Marvel Events Part XI: Dark Reign

by GregFahlgren

Continuing my series on major Marvel Events, covering the Dark Reign era of the Marvel U.

Welcome back True Believers! When last we spoke, a Dark Reign had fallen on the Marvel Universe. With the fallout of Secret Invasion, the Avengers had been forced into hiding, Iron Man was on the run, and SHIELD had been replaced by HAMMER, lead by the psychotic Norman Osborn. Osborn’s first act as the world’s hero? Form the sinister Dark Avengers, and began systematically taking over the super-powered community in the US, all the government’s backing! What was more, a war of Empires was brewing out in the Marvel Cosmic, while the X-Men and their allies were being caught in one desperate fight after another as old enemies came calling again.

With all this going on, needless to say it was an important time for the company. The last few years of stories such as House of M, Civil War, Annihilation, Messiah Complex, and Secret Invasion had built up a large wave of momentum for the company. They needed to keep it going, and the creators of our favourite comic book publishers (sorry DC, we still love you, don’t worry), weren’t going to let all the hard work they had done to pull Marvel out of near oblivion go to waste, writing a series of stories that would continue to redefine the Marvel Universe. The events I’ll be talking about today were both a culmination of the last few years, but also laid the groundwork for the bright future Marvel had been building towards.

War of Kings

Empires Clash!

Before we get more into the Dark Reign of Norman Osborn, first we head over to Marvel Cosmic where a war was brewing between two Empires. War of Kings picks up a little while after the events of Annihilation: Conquest. The Shi’ar Empire had come under the rule of Vulcan, the estranged half-brother of Cyclops and Havok (long story) during the story X-Men: Kingbreaker. Meanwhile, the Kree Empire was still weak after the attacks of both Annihilus and the Phalanx, and was left leaderless. Hence, they contacted the Inhumans, the only people left in the known galaxy with ties to the Kree throne, and named Black Bolt their new Emperor. This is met with resistance on both sides, the Inhuman race created by the Kree through experimentation millennia ago, the first of a long line of cruel actions committed by the Kree towards Black Bolt’s people. In order to quell this dissention, Black Bolt arranges for his daughter Crystal to marry Ronan the Accuser. Though reluctant, both individuals see the wisdom of this move, and agree to it if it will help smooth out relations between the two peoples.

Emperor Vulcan decides that he can’t let this come to pass, wanting the Kree Empire to remain weak and divided. Therefore, he sends Gladiator and the Imperial Guard to attack the wedding. The battle is fierce but brief, Gladiator and White Noise defeating Black Bolt, while Ronan is injured while trying to help Crystal. The Guard also capture Lilandra, former ruler of the Shi’ar, who fought on the side of the Kree. With Lilandra secured, Gladiator pulls his people back, declaring their statement had been made. Medusa declares the Shi’ar will pay for the attack with their blood, and the war between Empires begins.

Gladiator is ordered to bring Lilandra before Vulcan, an order which he is loathe to follow. He personally dislikes Vulcan, but he is sworn to serve the throne. However, he still cares greatly for Lilandra, and does not wish to see her harmed. Before they reached Vulcan however, Gladiator’s hip is attack by the Starjammers (including X-Woman Rachel Summers) and members of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Gladiator and the Guard defeat their attacks, but when Vulcan sends orders to kill them and Lilandra, Gladiator refuses. After killing a Guardsmen loyal to Vulcan, he declares that his loyalty is to Lilandra and he will join the fight to unseat Vulcan from the throne.

Unfortunately, Lilandra was killed soon thereafter by Darkhawk, sending Gladiator into a rage, attacking every one of his enemies in a blind fury. As the conflict reaches its apex, Black Bolt and Vulcan fight one on one on a massive ship, a ship that Vulcan has turned into a bomb. Black Bolt seemingly has Vulcan killed, prompting Crystal and Lockjaw to attempt to rescue their king. However, just before they are able to reach him, Vulcan gets to his feet and knocks Black Bolt out of the way of their teleport seconds before the ship explodes, killing them both. In the Aftermath, Gladiator is named the Emperor, and with the Shi’ar devastated by Vulcan’s actions, he surrenders to Medusa, now ruler of the Kree in her husband’s absence.

War of Kings, like Annihilation and Conquest, redefined the Marvel Cosmic line once again. Lilandra, a long time staple of that line and old friend of the X-Men was dead, as were Black Bolt and Vulcan. The Shi’ar had been reduced to a fraction of their former strength, for the first time in their history their Empire truly in danger. However, the biggest effect of this event was the creation of The Fault, a whole in space time left by the destruction of Vulcan’s ship. The Fault would by the centre of another conflict on the horizon, but that’s a story for another time.

Messiah War

Fight for the Future

Elsewhere, Archangel finds a weakened Apocalypse in a cave, a shell of his former glory. Though Warren contemplates killing the mutant that had brought him so much pain and misery over the years, he realizes how desperate the situation against Stryfe truly is, and gives Apocalypse two of his metal feathers, allowing the mutant despot to recover at least some of his strength. In return, Apocalypse promises to help Archangel and the rest of X-Force against Stryfe. Together, they go to the latter’s citadel so Apocalypse can recover the rest of his strength so he can stand against Stryfe.

As Wolverine and Cable attempt to rally against Stryfe, Domino tracks down Kiden Nixon, the mutant responsible for blocking their time control devices. Despite X-23’s protests, Domino kills Kiden, stopping his time manipulation. Domino and company return to help against Stryfe. They arrive at the same time as Apocalypse and Archangel, all parties converging in one final battle.

As X-Force is dealing with Stryfe, Bishop makes one last attempt on Hope’s life. He is stopped by Cable and Wolverine, the latter cutting out his eye and leaving him to die. Meanwhile, Apocalypse finally strikes down Stryfe. He turns his attention to Hope, and attempts to take her for himself, but Archangel demands that he had her over as payment for saving him. Begrudgingly, Apocalypse agree, and returns to his citadel with a defeated Stryfe to exact the full measure of his revenge. X-Force bids Cable and Hope farewell, and return to the present. Later it is revealed that Bishop survived, and swears that this isn’t over.

Messiah War was the second part of the trilogy involving Hope Summers, but it is also showcased the returns of Stryfe and Apocalypse, neither who had been seen for some time. Bishop’s oath was true, this wasn’t over yet, as even greater challenges awaiting young Hope, but we’ll get to that.


A New Home

With Hope safe, the X-Men could return their focus to the problems facing the mutant race. They relocated to San Francisco, founding the X-Club as their new base of operations. This move was done as a fresh start for the mutant team, their home in New York becoming a reminder of everything they had lost. However, the X-Men’s troubles followed them to the West Coast, foremost of which was Simon Trask, son of the late Boliver Trask, the creator of the Sentinels. Founding the anti-mutant organization Humanity Now, Trask campaigns throughout the country to limit mutant reproductive rights. To further his goals, he follows the X-Men to their new home in San Fransisco, leading a march through the city on their way to city hall. The X-Men confront them, and soon a riot breaks out, leading to the arrest of Beast. Professor X soon arrives with Norman Osborn to settle things down, but shocks the X-Men when he joins Norman in requesting that Cyclops give up his leadership of the mutant community and turn himself in to the authorities. Scott refuses of course, and Osborn reacts by declaring the X-Men outlaws and sends his Dark Avengers to capture them unsuccessfully. While in his new prison, Beast is contacted by the real Charles Xavier, who is imprisoned as well, his powers somehow suppressed. Xavier tells Beast that Mystique is masquerading as the professor, giving Osborn the credibility he needs to bring the mutants to heel.

In the aftermath, Osborn uses Emma Frost to form the Dark X-Men, who quickly sets to work hunting down the various mutant groups and imprisoning them. As the Dark X-Men quell the riots, Hellion is almost killed by Daken until Emma stops him, angry at how far Osborn’s people were willing to take things. She demands that Osborn show her around the prison to ensure the mutants are treated fairly. During this tour, she is contacted by Xavier, who tells her everything. She promises him that she will take care of everything, but when she goes to find him, finds his cell empty. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Dark Beast is working for Osborn at his mutant prison, experimenting on mutants for HAMMER, Beast one his foremost subjects.

As things begin to escalate, Osborn and Cyclops meet in secret. Cyclops demands that Osborn leave San Francisco and his people alone, and that the X-Men will never bow to him. Furious, Osborn threatens to kill him, and returns to HAMMER to plan his next move. With both sides poised to strike at the other, Trask takes advantage, sending his Bio-Sentinels to attack the city. The Dark X-Men go to stop them, and during the battle Emma discovers that these Sentinels had been Trask’s followers, and were killed in order to turn them into the machines he needed. With this knowledge, the Dark X-Men hold nothing back, destroying the Sentinels completely.

As the Sentinels are routed, Dark Beast continues his experiments, torturing Beast to the point of death. Delighted at how things were going, he goes to retrieve more subjects, only to discover that Magick and X-Force had secreted inside and teleported the mutants away to safety, including Beast and Xavier. Dark Beast notifies Frost, who leads the Dark X-Men to confront X-Force. However, as the battle begins, Emma and Namor turn on them, revealing themselves as double agents and aiding in X-Force’s escape. The Dark X-Men report in to Osborn, but before he can do anything, the X-Club rises out of bay, revealing it to have been a remnant of the old Asteroid M. Cyclops appears on television then, declaring that the island was being taken out to international waters, and therefore outside of Osborn’s jurisdiction. Osborn is enraged beyond measure, and gathers the Dark Avengers and X-Men to destroy the X-Men once and for all.

Osborn’s leads the attack on the island, where a massive battle ensues, the X-Men har pressed against the maniac’s forces. As the conflict reaches its climax, Osborn (as Iron Patriots) defeats Cyclops, leaving the mutant leader a Osborn’s mercy. The new Ms Marvel insists that they kill Cyclops and the rest of the X-Men to put an end to their defiance, but soon realize that every mutant on the island has come to face them. Outnumbered, they retreat withdraw from the island, leaving the mutants be for now. After Cyclops recovers, he names the island Utopia, inviting all mutants to come to them to seek refuge. Though there is fear that this action may result in another Genosha, Cyclops is determined to not allow this to happen, bringing the X-Men together to build a new future.

Utopia was a major part of the company wide Dark Reign storyline, but it was also a major change for the X-Men. By moving to the West Coast, and then taking Utopia outside of the US, they had become more independent than ever, and no longer had to fear their people being persecuted by men like Trask. However, it did make them outcasts even more than before, making it harder for them to work towards Xavier’s dream of coexistence with humans. This is the first step down a road that would redefine the X-Men and their place in Marvel, and also lead Cyclops down a path many thought he would never tread, but we’ll talk about that later.


The Dead Rise

Occurring shortly after Utopia, Necrosha marked the return of Selene, the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club and one of the X-Men’s oldest enemies. Filled with dreams of power, Selene wishes to become a true goddess among mutants, and to that end, she creates a virus that can forcefully resurrect dead mutants and bend them to her will. She travels the world, bringing back hosts of fallen mutants, including Mystique’s former lover, Destiny, and the mutant Proteus, the man behind the harrowing Muir Island Saga (see part IV). Using the most powerful of these to create a new Inner Circle, she slaughters the New York branch of Hellfire Club before setting out to destroy the rest of her enemies.

Going to the island of Genosha, she resurrects the millions of dead mutants there for her army before sending her pawns to Utopia to destroy the X-Men. Former New Mutant Cypher in particular was given orders to kill X-Woman Magma. Though Cipher manages to attack Magman, he is stopped by his former teammates, including Warlock, who frees his former friend of Selene’s control. As Selene’s attack begins in earnest, the X-Men are thrown into desperate, just managing to drive the Black Queen back.

Meanwhile, Proteus uses Destiny to lure an X-Men team to Muir Island. Ambushing them, he takes control of the entire team save for Rogue and Magneto. Together they manage to defeat Proteus and free the others, Destiny dying soon after as the virus leaves her body, telling Rogue she loved her.

Back on Utopia, Selene’s thralls continue their assault on the X-Men, the mutant heroes calling upon X-Force to help. The Inner Circle arrives next, capturing Warpath before returning to Genosha. Using a ceremonial dagger belonging the Native America mutant, Selene absorbs the souls of her thralls, becoming a powerful goddess as she had planned. More heroes arrive to try and stop her, including Dr Strange and Brother Voodoo, both of whom are dispatched. Even Dr Doom tried to defeat her, but was cast aside, Selene’s power overwhelming everyone. Finally, X-Force launches a final assault against her and her Inner Circle. With Warpath’s help, X-Force take down the Inner Circle, giving Warpath the chance to stab Selene with the same Dagger she had used to absorb all those souls, destroying her completely.

Necrosha was a quick stopover for the X-Books before the final chapter of the Messiah Trilogy, bringing back old enemies and friends alike in an attempt to bolster mutant numbers after M-Day. It is important to note here that though Selene to achieved her goal of becoming a goddess, none of the people she had set out to destroy were actually killed, her plans failing in the end. The event also saw X-Force disband briefly in the aftermath, Archangel’s wings shattered and much of the rest of the team crippled. They would reform of course, teams always seem to, but for now, Necrosha had truly left an effect on our mutant heroes.

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Avengers Reassemble

Ever since Secret Invasion, a Dark Reign had fallen over the Marvel Universe. Norman Osborn was simultaneously the head of HAMMER, leader of the Dark Avengers and the secretive Cabal, and had the sinister Dark X-Men under his control. With this much power, Osborn was now more dangerous than ever before. There was only one final thing standing in his way of complete domination of the United States: Asgard, the realm of Thor and Loki that was currently floating over Broxton Oklahoma, and the last place that could openly defy him. Osborn knew he needed to conquer the goldly realm, and with Iron Man in hiding, Steve Rogers dead, Thor banished from his home realm, and the Avengers a shell of their former selves, it seemed that nothing was going to be able to stop him.

To begin his plans, Osborn calls together what remains of the Cabal to discuss the issue. Loki convinces Osborn to create a tragedy involving Asgard so that he can gain approval from the President to invade the realm as a matter of national security. To this end, Loki and Osborn manipulate the Asgardian Volstagg into battling the villains U-Foes, resulting in an accidental explosion at Soldier’s Field in Chicago, killing the thousands of civilians inside. This action gives Osborn all the justification he needs to launch a military assault on Asgard, aided by his Dark Avengers, including the Sentry who has been manipulated into serving Osborn in return for treatment of his insanity. Loki meanwhile works from the shadows, eliminating Heimdall, Asgard’s watchman, to make way for the invasion. Osborn, as Iron Patriot, strike quickly, stunning Asgard’s defenders. Thor tries to intervene, but being greatly outnumbered, falls to the Cabal’s forces. This attracts the attention of the fugitive Avengers, organized by a man the world had thought dead... the original Captain America, STEVE ROGERS! Rogers, who had been lost in time, not dead, formally grants Bucky Barnes the name and shield of Captain America, allowing him to lead the fight against the Dark Avengers.

In the background, Osborn was starting to come under suspicion by his own people, his insanity showing through more and more. Ares, one of the Dark Avengers realizes that Osborn had tricked him into joining the Dark Avengers, and tries to kill him, but Osborn has the Sentry kill him instead. This and other actions leads to public opinion turning against Osborn. Finally, the President realizes how insane Osborn truly is, and orders the US Army to Asgard to arrest Osborn for treason.

The Avengers arrive at Asgard and immediately go on the offensive, despite infighting between Iron Man and Captain America, the two bitterly remembering the Civil War. Once the Avengers and Dark Avengers meet, Captain America goes for Iron Patriot, taking him down before being attacked the Sentry. Thor comes to Cap’s aid, but he is still wounded, and is soon brought to the Sentry’s mercy. Sentry, driven completely mad by the battle, into a being known as the Void, and leaves Thor to destroy the infrastructure of Asgard, bringing it crashing down into the Earth.

In the chaos, Cap finds Osborn and places him under arrest. Osborn tries to resist, arrogantly thinking that the arrest will mean nothing, and he will be a free man soon enough. Iron Man arrives then, and with the entire United States watching on live television, Stark explodes the Iron Patriot armour, revealing Osborn’s face painted to look like the Green Goblin. His true nature revealed, the Void turns on him, and Osborn is left a raving lunatic.

His master vast aside, the Void turns his attention to the Avengers, hammering them into submission. Loki, seeing the horror he had wrought, goes to his father Odin, and repents for his work. Odin gives him the mystical Norn Stones to boost the Avenger’s powers to better fight against the Void. This move turns the tide, and in vengeance, the Void kills Loki. The sight of his brother dead sends Thor into a rage, and with the help of the other Avengers, he beats the Void nearly to death, forcing Void to revert to the Sentry. Sentry, realizing what he has done and the danger he is, begs the heroes to kill him less he become the Void again. Thor reluctantly does so, ending the battle.

In the aftermath, Thor takes the Sentry’s body to the sun while the New Avengers place the surviving members of the Dark Avengers and the Cabal under arrest while Steve Rogers is pardoned of his crimes during the Superhero Civil War, and is appointed the new head of SHIELD. Additionally, Rogers and Tony Stark reconcile, and reform the Avengers with Tony, Bucky, and Thor to spearhead the team. Finally, the Superhero Registration Act is repealed to public approval, and bringing Marvel into a new age.

Siege was the end of long road that had started with Secret War, coming to fruition in the best way possible, heralding the arrival Heroic Age of Marvel Comics. The Avengers were back on top, the heroes of Marvel no longer fighting each other, and the bad guys were cast down. From here, Marvel launched a wave of new titles, building and expanding on the last half-decade of stories. Sure, there would be challenges on the horizon, but for now, the Avengers were back in business!

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Dawn of A New Age

The end of the decade for Marvel was a far cry from the beginning. They went from a company selling filing cabinets in their lobby, to regaining their position as the number 1 comic book publisher in the world. The events and stories of the decade redefined the company and its heroes, forging bravely into new, uncharted territory, and creating of the most revered and celebrated stories in the company’s long history.

However, that didn’t meant there weren’t some unanswered questions. What happened to Hulk? What would become of Hope Summers, the mutant saviour? And where was  Scarlet Witch, whose action at the start of the decade lead us down this road?

All those questions will be answered in our next episode, so until then True Believers, HAPPY READING!

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!
Continuing Marvel's journey through it's major crossover story lines as the company enters the new Millenium.
Part IX of my ongoing series examining the major crossover events in the history of Marvel Comics.
Continuing my series on Marvel's biggest crossover events as the company releasing some of it's biggest yet.
Updated: 02/11/2016, GregFahlgren
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