Marvel Events Part VIII: Late 90s and into the New Millenium

by GregFahlgren

Continuing Marvel's journey through it's major crossover story lines as the company enters the new Millenium.

Well True Believers, I’m back, and with another installment in this series that is taking up more of my time than it probably should! This time around, we’re finishing off the nineties entering into the New Millennium, entering a rather uncomfortable time period for many comic book fans and creators alike.

To put it bluntly, the latter half of the 1990s and the early few years of the 2000s were a difficult time for comic books. Sales were down across the board, due in no small part to a series of TERRIBLE movies (FUCK YOU BATMAN & ROBIN!), and increasing “snobbiness” that pop culture had taken towards the medium, calling it “kid’s stuff” made a lot of people turn away from comic books and the superheroes they portrayed. Through it all, Marvel continued to push on, drawing inspiration from some of its most successful stories to try to rekindle the flame that was slowly going out. It didn’t work as well as they had hoped, but their efforts kept the company alive, and would set the stage an unbelievable comeback that we’ll cover in the next post. For now, let’s take a look at the events that brought us to that point.

Live Kree or DIE!

Kree Fanatics and Intelligences

A loose sequel to Operation Galactic Storm, (see Part V of this series), our story begins with six Kree fanatics calling themselves the Legionnaires, swearing allegiance to the presumed dead Kree Supreme Intelligence. The Intelligence wishes to conquer Earth (because of course he does), and this “Lunatic Legion” to Earth to start his schemes. Iron Man, who had been attempting to help Carol Danvers (going by the name Warbird at the time) deal with personal issues, was attacked by the Lunatic Legion during a meeting with Valerie Noble. Warbird arrives, drunk and angry to help Tony fight them off, only to be attacked by a Kree Sentry moments later. They defeat it, but at the cost of one of Tony’s buildings, dozens dying as a result of Warbird’s overzealous focus on the Sentry, leading Stark to question her place in the Avengers.

The rest of the story centres around the various Avengers fighting off the various members of the Kree Lunatic Legion, though the details are a bit sketchy out there on the net. Captain America and Quicksilver were the two primary targets, the series of encounters leading to the finale where the Avengers travelling to the Blue Area of the Moon to rescue the captured Warbird. The Intelligence, who the Avengers were shocked had survived their encounter with him during Operation Galactic Storm, plans to use Carol’s unique physiology to morph humanity into Neo-Kree lifeforms. The Avengers manage to stop them, and drive the Supreme Intelligence from the Earth, at least for a while.

This story, though short and somewhat forgotten, re-established the Kree as major foes for the Avengers, as well as beginning a dark time for Carol Danver’s career. She was soon expelled from the Avengers, her deepening alcoholism leading her to make several bad decisions (including drop-kicking Tony into a plane... to be fair he probably deserved it. It’s Tony.) Iron Man helped her deal with it all, and she later returned, but the effects that this event caused on her were long felt and one of the more important part of her storied history.

The Magneto War

From Freedom Fighter to Madman...

When Magneto was mind-wiped by Professor X back in Fatal Attractions (see Part VI of this series), he was taken by his Acolytes and kept in Avalon, worshipped by his followers in the aftermath. Since then, the Acolytes had become fractured, some following the now (presumed) dead Fabian Cortez, or the mysterious Exodus, both of whom had become adversaries for the world’s heroes at various times. Eventually, their base at Avalon came under attack from Holocaust, one of the Horsemen from the Age of Apocalypse timeline. During the battle, Colossus puts Magneto’s body in an escape pod and sends it to Earth, landing in Africa where it is found by former ally Astra, who now wishes to see Magneto dead. She clones Magneto and then restores his memories and powers, but Magnus defeats her and the clone, named Joseph, who escapes thinking himself the real Magneto. When Joseph joins the X-Men, Magneto goes into hiding, waiting for his time to strike.

Eventually, Magneto takes on the alias Erik the Red, and succeeds in getting Gambit kicked out of the X-Men (jerk). Following this, Magneto constructs a machine to amplify his powers, and uses it to blackmail the world into creating a mutant nation. Though he is stopped by the X-Men and Joseph, the latter of which sacrifices himself to destroy Magneto’s machine, the UN is manipulated into ceding Magneto the island of Genosha. The UN thinks that the civil war there will keep him occupied, but once again, they underestimate Magnus, leading to another story called...

Magneto Rex

From Madman to King

With Magneto given Genosha, the Master of Magnetism set to the task of dealing with the nation’s ongoing civil war. After a series of conflicts, he manages to unite the mutant population against their former human oppressors. However, a small mutant resistance, lead by the Zealot, fights against him. Knowing he is outmatched, the Zealot kidnaps Quicksilver to force Magnus’s hand. Magneto cares little for his son’s life (on the surface anyway), but allows Rogue, who had come to the island nation to try to convince Magnus to give up his violent ways, to rescue his son. Afterwards, Magneto defeats the Zealot, sending him into space as an example to anyone that opposes him.

As humans are driven from Genosha, Magneto settles down into his rule, Quicksilver unwilling to help him despite Magnus extending his a place on the island. However, Quicksilver is secretly shown the mutate concentration camps his father had set up, the occupants suffering the Legacy Virus and only kept there to keep it contained. Quicksilver decides to stay in an effort to temper Magneto’s anger, helping his father become a somewhat just ruler. Rogue however, decries what her one-time friend had become, disgusted by how far Magneto had succumbed to his anger. She warns him that the X-Men will be watching him, and leaves Magneto alone with his rage. After her departure, Magneto closes his nation’s borders, and sets to creating a mutant utopia, inviting mutants from around the world to come to his paradise and live free of human oppression (and despite what you may be thinking, he was pretty sincere about it).

This pair of storylines served a few purposes. Number one, Magneto was back and more powerful than ever. Number two, they set the stage for the return of Apocalypse, and number three, further established Genosha as a centre-point for Earth’s mutant population. Things weren’t over for Genosha and the X-Men as you’ve likely already guessed, but we’ll get to that.

The Twelve

Apocalypse's Last Stand

Other than showing up to fight against Onslaught during the final battle of the Onslaught Saga, good old Apocalypse hasn’t been seen since Age of Apocalypse. However, the time was approaching for the oldest living mutant to return, and this time, it was a much bigger conflict than the X-Men could have predicted.

In reality, this story began with a young mutant named Tanya Trask, the daughter of now deceased X-Villain Bolivar Trask, famed creator of the feared Sentinels. With the aid of Rachel Summers (working under the guise of Mother Aksani), she travels through time and discovers a prophecy relating to the Twelve, a group of mutants destined to lead the race in a war with humans. This prophecy is found again by Cable (Rachel helping a bit once again), the time-traveller witnessing the rise of Apocalypse. This knowledge was implanted within Cable in the hopes that he might stop Apocalypse’s plans, but it was too late, the mutant conqueror already beginning his final scheme...

Apocalypse started his campaign by sending a Skrull disguised as Wolverine to attack the X-Men, sowing distrust among the team and causing them to disband temporarily. They discover the deception soon after however, leading them to a Skrull base to get answers. Upon arrived, they are attacked by the Horsemen Death, who after he is defeated is revealed to be the real Wolverine. In the midst of all this, Xavier discovers that the Twelve include himself, Magneto and his estranged daughter Polaris, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Cable, Iceman, X-Force leader Cannonball, Bishop, Sunfire, Storm, Mikhail Rasputin, the Living Monolith and Apocalypse. Slowly, but surely, Apocalypse captures each of the Twelve, leading to a confrontation in Egypt with the remaining X-Men. His followers defeat them, but he keeps them alive as he begins to channel the energies of the Twelve into a thirteenth, revealed to be X-Man. Apocalypse, whose frail body is dying and unable to receive the full power the Twelve would provide, plans to supplant his consciousness into Nate’s body, and continue his reign of destruction.

However, he didn’t count Magneto’s power being greatly weakened at the time of his capture, and the power of the Twelve ran out sooner than Apocalypse had planned. One by one, the mutants broke free, overwhelming Apocalypse’s forces. Apocalypse tries to get to Nate anyway, but Cyclops intercepted him, Apocalypse taking over Cyclops’s body instead, the X-Men leader sacrificing himself to save his other-dimensional son.

With at least part of his goal accomplished, Apocalypse travelled through time in an effort to finish the transformation process. The X-Men give chase, in both the past and the future, stopping his plans, leading to his final defeat. The would-be conqueror’s spirit leaves Cyclops’s body and disappears, Apocalypse rarely seen since.

This storyline is somewhat forgotten by X-Fans, which is more than a little sad since it was a fairly big event, and one of the last major stories where the iconic 90s roster were together in one place. Out of all the X-Men, Wolverine and Cyclops were the most affected. With the former, Apocalypse had regrafted Wolverine’s skeleton with adamantium, bringing back his metal claws that had been absent since Fatal Attractions during his transformation into the Horsemen Death. For the latter, Cyclops was deeply shaken by Apocalypse’s possession of his body, something that never truly left the X-Men leader. Ironically, these two would lead the X-Men for the better part of the next fifteen years despite all this, taking them mutant team into the future as the New Millenium edged ever closer.

Contest of Champions II

Round 2, this time with more Insects!

The first Contest of Champions was a big event in the early 1980s (see Part III of this series), a reasonably successful storyline that saw heroes from all over Marvel battling against each other, a rare thing back then. With the company and the industry at large in bad shape (more on that later), Marvel was trying anything it could think of to boost sales. It didn’t work as well as they had hoped, but that was another example of the state of the industry of that time.

The story begins with Earth’s heroes (Avengers, X-Men, others), being invited to take part in a special contest by an apparently benevolent race. Once the heroes arrive however, they are taken captive by the Brood, an alien race of insects. The Brood Queen, through the captured X-Woman Rogue, plans to absorb the powers of the heroes using nanite technology, turning the Brood into an unstoppable force of destruction. Because of his suit, Iron Man is immune to the nanites, and as the Contest continues, he frees X-Woman Psylocke, and the two begin to form a strike team of freed heroes, slowly fighting through the mind-controlled heroes to reach the Queen. Along with Hawkeye, who the Queen had largely ignored, they defeat the Queen, freeing the gathered heroes and overwhelming the Brood forces. Ms. Marvel, disgusted at what had been done to Rogue, frees her be threatening to kill the X-Woman if the Queen didn’t let her go. The Brood Queen capitulates, and the heroes return home, Rogue and Ms Marvel finally burying their long carried hatchet.

Though not as popular as its predecessor, Contest of Champions II did manage to boost some sales and bring back some of the good feelings that Marvel was famous for in the 1980s, and any success Marvel could get at the time was greatly needed.

Maximum Sercurity

Earth Cut Off

One of the last company-wide crossovers for a few years, Maximum Security was a unique story at the beginning of the New Millenium, focusing on how Earth and its heroes affected the rest of the galaxy. The story begins with the Intergalactic Council, a group of leaders from largest Empires and nations in the galaxy, deciding what to do about Earth when the Skrull ambassador lodges a complaint against the planet for its continued interference in their plans. The Council soon comes under attack from Ego, the Living Planet. Professor X, leading a small group of Skrull mutants known as Cadre K, stop Ego, and shrink him with the assistance of a new race known as the Ruul. However, the Council still sides with the Skrulls, and decides to take action against Earth.

Declaring Earth a danger to the galaxy (in their defence, we’ve caused a lot of shit), they blockade the solar system with a force field, and then send their worst prisoners to Earth for captivity, leaving Ronan the Accuser to keep watch. Ego was among those prisoners, and once on Earth the living planet began to absorb Earth into itself. Numerous heroes move to stop it, while Cadre K and Professor X plead with the Council to reverse its decision.

During this time, SHIELD discovers that the Ruul serve the Supreme Intelligence, who has used the Destiny Crystal to speed up the evolution of the Kree to create the new race. Once Earth is taken care of, he will use Ego to expand the Kree Empire. US Agent leads the Avengers, the alien criminals and anyone else he can find in a fight against the Intelligence and Ronan. Meanwhile, the Avengers Infinity Squad manage to escape Earth and go to the Council, Moondragon able to show the Council the truth of what was going on using her telepathy. The Council remove Earth’s embargo immediately, allowing the remaining heroes to rush home to join the fight.

Back on the moon, Ronan and the Intelligence are defeated, and Ego is absorbed into Quasar’s gauntlets thanks to some timely information from Gambit. Quasar leaves Earth to make sure Ego can’t do any more harm, and the alien criminals are removed by the Council, humanity to be left alone for the time being.

Maximum Security is not remembered by Marvel fans with much affection, but it was a rare occurrence of a major event centering around Earth’s place in the larger galactic community. This concept would be revisited again and again in the years to come, but Maximum Security was a starting point in many ways for Earth to become much more involved in galactic affairs, whether anyone wanted it to or not.

Eve of Destruction

The Final Battle

Magneto is one of the single most complicated characters in the history of comic books. He is a villain to some, a monster to many, a friend to a few, and a hero to even fewer. He has lead the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, became Headmaster of the Xavier Institute, and even led the X-Men during the Age of Apocalypse. Through it all however, one thing has never changed, and that is his obsession to protect mutantkind no matter the cost. In the 1990s, that obsession had lead him into the most violent and harrowing encounters with the X-Men in their long history, culminating in him becoming King of Genosha. However, after the island’s destruction at the hands of the Sentinels, Magnus had finally had enough, and was preparing for all out war on humanity.

The story begins in the aftermath of the Legacy Virus’s cure, which saw the death of Colossus, the Russian sacrificing himself to cure the disease that had killed his sister. Afterwards, Magneto became obsessed with destroying the X-Men, feeling that Xavier had failed in his mission, and could no longer be allowed to interfere in Magneto’s plans. Assaulting the X-Mansion, he kidnapped his former friend, intent on making the professor a martyr for the mutant cause.

With many of the X-Men at their personal lowest and weakest points, the team was a hollow shell of its former self. Only Cylcops, Wolverine and Jean Grey were on active duty when the Professor was taken, and with no other choices left to them, they split up. Wolverine and Cyclops travelled to Genosha in secret to begin a rescue mission, while Jean stayed at the mansion, calling in every mutant she could think of, creating a rag-tag team that included former X-Men Northstar and Dazzler. After they assembled, Jean and her team take the X-Jet to Genosha while Cylcops and Wolverine travelled through the island’s underground, unnoticed by Magneto’s forces at the time.

Upon arriving at the island, Jean’s team witness Xavier being crucified for the mutant cause. Dazzler becomes enraged and attacks Magneto, but is easily thrown aside while the X-Jet is nearly destroyed in the aftermath. The X-Men escape, and begin a desperate fight with Magneto. Meanwhile, Cyclops and Wolverine fight through Magneto’s minions to finally reach the surface to join the others, evening the sides if but a little. Dazzler manages to use her powers to free Xavier, taking his place on the cross unbeknownst to Magneto for most of the conflict. Xavier joins the fight, and Magneto is eventually defeated. Ever defiant, he refuses to give up his plans to rule Genosha and shape into a mutant superpower to take on the rest of the world. Wovlerine, realizing that he has to do the dirty deed that no one else is willing to, stabs Magneto in the guts, finally avenging Magneto’s near-fatal attack on him during Fatal Attractions (see Part V of this series). Though horrified, their war with him finally over.

This story brought closure to the 90s era of the X-Men, sowing up many of the loose ends before Scott Lobdell left the book, setting the stage for his replacement, the legendary Grant Morrison. It was the last time the X-Men would have a major cross-over for some years, but it’s actions changed the status quo for the team, Magneto’s defeat leaving all doors open for new allies and villains, bringing forth a new age for them mutant team.

Conclusion

Desperate Times

These events, no matter how successful or unsuccessful they were, come from what many consider the darkest time in comic book history. Even more so than the terrible 1970s, the industry was in a massive financial decline. I asked Joe Quesada about this time period for Marvel, and though he stated that the subject was far too complicated to be answered with a Tumblr post, he did give me a small window into the world he and his colleagues were facing at that time:

“...there was a time, before I was at Marvel, when I was an indy publisher that we kept looking at sales drop across the entire industry at an incredible rate. Every month we thought, okay this is rock bottom, and then the next month would roll around and hundreds of more stores would close and sales would drop even more. 

At that time there was a real sense within the industry that we may all have to start looking for something new to do for a living…”

Joe’s words paint a grim picture for the comic book industry at large, and Marvel was caught right in the centre of it. The events listed in this episode did manage to keep things going for a while, but Marvel needed to do something fast if they were going to survive, and I’ll get to that in our next edition.

Until then True Believers, HAPPY READING!

Read the Complete Series!

First chapter of a series of blogs detailing the Events and Crossovers of the Marvel Universe.
Continuing from Part I, I explore the important cross-over events of Marvel's Silver Age
Examining the major Marvel Crossovers and Storylines from the 70s into the mid-80s.
Returning to the Marvel U, and examining the BOOM of crossover event comics.
Continuing study of the biggest events in Marvel's long history.
Continuing with my special series talking about Marvel's Crossover Events.
Continuing ongoing series talking about major Marvel Events as we hit the mid-90s!
Updated: 11/17/2015, GregFahlgren
 
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