Marvel Events Part XII: End of Eras

by GregFahlgren

Continuing my series on the history of Marvel's crossover events, talking about the finales to two of the most revered runs in recent history.

Hello True Believers! Welcome back to another installment of my ongoing series looking at the history of Marvel’s crossover events! When last we spoke, the Dark Reign of Norman Osborn had ended, welcoming Marvel and its fans into a new Heroic Age! This age would continue the heroes and villains of Marvel Comics towards their next mega-event, but before we get there, we have to tie up a few loose ends.

Two of the bigger runs in comic books of that time were drawing a close. Greg Pak’s Hulk run, which had started with Planet Hulk (see Part IX), was wrapping up with two monster events that would shake up the Hulk line like never before. Meanwhile, out in the Marvel Cosmic, Dan Abbot’s run that had started with Annihilation (also see Part IX), was coming to climax, the Fault that had opened in War of King about to unleash chaos on a galactic scale. The four stories I’m about to talk about would wrap up the loose ends needed for Marvel to start heading towards their next big phase of stories, and would help further redefine the company. I know I say that a lot, but Marvel Comics over the last decade has been anything if not unpredictable. So, without further ado, LET’S GET THIS THING STARTED!!

Realm of Kings

Shattered Empires

Sequel to War of Kings, Realm of Kings details the fallout of the epic battle between Black Bolt and Vulcan, which had resulted in the destruction of Vulcan’s ship, creating the tear in space time known as The Fault. Shortly after War of Kings, the Guardians of the Galaxy had been pulled into the future by the original Guardians team, and warned of the Fault’s creation. They sent a message back to Adam Warlock, who managed to close the fault by using a defunct, yet stable, timeline. However, the act killed him, replacing him with his dark doppelganger, the Magus. The Guardians return to the present, and discover that half their team were gone, including Gamora and Martyr. It was all for nought however, as the Church of Universal Truth soon tear open The Fault, though their intentions are unclear.

The Shi’ar, Kree, and others all wish to investigate, but they were still reeling from the war. The Shi’ar, now under the leadership of Gladiator, had surrendered to the Kree, who were now under the leadership of Medusa in the wake of her husband’s apparent death. Both leaders were not happy about this, neither choosing their position, but they tried to do their best to keep their Empires together as they recovered from the conflict. To say things were tense would have been an understatement, especially on Hala, the Kree homeworld. Many of the Kree were untrusting of the now ruling Inhumans, a sentiment spurred on by Maximus the Mad, Black Bolt’s brother who desired Medusa’s new throne.

Meanwhile, the hero Quasar is sent into The Fault by Project PEGASUS to investigate what is on the other side and what dangers it may hold. What she discovers is an alternate universe, filled with dark versions of the Avengers (known as the Revengers). She witnesses them killing that universe’s Bruce Banner, and is taken prisoner. Freed by that universe’s Vision, he discovers that this universe is absent of Death, the very concept destroyed. As a result, Life has grown out of control, spreading like a cancer, and threatening to spill over to other universes. Quasar tries to get word back to Project PEGASUS, but fails.

The Guardians of the Galaxy help investigate the Fault, but are nearly killed on an alien structure by some unknown monster, known as a xenophorm. They return to their base at Knowhere, and discover that the Luminals, under the leadership of Cynosure, had sent their own scouting mission, and that one of their members, Massdriver, has been infected with a parasite. When the Luminals return to Knowhere, Massdriver goes berserk, going on a rampage as the xenophorm takes hold. It attempts to infect Guardians member Moondragon but fails, and Moondragon is able to contain it. The Guardians soon arrive, Star-Lord furious that the Luminos would go behind his back like this. Before things can escalate however, the Church Universal Truth bursts in, giving the xenophorm the chance to infect Moondragon. She uses her powers to contain it while the Guardians get her into quarantine, but the Church kidnaps her and Cynosure and escape Knowhere.

Around this time the Shi’ar are forced to work with the pirate group the Starjammers to go into the Fault and investigate the phenomenon. The Inhumans send their own team as well, but are distracted when Maximus the Mad spurs the Kree into a full-fledged revolt, forcing the Inhumans to quell it. The Mighty Avengers arrive soon to help, but it only complicates the situation. The Inhuman science team does indeed reach the Fault, and discover that Black Bolt is alive, and trapped in the tear. With Nova’s help, they free him, and return to Hala to discover that the Inhumans and the Mighty Avengers have successfully stopped Maximus’s Revolt. With Black Bolt return, Medusa gladly turns over the throne.

Discovering Moondragon and Cynosure are being held by the Church on the planet Orison, the Guardians and the Luminals launch a rescue operation. Outnumbered, Rocket Racoon hatches a plan, using Knowhere to crash into the Church’s. Attacking en masse, the group manages to extract Moondragon and Cynosure, and return Knowhere back to its original place. Once there, they extract the xenophorm from Moondragon, and return it to the Fault. However, during this battle, they learn of the Magus’s return, but are unaware that he has captured the rest of the missing Guardians, and is in possession of a mysterious cocoon, much like the one he had returned from years before.

Before the Guardians can rescue them, Martyr manages to break free of her constraints and free the others. They find the cocoon, and Maelstrom states that what is inside is the only thing that could stop Magus. Martyr opens it, but it was a trap, revealing the Mad Titan Thanos is inside! Thanos, confused and enraged, kills Maryr before going on a rampage through the Church’s base. The Guardians arrive to stop him, learning that in his return he has become the avatar of Death for his universe. They take him prisoner, and take him back to Knowhere while they grieve over Martyr’s death as they contemplated what to do about the Fault.

Realm of Kings was the penultimate event in a long series of stories by Dan Abbott starting with Annihilation. This epic would be concluded in the The Thanos Imperative, which we will get to in a little bit. Though not as wide-reaching or epic as War of Kings, Realm of Kings was another step towards a monumental climax in Marvel Cosmic as the saga of The Fault comes to a close.

Fall of the Hulks

No Hulk, Just Bruce

After World War Hulk, Bruce Banner was taken into custody, and not seen again for some time. What was more, he found himself no longer able to transform into the Incredible Hulk, and was finally free of the monster within him. However, with the appearance of the mysterious Red Hulk, who had been created in the fallout of World War Hulk, Bruce knew that he couldn’t stay in hiding for long, confronting the new Hulk and entering into an uneasy alliance while searching for the Red Hulk’s true identity. In fairness, they were an okay team for a while, striking at the Hulk’s enemies and keeping their schemes from coming to fruition. That was until, Bruce discovered that the Red Hulk had been created by MODOK, the gamma radiation drained from him at the climax his war with the Avengers infecting another. Though Bruce is concerned, he continues to work with the Red Hulk, at least for the time being.

Things came to a head when Red Hulk seemingly killed Thunderbolt Ross, sparking the beginnings of a major conflict between Red and Bruce, and a host of the supervillains known as the Intelligencia. Llead by MODOK, the group was made up of some of the most intelligent and conniving supervillains in the world, all with the single intent of gaining rulership of the US. To this end, the group begins to seek out the most brilliant scientists in the worldL Black Panther, Beast, Henry Pym, Reed Richards, Bruce Banner, Tony Stark,  and Dr. Doom.

Red Hulk and Banner begin to hit known AIM hideouts with A-Bomb (aka Rick Jones), eventually finding on holding the Cosmic Hulk. Cosmic breaks free, attacking both Hulks and beating them down before The Leader calls Cosmic off. While there, they also discover that Lyra, the new She-Hulk, is actually Banner’s daughter by way of Thundra, a villain from the future. They tell Banner, who goes off to find Lyra, while Red Hulk goes to find Thundra. Once found, he takes her into the future where she can be safe and taking her into the future so she can be safe. Kissing her goodbye, she leaves him to return to the past, but before he could, A-Bomb attacks him, demanding to know the truth behind how Rick became A-Bomb in the first place. Red Hulk to reveal that AIM was behind it, as well as Doc Sampson implanting a message into A-Bomb’s mind to kill Bruce Banner. The Intelligenica attack them both before they can return to the past, and trigger A-Bomb’s condition before sending him back to eliminate Banner. Banner is shocked by the attack, but upon realizing why it was happening, he tells Rick that he doesn’t blame him for how Bruce become the Hulk, reminding Rick of who he was trying to kill. This breaks his brainwashing, and saves both of them.

As Bruce tries to regroup, the Intelligencia and their minions capture their targets one by one. After the abduction of Hank Pym, Banner meets with the New Avengers, and convinces them to help him stop the Intelligencia, declaring, “I’m the only smart guy left.” Together with the Red Hulk, they attack the hellicarrier, and manage to free the captured heroes to fight against the Intelligencia. However, the Intelligencia manage to capture the Red Hulk, and use his gamma energy to “Hulkify” the various heroes and put them under their control. Banner is capture shortly thereafter, and hooked up to a machine with the rest of the Intellegencia’s targets. Red Hulk manages to get free with Deadpool’s help, only for the latter to be Hulked along with many other heroes, the Intelligencia planning to unleash them on the USA in order to conquer the country...

Fall of the Hulks was the first of a two-part storyline that would bring an end of Greg Pak’s run on Hulk. It played deeply on Bruce’s relationships with the various Hulks, as well as the superhuman community at large. Despite his long heroic history, many heroes don’t trust Banner, the actions of the Hulk during World War Hulk making them more than a little resentful. The story did succeed in setting up the final climax to Pak’s run however, as Bruce Banner completes a journey that had started in that shuttle all those years ago, and finally learns the identity of the Red Hulks...

World War Hulks

Return of the Jade Giant

The final chapter in the saga that had started with Planet Hulk, World War Hulks was the culmination of years of work by Greg Pak and Jeph Loeb as they crafted possibly the greatest Hulk storyline since the character’s creation. With so many heroes Hulkified under the Intelligencia’s control, the group’s invasion of the US is launched into full swing, using their army to take over the country (I’m not sure why they wouldn’t try to take over the world, but they’re super-villains, logic isn’t really their thing). To aid in this attack, the eight geniuses the villains had collected were hooked up to a machine that was draining their brain power. Together, their shared a collective mindscape, trying their best to escape. All except Doom of course, who tried to advantage of the situation, only to be stopped by Bruce Banner.

In the real world, the Intellgenica’s force of Hulked-Out Marines attack Washington DC. Skaar, A-Bomb, and Korg try to hold them back, but once the Hulked-Out Heroes arrive, the battle begins to turn against them. A-Bomb declares they need to find Bruce Banner, so Skaar launches him to the hellicarrier, where he finds Banner, escaped from the Intellengica’s machine during his mental battle with Doom, trying to fight off more Hulked-Out-Heroes.

Meanwhile, the battle in DC escalates, Red Hulk arriving to find the Hulked-Out-Heroes fighting each other. Before he can stop them, Red She-Hulk arrives and drains the Red Hulk’s energy, revealing him to be Thunderbolt Ross! Red She-Hulk leaves him then, forcing him to reflect on his life, and all his past mistakes. Wanting to do some good for once, he absorbs the gamma energy from Cosmic Hulk, and after becoming Red Hulk once more, attacks the Leader, draining all the gamma energy out of him, rendering him “normal” as his punishment for everything that had happened.

In the chaos of the battle, Doom tries to channel the Intelligencia’s machine for his own purpose, only to be stopped by Red She-Hulk and thrown from the carrier. Skaar arrives next, stabbing Red She-Hulk with his sword and forcing her to revert to her human form, Betty Ross! Betty begs Bruce to kill her, but before he can decided what to do, Doc Sampson arrives, the man responsible for her transformation, and she becomes enraged, turning back into her Hulk form. As Red She-Hulk, she fights Samson while Banner and Skaar are contacted by Amadeus Cho, who tells them that unless the various Hulked-Out-Heroes are drained of their gamma radiation, they will burn out and die within 24 hours.

Banner rushes into action, freeing his fellow hero scientists from the Intelligencia’s machine. With their help, he creates a machine to drain the gamma energy from the heroes and put it into himself. His friends try to find another way, but Bruce tells that there is none, him being the only person that could handle it. They hook up the machine, and though it works, the amount of gamma radiation begins to be too much even for him. As the energy threatens to overwhelm Banner, but Samson steps in and absorbs the rest, the power killing him in the process, redeeming him for his past crimes. Once Banner completes his transformation into the Hulk, he sets about destroying the Intelligencia’s base ruining their plans. Just as his victory seems assured, he is attacked by Skaar, who intends to kill his father once and for all.

With the Intelligenica defeated, Skaar demands that Hulk fight him. Hulk refuses, not wanting to harm his own son. Finally, Skaar tells Hulk that his wife Caiera had not died in the explosion on Sakaar. She had been alive the whole time... until Skaar had given the planet over to Galactus for consumption, likely dying with everyone else. Horrified and enraged, Hulk attacks Skaar, much to his son’s delight. Red She-Hulk tries to help Hulk, but Skaar knocks her into a building. As the building collapses, Hulk leaps into action, saving the civilians instead of continuing the fight with his son. This action makes Skaar realize that the Hulk is not a monster, that he was capable of love, and stops fighting. Once they both revert to their human forms, they share an embrace.

But it wasn’t over yet, Bruce knowing that Red Hulk had to be stopped, even with the Intelligencia defeated. Turning back into the Hulk, he goes to confront his red counterpart. Red She-Hulk tries to stop Hulk, but She-Hulk intervenes, having recovered from her earlier attack. Jenn takes Red She-Hulk out, knowing that the two male Hulks have to finish this themselves.

Red Hulk and Hulk attack each other brutally, nothing held back as the fight that had been building for more years than either realize finally happens. They battle all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, where Hulk finally beats Red Hulk down. Forced to revert to his human form, Bruce is stunned to see it is Thunderbolt Ross, and for Betty’s sake, doesn’t kill him. Ross is then taken into custody by the Avengers, as the surviving Hulks band together to find a place in the world.

World War Hulks was the culmination of four years of stories for Greg Pak and Jeph Loeb, starting all the way back to Planet Hulk.  The heart of the story was not just destruction and chaos, it was about the people behind the various Hulks, and what they meant to each other. In a way this story finalized the Hulk family into what it is today, a loose collection of people trying to make sense of what they are. From here, Red Hulk would end up joining the Avengers to atone for his past sins, while Hulk would go into seclusion, Red She-Hulk going with him for a time, the two’s human personas trying to make sense of their relationship after all this time. One can hope they find some kind of happiness going forward, but as it has always been with the Hulk, happiness comes at a cost, a cost that both might have to pay before the end.

The Thanos Imperative

A Battle of Life and Death

Coming on the heels of Realm of Kings, The Thanos Imperative was the finale to a long line of stories by Dan Abbott that began with Annihilation. These stories, as well as the multitude of books that spun out of them, had made the Marvel Cosmic line into a powerhouse, creating or reinvigorating many characters that had fallen by the wayside. With Abbott leaving the books soon, it was time to bring these events to a climax, and that climax concerned the return of a Mad Titan, hungry to impress his Mistress Death once again...

After Martyr’s death, the Guardians of the Galaxy were in a deep state of mourning, having lost both her and Adam Warlock as a result of The Fault. As much as they would have liked to rest, the threat of The Fault was still out there, and information was coming through about the Cancerverse that lay beyond it, and the threat that it posed to the 616 universe. To make things even more complicated, Thanos, the Mad Titan and Martyr’s killer, was their prisoner on Knowhere, and they knew they could only hold him for so long.

While they contemplate their next move Lord Mar-Vell, leader of the Revengers of the Cancerverse, leads an attack from the Fault, the Kree and Shi’ar fleets barely able to keep them at bay. aided by, Galactus, the Celestials and other cosmic beings. Nova meanwhile finally tracks down the Cancerverse version of Quasar, who reveals that Mar-Vell is the Avatar of Life, and that with Thanos the new avatar of Death, the conflict will only end when one kills the other.

Faced with no other options, the Guardians form an uneasy alliance with Thanos, who agrees to kill Mar-Vell in exchange for his freedom. They travel to the Cancerverse with a host of other cosmic heroes, including Nova, to confront the Revengers and their leader. Nova leads a group heroes against Mar-Vell, but is beaten badly. Drax, his hatred for Thanos only increased after Martyr’s death, attacks Thanos unprovoked. Thanos kills him, alerting Mar Vell to his presence, and forcing the dark version of Thanos’s old rival Captain Marvel to flee deeper into the Cancerverse, Thanos and the Guardians giving chase. They find him, and as the two avatars meet for the firist time, Thanos shocks them all by surrendering himself, commenting that, “The Mar-Vell I knew never considered the consequences of his actions either.”

In that moment, Mar-Vell realizes that he has been tricked, Thanos’s sacrifice summoning Death to come to him. Death destroys Mar-Vell, which begins a chain reaction, the entire Cancerverse beginning to collapse as Life is wiped out. Thanos rejoices, expecting Death to embrace him for his actions. Much to his surprise (and no one else’s really), she rejects him again, disgusted by his hubris. As the Cancerverse collapses, Death transports the Guardians and their allies to safety, while Nova and Star-Lord elect to remain behind to keep Thanos in the Cancerverse while the Fault collapses, ensuring his death once and for all. The rest of the heroes return home safely, but the Guardians disband, the loss of Star-Lord and Drax too much for the group to take, and for the first time in years, the Guardians are no more.

The Thanos Imperative was the end of the run for Dan Abbott in the Marvel Cosmic, and the last large event from that line until Infinity. The consequences of this story were far-reaching, the death of Richard Rider leading to a new Nova to rise up and take his place, while the surviving Guardians went their separate ways, their losses to great to bear. But Thanos was destroyed as well, for the moment anyway, but the Mad Titan’s rampage had been stopped, though the cost may have been too great.

Conclusion

Loose Ends Tied

The four stories in today’s episode were a little outside of the main storylines Marvel was presenting at the time, but they were equally, if not more, important. Fall of the Hulks and World War Hulks completed the iconic run on the Incredible Hulk for Greg Pak, bringing a grand finale to a half decade of revolutionary stories. As the same token, Dan Abbott and company finished their epic space opera that began with Annihilation, both Realm of Kings and The Thanos Imperative bringing closure to an era of greatness for Marvel Cosmic.

But back on Earth, things were about to heat up again. Yes, Norman Osborn was out of power and the Dark Reign was over, but the stories during that time had laid some serious groundwork for what was to come. Where was the Scarlet Witch? What would happen to Hope Summers? And how will these two characters affect the long term history of the Marvel Universe? The X-Men and the Avengers, the fan favourites and the flagship, were about embark on a journey that no one, not even the creators at Marvel, could have ever thought possible.

That road begins with our next episode, so until then everyone, 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.
Continuing my series on major Marvel Events, covering the Dark Reign era of the Marvel U.
Updated: 12/15/2015, GregFahlgren
 
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