Welcome back True Believers! In our last episode (which if you haven’t read... SHAME ON YOU! A POX ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES THE TWO PEOPLE THAT ACTUALLY READ THIS BLOG!), we spoke about Marvel’s comeback into the big event stage, the company releases a series of big stories that changed the shape of their universe forever. However, these stories were only the starting point for Marvel, the company setting the stage for event bigger events as they continued their journey, shaking their universe up even MORE than they’ve done in the past, a tall order if you’ve been reading this series. Hard to believe they could top what they’ve already done in that decade, but as you read today’s episode True Believers, you will learn that aint seen nothing yet!
Marvel Events Part X: Road to Dark Reign
Continuing my series on Marvel's biggest crossover events as the company releasing some of it's biggest yet.
World War Hulk
The follow-up to the massively popular Planet Hulk story line, World War Hulk picks up immediately following the destruction of Sakaar’s capital city as a result of Hulk’s shuttle self destructing. Hulk’s wife Caiera had been killed in the explosion, driving Hulk into a rage that not even he had never felt before. Blaming the Illuminati for her death, Hulk gathers his Warbound, and returns to Earth to make the Illuminati pay for Caiera’s death.
As he arrives on Earth, Hulk begins hunting the Illuminati one by one, starting with the Inhuman King, Black Bolt. After a brief but violent battle, Hulk beats Black Bolt, and then heads for New York City. Once there, he demands that the Illuminati come forth and face him. When no one shows, Hulk goes to the X-Mansion, and confronts Professor X, who had been absent at the time the decision to send Hulk into space was made. However, Xavier tells Hulk he would have agreed with the decision, feeling the Hulk was becoming too dangerous to leave unchecked. Hulk attacks Xavier, leading to a knock-down, drag-out fight with the X-Men, defeating them one by one. Hulk seemed poised to kill Xavier then, but upon learning of the events of M-Day, decides that Xavier has suffered enough and leaves.
Hulk returns to Manhattan, and along with his Warbound is attacked by the Gamma Corps and Ghost Rider. After they are defeated, Iron Man finally enters the fray. Hulk and Tony fights his former friend tooth and nail, but the Hulk is too strong, Iron Man outmatched by sheer rage, beaten down before Hulk destroys Stark Tower. The New Avengers arrive next, followed by the Fantastic Four, Doc Samson, and lastly the Mighty Avengers. They all fall to the Hulk and the Warbound, Hulk’s anger too great to overcome. After each victory, Hulk’s followers fix obedience disks to their enemies, preventing them from using their powers and then imprisoning them.
Things escalate even further as more heroes try to stop Hulk to no avail, including Doctor Strange, Hercules, Namor, Amadeus Cho, and Angel. Finally Thunderbolt Ross shows up with the US Army, but Hulk takes them out as well, leaving no one left to challenge him. His victory achieved, Hulk has his followers transform Manhattan into a giant arena, and puts Mr Fantastic, Black Bolt, Iron Man and Doctor Strange against in each other in a fight to the death. Before anyone can die however, he stops the fight, declaring that his goal was justice, not murder, allowing the four men to live. He goes on to announce that he will destroy New York City and leave the Avengers in shame.
Before this plan can come to fruition, the Sentry arrives, attacking Hulk with such fury that he drains all his energy and reverts to his human form. This act of sacrifice moves Hulk, suppressing his anger and allowing him to revert to Bruce Banner. Angered by Hulk’s mercy against the Illuminati, Warbound member Miek attacks Banner. Rick Jones intervenes to defend Banner, Miek wounded him terribly. Seeing his friend in such a state throws Banner into a rage, transforming back into the Hulk before dismantling the Warbound. At the climax of this fight, Miek reveals that Red King loyalists had set off the explosion on Sakaar, not the Illuminati’s failsafe. Despite knowing about it, Miek had let it happen in the hopes that it would drive Hulk to continue his path of destruction.
This admission sends Hulk into a rage unlike anything he had felt before, the sheer amount of Gamma radiation he emits endangering the Earth. Realizing this, Hulk asks Iron Man to use weaponised satellite’s to attack Hulk, absorbing the radiation and forcing Hulk to revert to Banner before slipping into unconsciousness. In the aftermath, SHIELD takes Banner into custody, along with the rest of the Warbound.
A landmark event for the Jade Giant, World War Hulk was a culmination of events that had started with Secret War. This was the Hulk as he had never been seen before, his anger at his wife’s death setting him on a path of destruction against his former friends in a way they had always feared. The story showed just how powerful Hulk truly is, defeating nearly every hero in the Marvel Universe. It also showed the Illuminati truly pay for actions for the first time, all except Namor who was sparred by Hulk as he had argued against the decision to send him into exile. There would be ramifications of course, Hulk’s depowering resulting in the creation of the mysterious Red Hulk, as well as lead to his son Skaar coming to Earth on his own. As with most of the events in this series though, World War Hulk was only a precursor for future stories, ones that would take the Hulk to places he never thought possible, but we’ll get to that later.
The Phalanx Return
A sequel to the uber-popular Annihilation event, Conquest takes place sometime after the Annihilation Wave was defeated. The galaxy was still reeling from the war, leaving the door upon for an old enemy to return to the forefront. This enemy was the techno-organic constructs known as the Phalanx, who famously tried to destroy the X-Men during the early 90s event The Phalanx Convenant (see Part 6 of this series). The story starts with Peter Quill, the former Star-Lord, unwittingly bringing a group of Space Knights to the Kree home world of Hala. The Phalanx use these Space Knights to assimilate most of the population (including Ronan the Accuser) and seal off Kree space from the rest of the universe. In the aftermath, a mysterious warrior known as Wraith arrives on the planet. After fighting with the Phalanx and being tortured by Ronan, he manages to escape with the Super-Skrull. During Ronan’s interrogation, he reveals that he is the child of an exiled Kree scientist who was killed, and had returned to Kree space to avenge his parent’s death.
All this draws the attention of Nova, who arrives in Kree space to investigate. He soon finds himself trapped, and when he attempts to escape, he is gravely injured. He is revived by a Phalanx controlled Gamora, who infects him. Eventually Nova is able to break free of Phalanx’s control, and collapses a dwarf star to slingshot himself out of Kree Space. Gamora gives chase, aided by an infected Drax the Destroyer.
Back on Hala, Peter Quill finds himself at the epicentre of the Phalanx invasion Mantis, Captain Universe and a small group of warriors in a desperate fight against the techno-organic constructs. Reassuming the mantle of Star-Lord, Quill leads the fight against the Phalanx, but they are overmatched, forcing them to go into hiding.
Elsewhere, Phyla Vell (the current Quasar), is on the outskirts of Kree space trying to help survivors. Once she learns of the invasion, she and Moondragon (who is being guided by a mysterious voice in her head) head into Kree Space to find the mysterious “savior” of the Kree people, tracking him to Morag IV. They find the Super-Adaptoid there already, trying to absorb the savior into itself. Quasar and Moondragon intervene, forcing the Adaptoid to unleash a wave of destructive energy that threatens to wipe out a nearby town. Quasar manages to save the town, but at the costs of completely draining her Quantum Bands. The Phalanx arrive next, Quasar and Moondragon thrown into desperate fight. During the battle, they discover the savior is in fact Adam Warlock, regenerating his body in a cocoon.
Eventually, the voice in Moondragon’s head is revealed to be the Kree Supreme Intelligence, who tells her that Adam Warlock has the ability to save the Kree race. Quasar defeats the Adaptoid, regaining the energy for her Bands, and the Phalanx are pushed back, but the battle damaged Warlock’s cocoon. Moondragon and the Supreme Intelligence manage to break him out early, but Adam is confused and troubled by the events, despite Moondragon and the Intelligence helping him manage. The group is attacked by more Phalanx contructs, eventually escaping to a hideout of the High Evolutionary. They managed to convince Evolutionary to help them, but Ultron arrives and seemingly kills Moondragon. Star-Lord arrives soon thereafter with plans to destroy the Phalanx Babel Tower and end the conflict. Adam Warlock stands against Ultron, but he is betrayed by Evolutionary, who transfers Ultron’s consciousness into Warlock’s body. Star-Lord is captured by Ultron, but is rescued by Mantis, Rocket Racoon and Groot. The small group then managed to use Groot’s abilities to destroy the Babel Spire, killing Groot in the process. In the aftermath, Ultron arrives and cripples Mantis.
Outside the Phalanx shield, a combined fleet of multiple races attempts to break through, finally succeeding when Nova, accompanied by a now free Drax and Gamora, arrive bust through. With them comes Warlock, a member of the Technarchy and former New Mutant. They battle Ultron, Warlock able to infect him with the Techno-Organic Virus, forcing him to flee. Ronan the Accuser soon arrives, leading a massive army of Kree Sentries, intent on destroying Hala and the Phalanx, but Ultron’s interference destroys his ship, Ronan barely escaping with his life. The Evolutionary returns then, declaring Adam Warlock is still alive in the Quantum Bands, allowing Quasar to return Adam’s soul to his body. Ultron then takes control of the Kree Sentries, and forms one massive body for himself (dude has serious ego problems). Together, Adam and Quasar manage to destroy him, ending the conflict.
Conquest was a hugely successful event, bringing back old enemies Ultron and the Phalanx, as well as the vehicle for the return of Adam Warlock. The aftermath saw the formation of the new Guardians of the Galaxy, whose popularity has soared to near X-Men level heights. The event also laid the ground work for future events, including a war between the Shi’ar and the Kree, as well as the return of Thanos further down the road, starting a series of stories that would redefine Marvel’s Cosmic line as we know it.
Hope is Born
After House of M, the mutant race had been driven to the brink of extinction. All but a small fraction of the mutant population was rendered powerless, driving what remained into a safe zone set up by the US government. The mutant’s greatest heroes, the X-Men, were in rough shape, several long time members either dead or missing, their hope utterly destroyed by the horrible events of M-Day. Everything they had ever fought for seemed pointless now as their race marched towards extinction, even Cyclops losing his faith in their mission for the first time.
That was until one day, Cerebra detected a mutant activation in Alaska. Cyclops rushes there to investigate, finding the bodies of dead Marauders and Purifiers. He soon learns that the two groups had been fighting over a mutant baby, the first to be born after M-Day. He rushes to the X-Mansion and takes control of the X-Men from Professor Xavier, whom Cyclops had had a serious falling out with in recent years. Scott forms an assault team consisting of Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, the recently returned Angel, and Nightcrawler to find the Marauders, who were also holding a comatose Rogue hostage. Meanwhile, he recruits Madrox and his X-Factor team, telling them that Scarlet Witch’s spell would flat line the mutant gene until this child was born, creating two possible futures where mutants exist. Madrox, also known as Multiple Man, goes to find Forge with teammate Layla Miller. Once together, Madrox sends two of his “dupes” to investigate the timelines, Layla going with one while Forge guards his prime body.
Cyclops also recruits the now depowered Rictor, asking him to infiltrate the Purifiers to find out if they had taken the child. Once Rictor had successfully infiltrated the anti-mutant group, he discovers that they are working with Lady Deathstryke and her Reavers. The New X-Men attack the base, only for Rictor to reveal that the baby is not there. During the battle, Helion is wounded, and Pixie scatter teleports the team, sending them out of danger but cut off from one another.
The assault team tracks the Marauders to Alaska, where Helion has ended up. With the help of Emma Frost, they attack the Marauders, but are beaten back due to Helion’s injury. Back in New York, the ONE Sentinels that were guarding the mutant population turn on the X-Men after being infected with Nano-Sentinels. All seems lost until Iceman returns with the New X-Men, turning the tide. The assault team returns soon thereafter, Wolverine reporting that Cable has the baby. Cyclops, confused at his son’s actions, sends X-Force to find him. Cable, who had stayed in Alaska until the mutant hunter Predator X had lost the baby’s scent, eventually begins to make his way back to the X-Mansion.
In the future, Madrox and Layla discover a mutant concentration camp, and are soon captured by the anti-mutant forces. In the present, X-Force finally tracks down Cable to find him in a fight with Lady Deathstryke and the Reavers. X-23 defeats Deathstryke, but at the cost of Caliban’s life. In the confusion, Cable steals X-Force’s jet, and goes to Forge’s headquarters to use a time-travel device. Upon arrival however, he is shot by Bishop, who has come back from the future to kill the mutant messiah, who in his time line had killed one million people, leading to the mutant concentration camps being built. Before Bishop could complete his mission, he is ambushed by the Marauders under Gambit’s leadership. Once Bishop is deal with, Gambit takes takes the baby to Muir Island. Once there, it seems he delivers the child to Mr Sinister, but it turns out to be Mystique.
Back in the US, Cyclops rescues X-Force before going to Forge’s headquarters where Bishop lies to him and tells him that Cable stole the child before telling him about Gambit and the Marauders. Using Cerebra to locate Gambit, Cyclops sends X-Force and Bishop to Muir Island. Just after they leave, the Madrox Prime awakens with Layla, and they tell the New X-Men about Bishop, who after surviving an attack by Predator X rush to Muir Island. Meanwhile, Cable goes to Professor X, and explains that in his future, the baby will become a savior for both mutants and humans, convincing Charles to help him. On Muir Island, Mystique explains to Gambit that Destiny told her about the child, and that it could somehow heal Rogue. Gambit’s love for Rogue overrides his hatred for Mystique, and agrees to help.
All groups converge on Muir Island, the X-Men and X-Force locked in a battle with the Marauders and Mystique’s Acolytes. In the midst of it, Xavier stalls Gambit, giving Cable the chance he needed to retrieve the baby. Bishop then arrives with Predator X, who bites off Bishop’s arm, and is in turn killed by Wolverine. Rogue awakens then, and immediately disowns Mystique for putting a child at risk like that. She tries to kill Mystique, but Gambit stops her, telling her she’s not her mother. Rogue touches Mystique anyway, but she discovers that her memories were gone, and that the child had in fact cured her to a certain extent. Upset, she leaves Gambit alone.
After the battle is over, Cylcops demands that Cable turn over the child. In a surprise move, Professor X tells Cable to do so, knowing that Scott needed to see the child everyone had been fighting over. Cylcops takes the child, the best hope his people have left, and then asks Cable to take her into the future and give her the chance Nathan had never gotten: to have a father. Enraged, Bishop grabs Scalphunter’s gun and shoots at Cable. Cable time-slips away, Bishop’s shot hitting Xavier instead. Cyclops shoots Bishop with his optic blasé, but as he turns around Professor X’s body teleports out of sight. Distraught at what he and the team had been turned into, Cyclops declares that there are “No More X-Men.”
Messiah Complex was the start of a major story arc for X-Men, the beginning of a three part series and leading directly into the Divided We Stand series. It saw the return of Rogue and Angel, as well as establishing Bishop as a true villain, hell bent on saving his own timeline no matter the consequences. The baby, who would become known as Hope Summers, would go one become one of the most important characters in Marvel history, and a main focus for some of companies biggest stories of that era.
Trust No One
In the aftermath of World War Hulk, the world was in a state of recovery, and things seemed to be pretty peaceful in comparison to the last few years. However, things don’t always work out that way in Marvel... scratch that they never work out that way. The superheroes are cool and all, but living on Earth-616 has got to be exhausting.
Anyway, the seeds of this storyline were sowed many years ago in the aftermath of the famed Kree-Skrull War. After the war was over, Iron Man, Mr Fantastic, Namor, Professor Xavier, and Black Bolt formed the Illuminati, and attacked the Skrull homeworld as a warning to the aliens to never come after Earth again. The warning didn’t take, and the Skrulls defeated and captured the powerful group, who were barely able to escape not long after. What they didn’t realize however was that the Skrulls had gained valuable information on the heroes of Earth, information that they would sit on for the next few decades.
Years later, Skrull Princess Veranke discovers an ancient prophecy telling her of the destruction of the Skrull homeworld. After the prophecy is proven true when Galactus attacks their Throneworld, Veranke becomes Queen. Using the knowledge gained from the Illuminati, she plans an invasion of Earth to give the Skrulls a new home. Over the yers in the lead up to this invasion, the Skrulls began infiltrating Earth’s superhero (and villain) community, replacing key figures with their own agents. Veranke herself took the place of Spider-Woman, arriving on Earth to begin the invasion in earnest. However, when the super-villain prison The Raft has a breakout, she is forced to join the New Avengers to protect her cover. Shortly thereafter, Elektra (at the time leader of the Hand), is seemingly killed by the New Avengers, only to be revealed as a Skrull imposter. Veranke takes the corpse to Tony Stark, showing him the evidence of the invasion. This move completely destabilizes the superhero community, sowing great distrust. Paranoia soon sets in, leading to conflict after conflict as the Skrulls continue their infiltration. During this period, Veranke joins the Mighty Avengers to further her plans.
As the seeds of distrust begin to grow, the Skrulls further their attacks, striking at SHIELD using well placed spies. The New Avengers are attacked by Skrulls posing as SHIELD agents in the Savage Land, while the Illuminati discover Black Bolt is an imposter, and are thrown in a battle with him and his Super-Skrull allies. As more heroes in the Savage Land are revealed to be Skrulls, Thunder Mountain (headquarters of the Thunderbotls) is attacked, as is the Raft, and the Peak orbital base. The Skrulls ever strike at the Baxter Building, sending it into the Negative Zone. To make matters worse, Mr Fantastic is wounded by the Skrull impersonating Hank Pym just as he discovers a way to determine who among the superheroes were Skrull imposters.
As the war comes to Manhattan, the remaining heroes and Skrulls fight tooth and nail for the city. Mr Fantastic manages to recover from his injury to finish his device, finally giving the heroes a way of detecting the Skrull imposters among their ranks. The heroes begin to turn the tide, and soon Veranke’s cover is blown, forcing her to rally her army for one last battle. As the Skrulls came to the brink of defeat, Hawkeye shoots Veranke, taking her out of the fight. However, one of her people sets off a bomb placed on Wasp. Thor manages to contain the explosion and save New York, but at the cost of Janet’s life. Veranke tries to escape, but is shot and killed by Norman Osborn, ending the invasion.
The consequences of the invasion were dire. SHIELD is declared incompetent by the President, and is officially dissolved. Norman Osborne is then appointed the head of SHIELD’s replacement, HAMMER, and forms a new secret group the Cabal. What was worse, the Avengers are in complete disarray, their trust in each other completely broken. What was worse, the people now longer trusted them, allowing Osborn to create the Dark Avengers using villains he rallied to his cause. The surviving Avengers went underground, becoming fugitives against this new regime.
Secret Invasion was another step on the journey Brian Bendis and company were taking us on, a sharp left turn that shook Marvel and its fan base to its core. The worst possible scenario had been replaced with one ever more terrifying. The psychotic Norman Osborn was now in charge of the security of the USA, leading the Dark Avengers as the “hero” Iron Patriot. This would usher in the Dark Reign storyline that would blanket Marvel for the next year or so. The story wasn’t over yet, but for now, darkness had fallen on the heroes of Marvel, and it would take the return of a legend to bring them out of it... a legend they had all thought dead...
A Dark Reign Falls...
Pretty wild stuff right? The stories featured in our last two episodes propelled Marvel back to the top of the comic book world, regaining much of their lost audience while gaining a legion of new, excited and loyal fans ready to dive into the next adventure. That’s not to say everyone was happy, there are always detractors that claimed that by changing the status quo Marvel was ruining their favourite characters (I know, it’s dumb, but that’s the internet for you!) But the numbers don’t lie. The sales for Marvel sky-rocketing as these stories continued to unfold. There was more to come though, which we’ll cover as this series continued. Until next time True Believers, HAPPY READING!!!