With Marvel Comics knee-deep in Avengers vs. X-Men, which promises to tie up decades of storytelling, Digital Spy looks back at some of the most momentous plots in the publisher's history.
The Dark Phoenix Saga (1980)
While relatively self-contained (especially by modern standards), Chris Claremont's 'Dark Phoenix Saga' remains a fan favourite and the best-known episode in the writer's 17-year run on X-Men. Introducing a host of characters and concepts, including The Hellfire club and its Inner Circle, and the Phoenix Force itself, and culminating in the heroic sacrifice of founding X-Man Jean Grey, this has been imitated and expanded on repeatedly for over three decades.
Secret Wars (1984)
The first company-wide comics crossover of its kind (pre-dating DC Comics' Crisis on Infinite Earths by a year), this arguably marks the birth of major comics events. When the vastly powerful Beyonder kidnaps a group of Marvel's most popular heroes and villains to fight on 'Battleworld' for his entertainment, the stage was set for what was then a series of unlikely team-ups and showdowns. Jim Shooter's 12-issue series is still remembered fondly almost 30 years later.
Infinity Gauntlet (1991)
Notable for its massive scope, Infinity Gauntlet saw the titan Thanos forge the Infinity Gems into the titular device that gave him absolute control of reality. What does one do when gifted with ultimate
Age of Apocalypse (1995)
This quintessentially '90s X-Men crossover plunged the mutants into a parallel universe where Professor X had died young and the immortal Apocalypse had built a dark world on the ashes of his dream. It culminated in the brutal deaths of all your favourite characters, but that hasn't stopped it from somehow returning for a new ongoing series. This was an opportunity for imaginations to run wild in a setting where anything went, and that they certainly did.
House of M (2005)
Arguably laying the groundwork for all the major events in the Marvel U that followed, an insane Scarlet Witch finished off killing her Avengers teammates (in Avengers: Disassembled) and turned her attention on reality itself. Following a sojourn in a restructured timeline where her father Magneto ruled, the troubled Wanda Maximoff uttered the fatal words, "No more mutants," and decimated the homo superior race.
Keith Giffen's explosive space opera paved the way for Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning to stake out their place as kings of Marvel's cosmic corner and spawned a series which linked energetic events including Annihilation: Conquest and War of Kings. Surprise fan favourites were made of B-list heroes Nova and Star-Lord as they faced off against Annihilus, Thanos and a wave of destruction that threatened to consume two universes.
Civil War (2006)
Marking the beginning of Marvel's regular summer event cycle, Mark Millar contrived to turn a world of heroes against each other with the introduction of the Superhuman Registration Act, with the pro-registration forces of Iron Man hunting down Captain America and the anti-registration characters. This was a new level in scope, drawing in almost every ongoing title, spawning
Secret Invasion (2008)
The paranoid episode of the Marvel Universe - when anyone around you might be a shapeshifting alien skrull, who do you trust? While not actually as confusing as you might expect, Brian Michael Bendis's event threw up a few surprise replacements and paved the way for the return of several 'dead' characters and the ascension of Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin to his friends) who would preside maniacally over the world under the 'Dark Reign' story banner.
Bringing to an end the dark age of heroics which Civil War had ushered in four years previous and the end of Osborn's supremacy, this relatively short event reunited the founding Avengers - including a newly resurrected Captain America - to rescue Thor's embattled home of Asgard. The Superhuman Registration Act was summarily repealed, launching into 'The Heroic Age', where the superheroes could find new and inventive ways to suffer instead.
Avengers vs. X-Men (2012)
Marvel's current event storyline brings together the publisher's top creators for a tale that draws in threads from events from across the decades, from 'Dark Phoenix' to House of M. Building on years of slow build-up through the X-Men line, the Phoenix is returning to Earth, the Scarlet Witch is back on the playing board and the two teams battle it over the fate of the Mutant Messiah Hope. But what secret destiny awaits her? It looks like we will finally know in short order.
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Top ten Marvel events - photo gallery:
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