Well True Believers, I’m back, and I’m... well, fairly the same I guess. Not better than ever or worse, just average.
Anyway, last time, we examined a HOST of important events in Marvel Comics, each one a building block in the ever growing universe that we all know and love. Marvel had done a great job of perfecting the cross-over event format, leading to their most ambitious project yet, Secret Wars. With Marvel’s new toy deal with Mattel, they needed an event to market the new toy line for kids. This required a storyline that would feature as many heroes and villains as possible in some kind of massive conflict. Thus, the Secret Wars were created, starting a string of massive cross-over events that forever changed the shape of Marvel comics forever.
Marvel Events Part IV: Secret Wars and Beyond
Returning to the Marvel U, and examining the BOOM of crossover event comics.
Well True Believers, I’m back, and I’m... well, fairly the same I guess. Not better than ever or worse, just average.
When Gods want to play...
Written by Jim Shooter, Secret Wars begins with a mysterious cosmic entity known as The Beyonder observing Earth. Fascinated by the superheroes and villains inhabiting the planet, he goes to Earth and kidnaps a large group of the curious beings, teleporting them to a realm known as Battleworld. Once there, he forces them into a massive war, heroes on one side, villains on the other. The heroes included the Fantastic Four (minus Sue Storm you sexist bastards!), the Avengers, the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Spider-Woman. The heroes of course elected to work together, all except the X-Men who kept themselves largely separate (a common theme for the mutant team). The villains included Aborbing Man, Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, the Enchantress, Kang the Conqueror, Klaw, the Enchantress, the Wrecking Crew, new villains Titania and Volcana, the Lizard, Ultron, and Molecule Man. Magneto arrives as a hero, having recently allied with the X-Men, but soon becomes a neutral party due to the Avengers questioning his presence. Galactus was also pulled in as one of the villains, but he becomes non-aligned himself soon after arrival.
Over the course of the event, several major developments occur. Colossus breaks up with Kitty Pryde (idiot), Spider-Man first dons the black suit (not realizing what it was at the time), Magneto falls in love (awe), and when the Thing decides to stay on Battlworld after the war, She-Hulk takes his place on the Fantastic Four. Eventually, the villains are defeated along with the Beyonder. Both sides return home for the most part, but their lives, and along with the Marvel Universe, would never be the same again.
Secret Wars was a landmark event, the biggest Marvel had ever produced at the time. Its popularity grew to the point where a somewhat modified version of the event was adapted for the Spider-Man animated show in the early 90s (got cancelled to early too... stupid Fox). However, it was only just the beginning of such events, the Beyond returning not long after for...
Secret Wars II
The Beyonder Returns!
In the fallout of the first Secret Wars, the Beyonder travels to Earth to try and understand the meaning of human life (this guy seriously needs a hobby that DOESN’T involve human beings). His presence and actions begin to seriously endanger the planet, forcing the Earth’s heroes to try and deal with him. However, he was too powerful, defeating the heroes every time they tried to send him away, and slowly began taking over the world.
Eventually, this attracts the attention of Mephisto, who sends an army of 99 villains named the Legion Accursed to fight the Beyonder. He also sends the Thing, enhancing Ben’s strength to be able to fight the Beyonder. This backfires however, as the villains attack the two before Ben could defeat Beyonder, and together they turn back the Legion. The Beyonder, realizes that his presence and actions are beginning to tear the world apart, and turns himself into a human to prevent this from happened. However, this gives Mephisto the the opportunity to kill him, and Beyonder was not seen again for some time until he returned under the name Kosmos.
Secret Wars II wasn’t as big a hit or as far reaching as Secret Wars, the story going off in tangents with no real consequences to the Beyonder’s actions. There were plans for a sequel, but given the luke warm reception, Marvel decided to move on to other things. However, Secret Wars would return with this year’s massive event, but we’ll save that for later.
Normal>Secret Wars was a landmark event, the biggest Marvel had ever produced at the time. Its popularity grew to the point where a somewhat modified version of the event was adapted for the Spider-Man animated show in the early 90s (got cancelled to early too... stupid Fox). However, it was only just the beginning of such events, the Beyond returning not long after for...
The Mutant Massacre
The X-Men Dismantled!
The X-Men under Chris Claremont had become megastars for Marvel. The once nearly forgotten team was now at the forefront of the industry, eventually spawning two spin-off series, X-Factor, which featured the original five X-Men working for the government in secret to help the mutant cause, and New Mutants, following the next generation of mutant heroes under the tutelage of the reformed Magneto. The original title, Uncanny X-Men, was still going strong, the adult team leading the fight for mutant equality with Storm now leading the team.
The story begins in the sewers of New York City, where a small mutant community known as the Morlocks make their homes. The Morlocks, whose physical deformities prevented them from living on the surface with humans, dwelled in relative peace, ignoring the surface world as long as they too were ignored. That was until the Marauders, a group of mutant mercenaries, attacked them unprovoked, slaughtering the near defenceless mutants in droves.
The X-Men and X-Factor, the latter under their alternate identities as the mutant terrorist group the X-Terminators (try to keep up with the team names), both investigate, unaware of each other’s presence. The two teams are thrown into a series of violent encounters with the Marauders, but the powerful villains were too much for them, leaving both teams in shambles by the end of the battles. Colossus becomes trapped inside his metal form, while Kitty Pryde is slowly losing her ability to unfaze herself, becoming ghost like and fading away. Most harrowing of all, Angel was pinned to a wall by Harpoon, the evil mutant’s spears crippling Angel’s wings beyond repair. Both teams collect their wounded and return home, battered and broken by their first defeat in years.
The Mutant Massacre was an instant hit, leading Marvel to publish at least one X-Book crossover almost every year, a tradition that continues to this day. More importantly however, the Massacre changed the X-Men irrevocably, setting them up for an even bigger and most destructive event the next year known as...
Fall of the Mutants
Coming on the heels of Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants followed the three X-Men teams in their own, isolated stories, following up on the horrendous events of the Massacre.
The X-Men’s story focuses on their conflict with the government funded Freedom Force, who wanted to arrest the X-Men for not complying with the newly passed Mutant Registration Act. In the middle of the conflict, time and space begin to fluctuate horribly and bring creatures and horrors from all corners of time space into the present. The X-Men and Freedom Force put aside their differences and work together to stop it. Eventually this leads to a battle within Forge’s tower in Dallas. As they go inside, the X-Men discover that their enemy is a demon from Forge’s past. Forge reveals that it is a result of a spell where nine souls are needed to satisfy a deal he had made with it years before, and that is no other way to stop it. Knowing that Dallas, and likely the world, will be destroyed, the X-Men sacrifice themselves, allowing Forge to use their souls to finish the spell. The goddess Roma saves them however, and allows them to go into hiding for the time being.
Meanwhile in New York, X-Factor’s identities are revealed by Cameron Hodge, a childhood friend of Angel’s, who was secretly the head of the Right, an anti-mutant group. Before they can deal with Hodge, Apocalypse arrives in New York with his Horsemen, intent on destroying the city. Not only that, Apocalypse had kidnapped Angel, and offered to replace his wings with metal ones. Angel accepts, but its brainwashed and turns into Archangel, becoming the Horsemen Death. With some help from the Power Pack, X-Factor is able to break Archangel’s brainwashing, and stop Apocalypse’s ship from crashing into New York City, saving millions of lives and gaining small measure of admiration from the people.
The New Mutants meanwhile battle with Hodge’s group the Right. During the battle, Hodge goes to shoot Wolfsbane, but Cypher jumps in front of the shot, sacrificing his life to save her. The team returns to the X-Mansion, where Magneto becomes consumed with grief, blaming humanity for Cypher’s death. The New Mutants, realizing that Magneto will never let go of his hatred, leave the mansion to strike out on their own.
Fall of the Mutants was a strange event in that the stories never directly intersect with each other. Each group has its own self-contained adventure running across multiple issues, but the teams never truly encountered one another despite the stories happening simultaneously. In the end, Fall of the Mutants changed the landscape of the X-Books. X-Factor, their identities revealed, began to work in the public eye again under their original aliases. The X-Men moved to Australia to build a new base, Storm eventually regaining her powers. The New Mutants would become X-Terminators, while Magneto continued on as the headmaster of the Xavier School, though his rage at humans was slowly boiling to a breaking point. The story wasn’t finished yet, Fall of the Mutants setting the stage for an even bigger event not long after.
The Evolutionary War
This event, which featured the return of the villainous geneticist the High Evolutionary, was famous for being the first crossover to run exclusively in annuals during the summer of 1988. The story follows High Evolutionary quest to evolve humanity to a race of supreme beings... seriously, what is with these guys? Anyway, further his goal Evolutionary travels around the world, fighting almost every Marvel hero while being accompanied by his Purifiers, creating chaos wherever he went.
After a number of explosive battles with the various heroes and villains around the globe, Evolutionary created a bomb designed to alter humanity’s genetic code. The Avengers try to stop him, with all his modifications, he was too strong for them. Out of desperation, the Avengers use his technology to evolve Hercules until he can match Evolutionary’s strength. In the resulting battle, the two destroy each other, allowing the Avengers to stop the genetic bomb from detonating.
Involving nearly every hero and villain in Marvel, The Evolutionary War was one of the biggest crossovers of its time. It was so successful that the annual format was used the next year for the Atlantis Attacks storyline, but we’ll get to that.
Well, Limbo opens actually but let's not split hairs here. Following Fall of the Mutants, the mutant teams have been slowly recovering and getting back on track. The New Mutants, now known as the X-Terminators, have been running their own missions since leaving the X-Mansion, while the X-Men and X-Factor have been doing whatever super heroes do when they’re not on panel.
The X-Terminators were returning from a mission through Limbo, Magick able to pass through the dimension using her mutant powers, when they suddenly found themselves trapped. Unbeknownst to them but knownst to us, three demons, including N'astirh, from Limbo wanted to decide who gets to rule the dark realm, and concoct a plan to use Magick to get passage to Earth. Illyana unwittingly helps them, unleashing her full potential as the Darkchylde persona under the impression that it was the only way to get her teammates home. However, her efforts only lead the X-Terminators capture, after which the demons force Wiz Kid to construct a device to allow them to enter the mortal plane. Once the portal is open, they pour into Earth, forcing nearly every hero in existence to come to its defence.
Meanwhile, Madelyn Prior, Cyclop’s estranged wife, makes a deal with one of the demons, wishing to know the location of her son Nathan. In exchange, she helps cast a spell to possess the X-Men, sending them to kill the Marauders. The deal works nearly perfectly, the X-Men gleefully killing the mercenary team, all except for Colossus. His metal skin protected him from the spell, and once he realizes what is happening, he goes to find Magick, reasoning that if he saves her from Limbo, he can free his friends. Once the Marauders are dead, Madelyn gets her wish, and discovers that Nathan is being held by Mr Sinister. More than that however, she finds out that she was a clone of Jean Grey, created by Mr Sinister in his plot to get the Summers family’s genetic code with Nathan. The revelation breaks her mind, and drives her insane.
Limbo is eventually cut off from Earth through the combined efforts of Wiz Kid, Colossus and Magick. Wiz Kid destroys the computer he built for the demons, and soon thereafter Colossus finds Magick, horrified seeing her in her demon form. Her brother’s reaction forces Illyana to realize she had made a mistake, and sheds her demonic energies to close the portal, reverting to her seven year old self in the process.
All seemed won for a moment, but then Madelyne Pryor, needing vengeance on Mr. Sinister, is approached by N'astirh. The demon offers her the power to exact that revenge, and gives her Nathan to use as a sacrifice, driving her to becoming the Goblin Queen. The X-Men and X-Factor move to stop her, but her telepathic powers are now unmasked, and drives them back. She attempts to get Jean to help her, Jean refuses, aiding the X-Men and X-Factor in breaking through her defences, and stopping her before Nathan is killed. As Madelyn dies, she tries to take Jean with her, but the Phoenix Force saves Jean. Despite pulling away, Jean now possesses Madelyn’s memories, including everything she had learned about Sinister. Wanting revenge, she leads the X-Men to find him.
They return to the mansion to find Sinister waiting for them (Magneto leaving to help fight the invasion). He blows up the school, but the X-Men manage survive, and Cyclops blasts Sinister to cinders.
Inferno was a massive event spanning across nearly every title in Marvel, changing the status quo for much of the heroes and villains in the company. The X-Teams were shaken to their cores, and split up again, each team needing time to recover from the ordeal.
Or something like that...
Using the same format as The Evolutionary War, Atlantis Attacks took place over the summer of 1989 exclusively in Marvel’s annuals. The story follows Deviant leader Ghaur and Lemurian Princess Lyra’s attempt to revive the Serpent God Set and transform the world to their liking. You know, a typical Tuesday in New York City
The villains manipulate Attuma into sending his armies against the surface, leaving Atlantis vulnerable, while at the same time planning to transform the entire human population into serpent people (really weird people wandering around out there folks.) They also search for a bride for Set, kidnapping a number of super-heroines in the process. (WFT!?) None of the girls go for it though (big shock right?).
Their plan, though not a bad one, is thwarted at nearly every turn by the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and the assumed dead Namor. The heroes defeat them in the end, saving the world once again from crazy snake-worshiping people... welcome to 80s comics everyone!
The funniest thing about this whole event was the title, since Atlantis was barely involved in the whole story. It was also unique in that unlike the Evolutionary War, the story was written as a true serial, each issue leading into the next. It was an ambitious plan, but it paid off, the technique of using annuals or special editions of books to hold such events used time and time again by Marvel and the comic book world at large.
Acts of Vengeance
When the Villains have had enough
Let’s face it, superheroes are a pain in the ass for the greedy, tyrannical jerks of the world. Always disrupting plans for world domination, throwing bad guys in jail, beating up minions, superheroes never seem to want to step aside and let the evil people win. No other group in Marvel is more famous for doing this than the Avengers. They’ve stop conquerors from the future, alien invasions, gods, demons and everything in between. Needless to say, supervillains really, really HATE the Avengers.
Loki, Marvel’s resident trickster and generally shit disturber, having had enough of the Avengers always stopping his crazy schemes (like turning Thor into a frog... look it up, it’s an actual story), decides to do something about it. Using a disguise, he brings the biggest villains in Marvel together to finally deal with the do-gooders.
Phase one of the plan was to stage a breakout of the supervillain prison The Vault. Once the lesser villains were free, the lead villains send this new army of bad guys against the heroes, taking care to make sure they would only fight those heroes that had never faced them before. The heroes were thrown off balance, the Avengers and their various allies finding themselves under siege.
The plan worked for a while, but the nature of villains being what it is, the major players began to come into conflict with each other (Red Skull and Magneto especially. Seriously Loki, what were you thinking sticking THOSE two together?) Eventually, the heroes were able to track down Loki, and defeat the last of the supervillains with Magneto’s help, Magnus a mole for the X-Men the entire time. Loki flees to Asgard, leaving his compatriots to face the music by themselves.
In one final act of defiance, Loki fuses three Sentinels together, creating the Tri-Sentinel and unleashing it on New York City. However, the massive machine is stopped by Spider-Man, who at the time possessed the powers of Captain Universe (don’t ask). Loki disappears after that, but the heroes never forgot how close they came to being taken out.
Days of Future Present
Back to the... I don't know, Future? Past? Present? Time travel is weird.
In 1981, Chris Claremont wrote maybe the most famous story in X-Men history outside of the Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past. Days of Future Present was the sequel to that classic story, bringing an adult Franklin Richards from that timeline to the present.
Franklin, who had supposedly been killed in a Sentinel attack, arrives in the present day, not realizing why he was there. Upon seeing certain things that don’t match his timeline, he begins erasing people and places, trying to “fix” the world as he saw it. Pursued by the mutant hunter Ahab and his Hounds (telepathic slaves), he winds up in a series of battles alongside his present day self and the various X-Teams. However, when he remembers the events of his death, he lashes out, destroying the Hounds. Horrified at the strength of his power, younger Franklin works with older Franklin (confused yet?) to shield younger Franklin from his powers, putting him into a coma.
After this, Franklin meets his former lover Rachel Summers, and after an encounter with the X-Men, they try to rekindle their relationship. This leads to the first ever meeting between Rachel and her alternate timeline parents, Cyclops and Jean Grey. Shocked, they refuse to believe that she exists in Days of Future Past timeline instead of Nathan Summers, and they reject her, forcing her to flee. Ahab meanwhile returns, tracking down Franklin, leading to another battle with the various X-Teams. They defeat the hunter, but Franklin arrives afterwards, finding the baby Nathan, who doesn’t exist in his timeline. He makes the child vanish, much to everyone’s horror.
Storm arrives then with the mysterious Gambit, and realizes that the future Franklin is one of his dream selves, sent back at the moment of his death. Thus, Franklin could not accept anything that wasn’t true in his timeline, and had to eliminate the discrepancies. In addition to that, dream Franklin had been unknowingly draining the life force of his younger self and Rachel, killing them slowly. Dream Franklin decides then to let himself fade away, but not before undoing the damage he had caused. Jean goes to comfort Rachel, but pulls back, driving Rachel away despite Jean trying to stop her.
Days of Future Present was significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was the first meeting between Rachel Grey and her parents (well, not-parents to borrow a term from Earth-2 Huntress), as well as the first time we see Cable and Cyclops in the same place. It was also first appearance of Gambit, who would go one to be one of the X-Men’s most popular members in the years to come.
War for Genosha
Occurring immediately after Days of Future Present, the X-Mansion comes under attack by the Genoshan Magistrates, lead by the now cyborg Cameron Hodge and a brainwashed Havok. They capture Storm and the New Mutants, taking them to Genosha. Soon after arriving, they kill Warlock and brainwash Storm and Wolfsbane into slavehood. The remaining X-Men recruit Cable and X-Factor, gathering together as many heroes as they could to save their friends.
Travelling to Genosha, they infiltrate the island, and begin their fight to free their friends. What they discover is that the Mutates, an offshoot of the mutant race, were being used as slave labour to provide the backbone of the Genoshan econmy. The X-Men destroy Hodge after a series of violent battles, freeing their friends and the Mutates from slavehood, and bringing Havok out of his brainwashed state. Once freed, Storm is returned to her adult form, , but Wolfbane is now trapped in her canine form, linking into a close bond with Havok. The country now on the verge of civil war, Havok decides to stay in Genosha to help rebuild. The rest of the X-Peoples return home, X-Factor splitting off from the others while the rest stay together to form a new X-Men team, the first true team since the Australian team was disbanded.
Muir Island Saga
The X-Men Reunite!
Muir Island, a small island off the coast of Scotland, is famous for very, very little. However, it was home to Dr. Moira MacTaggert, long time friend and ally to the X-Men. One day, Banshee and they warn Professor Xavier that the island has been slowly taken over by his old enemy, the Shadow King. The X-Men go to help, but are captured soon after they arrive, Shadow King having already taken control of Banshee and Forge. Xavier meanwhile heads to the X-Mansion where he encounters Colossus trying to kill Stevie Hunter, the Russian also under Shadow King’s control. Xavier manages to stop him, but when he realizes the X-Men have been captured, he calls X-Factor for help.
Back on Muir Island, the X-Men slowly begin to free themselves, and discover that Polaris is being used by Shadow King to create a nexus between the Astral Plane and Earth. If allowed to continue, this would make Shadow King all powerful. They move to stop it, knowing that Polaris could very well die in the process.
X-Factor agrees to help Xavier and travel to Muir Island, leaving Xavier back at the mansion. While there, Xavier is attacked by Shadow King through another host, but is saved by a disguised Mystique. Shadow King returns to the Island to find a new host, and possesses Xavier’s son Legion, and uses him to destroy much of the Island.
The X-Men and X-Factor manage to rally, fighting the Shadow King both on the Astral Plane and the physical world, eventually defeating him and driving him from the island. However, their victory didn’t come withut cost. Xavier once again had lost the use of his legs, while Legion was left effectively brain dead after Shadow King left his body.
There were a few positive effects of the incident however, the first being that X-Factor rejoined the X-Men permanently, splitting them into two teams. At the same time, Val Cooper, X-Factor’s publicist, helped form a new X-Factor under government control, recruiting the now recovered Polaris to her team.
Leaving the 80s behind.
Whew, that was a pretty crazy wasn’t it? I think it’s safe to say that the original Secret Wars set off an age of cross-over events across Marvel, each one changing the landscape of the Marvel Universe. This was also when the X-Men really came into their own, Claremont’s run creating numerous spin off teams, launching the mutants into the upper echelon of the comic book world. However, even after everything that had happened to your fair heroes, the Marvel Universe was about to get rocked like never before when a certain Mad Titan re-enters the fray...
But that’s for next time True Believers. Until then, HAPPY READING!