your favorites? Which of this year’s big events are you looking forward to?