Not sure what an event is, or why Jean Grey and Iron Man are in the same comic? Part 1 will tell you all you need to know.
The Event: Annihilation: Conquest (2007-2008), written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, with others, and art by various.
What is it? A collection of limited series, spinning off from the end of Annihilation, chronicling another galactic war, but this time the survivors of Annihilation are both more experienced and more exhausted.
What is it really? The powerful race of machines, the Phalanx, invade the Kree worlds. They possess the ability to assimilate their captives into becoming brainwashed cyborg slaves. With Star-Lord in jail, Gamora and Drax captured and Nova lost in space, the struggle for survival gets desperate.
Should I read it? Did you like Annihilation? Then definitely! This story is tighter and more fun in almost every single way. The stakes are clear, the fighting never gets muddled or confusing, as it often does in these big event stories. There are also some twists and surprising characters who leave a killer impact, including one popular movie villain who gets one of their definitive stories here.
No really, should I read it? Did you not like Annihilation? Even so, this story is so fun. The issues chronicling the first encounter between fan-favorite duo Rocket Raccoon and Groot, is particularly memorable. The only real misstep is new character Wraith, who is quickly forgotten. Other issues, such as a one shot showing the perspective of a lone Kree soldier, or one that jumps into a possible future if the Conquest War is lost, are particular standouts. This event is highly recommended.
The Event: Dark Reign (2008-2009), written by Brian Michael Bendis, and everyone else, with art by Alex Maleev, and also everyone else.
What is it? Not really an event or a crossover, more of a theme that all Marvel books adhered to for a bit over a year. The public thinks that the heroes are villains and that the villains are heroes, and for a year everything is topsy-turvy and dark.
What is it really? Norman Osborn, best known as Spider-man villain the Green Goblin, becomes director of SHIELD and gets his hands on an Iron Man suit, which he then paints to evoke feelings of America. He creates an evil team of Avengers and starts the hunt for the genuine heroes, who are on the run.
Should I read it? Maybe the most controversial entry on this list, Dark Reign is an often criticized year of Marvel comics. Many comics readers are sick of this sort of thing, villains triumphing, heroes fighting amongst themselves, rampant darkness and the like. If my tone doesn’t make it clear though, I really loved this year of comics.
No really, should I read it? As with everything, some of the tie-ins are great and some not so much. The central series was Brian Michael Bendis’s Dark Avengers, which is the best team book he ever wrote. The more obscure series that started during Secret Invasion really get a chance to shine here. To start, check out such forgotten gems as the Incredible Hercules, Agents of Atlas, Captain Britain and the MI:13, Dark Wolverine, Secret Warriors and SWORD. Plus there was the amazing and irreverent Punisher storyline Frankencastle, in which Punisher becomes a Frankenstein-like monster.
The Event: War of Kings (2009), written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, with art Wes Craig, Andrea Di Vito, Paul Pelletier, and the very talented Brad Walker (amongst others).
What is it? The first real crossover event of Marvel’s cosmic heroes. Made up of a few miniseries, plus issues of Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova.
What is it really? Vulcan, a powerful and psychotic X-Men villain has taken over the Shi’ar empire. Black Bolt, the Celestial Messiah and king of the Inhumans, has taken over the Kree empire, now weakened by two brutal wars. The new kings of their respective empires flex their space muscles and plunge the Marvel galaxy into another conflict.
Should I read it? How’d you feel about the last two space events? This one is at least as good as Annihilation: Conquest, and some would say it’s even better. Abnett and Lanning are now firmly in control of this group of books, and the strength of their vision makes for a surprisingly well put together event, with virtually no major weak points.
No really, should I read it? It’s really, really good. In my comic selling days, I used to pitch it as a sort of Game of Thrones in space, and I stand by that. There are complicated alliances, deaths at weddings, petty disputes escalated into war and the first real time the Guardians of the Galaxy had to guard the whole galaxy. The roguish Guardians bring the humor, the earnest Nova brings the heart, and the backdrop of this new epic space war brings a lot of spectacle.
The Event: Seige (2010), written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art by Olivier Coipel.
What is it? If Secret Invasion was the season premiere to this season of Marvel comics, Dark Reign made up the bulk of the episodes, and this event is the season finale.
What is it really? Norman Osborn, now barely holding his sanity together, declares war on the god-city of Asgard, currently floating over Oklahoma. His Dark Avengers lead the charge in a bloody battle, filled with casualties, drama and dubious pacing.
Should I read it? If you like brutal superpowered throwdowns, you could do worse. If you read Secret Invasion and Dark Reign and want closure, this is it. The last few pages set up a pretty standard Marvel status quo, including the formation of approximately ninety Avengers teams.
No really, should I read it? Remember how Secret Invasion was a bit tough to read because of the pacing? This one is even rougher, turning one big battle into an entire event. It’s not that the fights are bad- some of them are among Marvel’s best- it’s that the events that could have been the last half of a single issue of Avengers, but instead is stretched out into dozens of miniseries. It’s a bit slim, in terms of content.
The Event: Shadowland (2010), written by Andy Diggle, with art by Billy Tan.
What is it? A crossover event bringing to an end years of Daredevil stories, with major roles for Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Ghost Rider, Misty Knight, Spider-Man, Moon Knight and a ton of other street level and martial arts characters.
What is it really? Daredevil decides the only way to destroy the evil ninja clan known as the Hand, is to become their leader. He pretty much immediately gets possessed by an evil ninja demon and builds a huge castle in the middle of Hell’s kitchen and becomes uncharacteristically stab-happy. His friends, superpowered and otherwise, set off on a quest to stop and/or redeem him.
Should I read it? Daredevil is one of those characters blessed with decades of good comics. This big story… is not one of them. The demonic possession is never as compelling as the story wants it to be, and seems like an easy excuse for yet more superhero on superhero action, the consequences of which are negated by the premise. No one is going to blame Daredevil for being a demon (though maybe they should, I love the guy but he makes questionable choices).
No really, should I read it? Even though the event overall has more bad than good, Daredevil enthusiasts may find a lot to like here. Foggy Nelson is spotlighted in a great way, and a lot of the tie-ins are fun. I’m a huge fan of the martial arts corner of the Marvel universe, so I was pleased to see characters like Colleen Wing and Shang-Chi getting some page time, but even with that I haven’t cracked this story open again in the years since it has come out.
The Event: Chaos War (2011), written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, with art by various.
What is it? A crossover event laden by miniseries, telling the story of the Incredible Hercules fighting the Japanese god of chaos.
What is it really? The Chaos King, who can only speak in Haiku, launches an assault against the laws of reality, and the various gods of various mythologies. Once he defeats Death, teams made up of famously dead heroes must escape the underworld to assist Herc and his allies.
Should I read it? Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente’s work with Hercules was consistently excellent. This story feels that it would have been really great within a Hercules book, but here is maybe stretched a bit thin while buckling under the weight of too many unnecessary miniseries.
No really, should I read it? Does a villain who can only speak in Haiku sound fun to you? If so, you’ll find plenty to like here. The undead superhero team idea is fun, with great rosters (for the most part, Wasp returns from the dead, only for a later Avengers book to say that she wasn’t dead at all, only very small. Come on Marvel editors!) but the conflict never justifies the number of issues. You’re better off reading the rest of the Incredible Hercules series and its hilarious Brooklyn Greek diner set follow-up, Herc.
The Event: Fear Itself (2011), written by Matt Fraction, with art by Stuart Immonen.
What is it? The big event of 2011, with a killer creative team including some of comics’s most beloved creators. Mostly a Thor story, with some big Captain America stuff as well, though its Iron Man who steals the show by drinking with some Dwarven blacksmiths.
What is it really? The Red Skull’s daughter finds a magic hammer, sort of like Thor’s but evil. Turns out Odin had a secret older brother who loves magical hammers and is the god of fear (itself). He throws hammers down to Earth, empowering nine random characters for the duration of this story.
Should I read it? This story was originally conceived of a small crossover between Matt Fraction, who was writing Thor at the time, and Ed Brubaker, considered by many to be the definitive modern Captain America writer. The two are friends, and work well together. There’s a lot to like here, but something about the story fails to click. The conflict never grows to the size to justify the number of issues and some truly exciting developments are undercut by some truly lame developments. It probably would have worked better if it was allowed to stay a smaller story. Both Fraction and Brubaker left Marvel soon after this event.
No really, should I read it? Even the worst Matt Fraction story is better than the best work by some other writers on this list. The nine random hammers plot was sort of a waste. The Iron Man issues (also by Fraction) are cool, taking Tony Stark as far out of his comfort zone as I have ever seen. This event is mainly important to me for being the start of Kieron Gillen’s run on Journey Into Mystery, one of the best (if not the very best) comics Marvel has put out in the last couple of decades. The tie-in issues elevate the main event story by adding in some much needed depth and context, especially for Odin’s villainous brother. Journey Into Mystery itself goes on to be Marvel’s answer to Sandman: a truly thought-provoking, story that remembers that being “adult” doesn’t just mean sex and violence. Read this event or skip it, but Journey Into Mystery is not to be missed.
The Event: Spider Island (2011), written by Dan Slott with art by Humberto Ramos.
What is it? The most universally loved of Dan Slott’s big Spider-Man crossover books.
What is it really? Remember the Clone Saga? Spider Island brings back the Jackal, best remembered for being the villain of that story. This time, his evil plan involves irradiating Manhattan’s bedbug population, giving Spider-Man’s powers to all who live there. Things get out of control (giant hairy spider monsters are involved), and Spider-Man must battle to save New York, with the help of such heroes as Agent Venom, Hercules, Cloak & Dagger, Shang-Chi, Anti-Venom and Spider-Girl.
Should I read it? It’s really fun, and needs very little in way of background. You can jump right in and read this story straight, or read years of Spider-Man comics to feel the very real payoff. Taking plot elements from beloved and reviled Spider-Man stories is no easy task, and Dan Slott really makes it work.
No really, should I read it? Humerto Ramos’s art is very cartoony, but I think it really fits the story. It’s a great Spider-Man story, bringing together disparate threads and lesser characters, all unsung heroes of the Marvel universe. I wouldn’t go so far to call this event perfect, but there is no single aspect of this series that is lacking. The main story is fun, the tie-ins are all a good time, none are essential to the reader’s understanding. One of the best stories on this list.
The Event: Schism (2011), written by Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen, with art by various.
What is it? An X-Men crossover event about Wolverine and Cyclops. The event spins out into two fabulous X-Men series written by the same two writers.
What is it really? The X-Men have their own mini Civil War, but the differing sides are a lot more clear. Wolverine decides that mutant children need to be protected so that they can have real childhoods. Cyclops thinks mutant children will always be targets (and admittedly, he has five decades of X-Men comics as evidence for that belief) and that they must be trained to be superheroes, as soon as possible.
Should I read it? The leanest, meanest event on this list. Clocking in at only five issues, with six tie in issues of Generation Hope (by Gillen) and a four issue prelude (also by Gillen). Every issue is at least good. This is two excellent Marvel writers at the top of their games who love to collaborate.
No really, should I read it? Yeah! It reintroduces fan-favorite X-kid Quentin Quire to the story, and addresses the always popular Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine love triangle. The different sides have a compelling difference in philosophy and the final showdown on the beach is X-Men drama at their best. (“She never loved you you know!” Still gives me shivers.)
The Event: Avengers Vs X-Men (or AvX) (2012), written by a superstar team of Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, Jason Aaron and Jonathan Hickman, some of Marvel’s all-time great writers. Art is by John Romita Jr., Olivier Coipel and Adam Kubert, among others.
What is it? Civil War but instead of Avengers fighting Avengers, this time the Avengers are fighting the X-Men (sort of). An expansive event with oodles of crossover tie-ins. The finale to almost ten years of comics. Also, Black Panther slaps Iron Man.
What is it really? The Phoenix Force, that all powerful entity that occasionally likes to empower Jean Grey is headed for Earth. Cyclops is convinced it can be used to rescue the now-endangered Mutant race and Captain America is pretty sure it’s coming to kill Earth. They fail to resolve their differences with words (they don’t try very hard, it’s an event), and manage to split the Phoenix Force into five pieces, empowering five X-Men to become the Phoenix Five and take over the world. Instead of being a straight superhero vs superhero story, it’s really a story of five troubled heroes becoming villains and the rest of the world rising up to stop them. Also, the initials of the first names of the five empowered characters (Piotr, Emma, Namor, Ilyana and Scott) spell a funny word.
Should I read it? By the time this book came out, people were vociferously tired of these huge event stories. This one promised to be more of the same sort of story in which heroes fail to talk things out and act out of character for the sake of fisticuffs. That doesn’t end up being the case however, and the actual story is a lot more interesting than people give it credit for.
No really, should I read it? If the sheer size and scope of previous events were off-putting to you, this will be no different. But as mega-crossovers go, AvX is one of my favorites. Less of a Civil War rehash and more of a straight superhero epic, this was a fun, surprising story with a lot of relevance to future titles. Also, Kieron Gillen’s epilogue, AvX: Consequences, resolves a lot of the strange plot threads left dangling by the main series proper. It is similar to Bendis events of the past but the rotating creative team and twisty main plot elevate this event more than the sum of its parts.
The Event: Age of Ultron (2013), by Brian Michael Bendis, with art by Bryan Hitch.
What is it? A long gestating mega-crossover event turned into ‘just’ an event. Despite sharing a name with the billion dollar film, the titular villain is the only thing they share in common.
What is it really? In an alternate timeline, Ultron manages to conquer the world. The Avengers are scattered across the world in random groups. They reunite, only for most of them to be killed off-page. Some of them make it to the Savage Land, where Wolverine and Invisible Woman use a time machine and go back in time to kill Ant-Man so that Ultron will never be built. This creates an Earth where Iron Man is at war with Morgana le Fey from Aurthurian legend, so Wolverine and Invisible Woman go back in time again. Eventually, they break time so bad, Angela, an Angel bounty hunter created by Neil Gaiman for an Image comic gets sucked right into Marvel continuity, thanks to a recent legal ruling.
Should I read it? This book was foreshadowed for years, in virtually all of Bendis’s titles, from Avengers to Moon Knight. You can tell he was pitching it for a while, waiting for a good time to fit it in. It seems that time never came for him, because the story couldn’t even take place in the main universe. It’s as if the whole event is constantly broadcasting how little it will impact anything, and so the stakes are never established. The weird thing is, Bendis keeps sharing his plans and outlines, and it seems that a lot of thought went into the book. It’s a shame that doesn’t come across on the page.
No really, should I read it? No, absolutely not.
The Event: Infinity (2013), written by Jonathan Hickman, with art by Dustin Weaver, Jerome Opena, Jim Cheung.
What is it? An Avengers crossover event in the middle of Jonathan Hickman’s dense and expansive Avengers run. Hickman had two Avengers book, one focusing on the biggest iteration of the team yet, and the other focused on a secret society of superheroes, the Illuminati.
What is it really? An extra-galactic alien race called the Builders invade the Marvel galaxy. The leaders of the various alien races realize that the one group to beat all of them is Earth’s Avengers. They request that the Avengers lead the defense of the galaxy. The main team heads off into space, but the evil Thanos takes the opportunity to attack Earth. The Illuminati remain behind to stop Thanos.
Should I read it? This is an epic space war, but is tonally dissimilar from the Annihilation stories. That was a wartime action movie, focusing on the bonds between the companions at war and despite the scale of the carnage, was always a fun adventure story. This is a space opera, dense, weird and suitably badass. Hickman’s writing has a lyrical element to it, and his epic superhero smackdowns almost never disappoint, certainly not here.
No really, should I read it? It can seem a little daunting, but Infinity was a solid story with consistent internal logic (which is important when dealing with Sci-Fi at this scale). There is a lot going on, but the story uses neat tricks to help the reader follow, such as showing one battle from the perspective of a few different Avengers. Hickman never forgets that the Avengers have different powers, so a character like Captain Marvel takes to flying through space with ease. Falcon’s powers are a bit more limited, he has a bit more to overcome. This is a good one, an Avengers story for people who really like the Avengers.
The Event: Original Sin (2014), written by Jason Aaron with art by Mike Deodato.
What is it? An event focusing on the murder of one of Marvel’s most powerful immortals, the Watcher. The tie-ins each focus on a retcon, a secret from each character’s past that was unknown to them until now.
What is it really? The Watcher, an omnipotent man with a baby’s head who observes the Earth, has his baby head blown off and one of his eyes stolen by eminently weird Ghost Rider villain the Orb (who has a giant eyeball instead of a head) (noticing a pattern yet?). By detonating it, he unleashes the knowledge of hidden secrets on the heroes of Earth. Some of the heroes get it together and investigate the watcher’s death, and try to track down his missing other eye. The rest of the heroes totally lose their minds over the revelations.
Should I read it? The retcon is the time honored tradition of changing a comic’s story after it already happened. Some retcons, such as erasing Peter Parker’s marriage from existence, were met with less than enthusiastic reception from fans. Others, such as the creation of the character Winter Soldier, have been better received. This entire story is predicated on retcons, and for the most part it delivers, but some people feel repelled by the very premise.
No really, should I read it? This one is really weird, almost surprisingly so. The Orb is the first in a trio of obscure and genuinely strange Marvel villains featured in this story. Plus it has plot elements like a stolen eyeball that doubles as a bomb full of secrets. Still, Jason Aaron excels at little touches and this story is no exception. It opens with all of Marvel’s WWII veteran characters (Captain America, Winter Soldier, Black Widow, Nick Fury and Wolverine) going out for “meat night”, evidently a monthly tradition where each of them rotates at picking a steak house. This was an idea never mentioned before, and probably will never be mentioned again, but it makes me love the Marvel universe that much more. This event is filled with offhand ideas like that. Even if the larger plot is too strange for your liking, it is a worthwhile and well-written journey.
The Event: AXIS (2014), written by Rick Remender, with art by Adam Kubert, Leinil Francis Yu, Terry Dodson and Jim Cheung.
What is it? No one is really sure. Simplest answer is that it was an event in which heroes became villains and villains became heroes.
What is it really? The Red Skull, having stolen Professor X’s brain and thus his powers, is sending a wave of hate around the world. The X-Men and the Avengers show up to stop him and Dr. Doom and Scarlet Witch attempt a magic spell. This spell flips morality- but not consistently- for most of- but not all of – the characters present. Everyone acts like jerks and the rest of the story involves heroes fighting heroes, and villains saving the civilians. Also, Hulk become Kluh, which is Hulk spelled backwards, and he does pretty much the same stuff but now with an overt and uncomfortable sexual tone to it.
Should I read it? This one is weird, and not in an intentional way like Original Sin. The book is laden with strange typos and random plot developments. Sometimes it seems as if Remender had a good idea that he couldn’t manage to fit anywhere else; sometimes it seems as if the Marvel editorial board inserted unrelated plot developments and retcons that they didn’t have time for in Original Sin. Remender is talented and has put out some awesome work for Marvel in the past, most notably his superlative run on Uncanny X-Force. You’re probably better off reading that.
No really, should I read it? Or maybe this book is a brilliant work of satire. Maybe Remender was trying to critique the foolishness of writing an event story by writing one that represents all of their worst elements. Parody sort of makes the most sense here. After all, this is the only time that Carnage aka Cletus Kassaday, is portrayed as a Lynyrd Skynyrd loving redneck obsessed with rhinestones. Honestly, that would be hilarious if I could be sure that the joke was on purpose.
The Event: Spider-Verse (2014-2015), written by Dan Slott and others, with art by Olivier Coipel and others.
What is it? A massive Spider-Man crossover spearheaded by Dan Slott that promises to feature every Spider-Man ever. And it delivers.
What is it really? Morlunn, an interdimensional vampire, and his family, the deadly Inheritors, attempt to feast upon the souls of every Spider themed character in the multiverse. Every Spider-Man from classic Peter Parker to the Great Depression-era Noir version to Peter Porker the Sensational Spider-Ham to the version from the very weird live action Japanese TV show, must stand together.
Should I read it? How often does any comic, let alone a Marvel comic, so thoroughly deliver on a promise? Dan Slott promised a madcap adventure featuring every Spider-Man ever, and that’s exactly what he delivered!
No really, should I read it? If you like Spider-Man and fun, then yes. Besides the joy of seeing so many different iterations of a beloved character (the Marvel vs. Capcom version makes an appearance, as does the internet meme version!) the story itself is good superheroing. Add to that the introduction of a bunch of new versions of the character, especially the surprise fan-favorite Spider-Gwen, and you’re talking about a fantastic comic. Is it a gimmick? Yes, and it is glorious.
The Event: Secret Wars (2015), written by Jonathan Hickman, with art by Esad Ribic.
What is it? Jonathan Hickman concludes his almost decade long tenure at Marvel with the biggest crossover event Marvel ever attempted.
What is it really? The multiverse is imploding! Dr. Doom achieves his dream of ultimate power in the final seconds of the universe and uses it to create Battleworld, a planet whose continents are each based on past Marvel events and classic stories. One team of heroes and one team of villains remember the world before Doom became the Almighty, and slowly try to unravel the world he created, without destroying the universe in the process.
Should I read it? Do you like big? Hickman goes all out, pulling all the stops and referencing every comic he ever did for Marvel. He’s an incredible talent, matched only by his artist, the unparallelled Esad Ribic, who amongst other achievements gets to draw the true face of Victor Von Doom, a mystery since the character’s introduction in 1962.
No really, should I read it? I wasn’t at the Marvel meeting when they discussed this story, but I imagine that the editorial department asked all the writers what their dream Marvel fan fiction would look like and then just gave them the go-ahead to do that. The central Secret Wars story is an epic that only Hickman and Ribic could pull off, and there is a tie-in for everyone, to every taste. The sheer size of this book intimidated a lot of people, but those who braved it found a superhero epic like nothing else. If you’ve gotten this far, you should know what you like and what you would want to see. Want to see a follow up to Age of Apocalypse? A story about Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson? A Kung Fu movie filled with ninja versions of Marvel Superheroes? A cop show where every cop is Thor? That is just a sampling of the insanity that Secret Wars brings.