Previously: some stuff happened and some people died and everything almost blew up. And now the conclusion. Let's get this party started!
One thing you must understand before we finish this series off: this era had a lot of crossovers. A huge lot. I mean, there are X-Men crossovers and Spider-Man crossovers and Cosmic crossovers and Avengers crossovers. Because, as Marvel found out repeatedly, crossovers sell. If a new comic is spun out from a crossover it will sell better than if it happened without one.
(I know this because of an interview with Paul Cornell about Captain Britain and MI-13, one of my absolute favorite series. It began with high sales from Secret Invasion, but once that crossover was done, sales dropped significantly and it was cancelled. EVEN THOUGH IT WAS AWESOME.)
Are we all sitting comfortably? Then let's begin:
Back during Secret Invasion, Hercules went and fought the Skrull gods with the help of the "God Squad." One of the members of the God Squad was Amatsu-Mikaboshi, a Japanese deity that came from the primordial void before Earth existed. And during the crossover, he managed to fake his death.
Which leads us to Chaos War (2010), the culmination of a years long storyline starting in Incredible Hercules. Basically: Mikaboshi decides he wants to return the world back to primordial darkness and finally has the power to back it up. The first thing he does is kill Nightmare, causing loads of people to just fall into comas (which means, basically, that Thor and Amadeus Cho have to handle most of this without Avenger support).
The second thing he does is destroy the afterlife itself. Which has the consequence of causing a whole bunch of dead characters to come back and either fight for or against Mikaboshi. It was pretty awesome, although the only real lasting effect of the crossover was at the end, Hercules had to expend all of his godlike powers to restore the universe, resulting in him being made mortal.
Meanwhile, the Hulk and his pals had been going through some tough times. First, they were kidnapped by a group called the Intelligencia who want to drain their intelligence — this was called Fall of the Hulks — and then they released bunch of Hulked-out heroes on Washington DC. This was, of course, called World War Hulks.
(Also, Shadowland happened. But we don't like to talk about that.)
In 2011, there were two movies that were coming out: Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. So Marvel had a great idea: a giant crossover involving Thor and Captain America!
Fear Itself was actually bit more complicated than that — it grew in the telling, if you will. It begins with Sin, the daughter of the Red Skull, finding the Hammer of Skadi and freeing the "Serpent," who summons seven other Hammers for "the Worthy."
At first, the crossover was mainly about stopping the Worthy — various villains and heroes taken over by the Hammers — but then it became something else, when it was revealed who the Serpent actually is: Cul, the brother of Odin, the one prophesied to kill Thor (yes, that was actually the Midgard Serpent, but just go with it). Cul created a Dark Asgard and there was an epic battle and he was finally defeated...
...and Thor died anyway.
(Also, Bucky had his death faked so that Steve Rogers could be Captain America again.)
Thor managed to stay dead for seven months (couldn't even last a year) before coming back from limbo (literally).
The X-Men were also having a rough time as well: after moving to San Francisco in a place called Utopia, they came under attack by a new Hellfire Club. But the real conflict was between Cyclops and Wolverine — specifically, Cyclops' darker methods (you'd think Wolverine would be fine with killing, but apparently not). This story was called Schism, appropriately enough. And the end result was, essentially, that Wolverine packed up and started his own school
with blackjack and hookers in New York and called it the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. With Wolverine as Headmaster. (You can snicker now.)
(Also, Spider-Man had a crossover called Spider-Island. It involved everyone in New York getting spider powers.)
This led to Avengers Vs. X-Men (2012). When the Avengers and the X-Men learn that the Phoenix Force is coming to Earth, they
have an honest discussion about what to do argued. A lot.
And then, once the Phoenix Force arrived, Iron Man tried to shoot it and it split into five parts and lands in Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magik. They then tried to fix all the worlds problems.
This didn't quite work out. First, both Namor and Magik aren't quite all there in the first place. And then the Phoenix Force starts to corrupt them. And also, they keep on getting into fights with the Avengers.
Finally, after a ton of fighting, Cyclops finally grabbed the rest of the Phoenix Force for himself, killed Professor X, and then tried to destroy the world. Hope (now grown up) and the Scarlet Witch manage to draw out of the Phoenix Force in time and Cyclops is thrown in jail. (He escapes in record time.)
After AvX, the entire Marvel universe was reshuffled. Most of the creative teams on the comics wanted to do something different, so they created Marvel NOW! Brian Michael Bendis went from the Avengers to the X-Men, Jason Aaron went from the Hulk to Thor, and Jonathan Hickman went from the Fantastic Four to the Avengers.
Where he proceeded to create the next meta-plot.
Okay, this is going to get complicated. Extra, extra complicated.
First, let's get Age of Ultron out of the way. It is in no way related to the movie, other than the fact it has Ultron in it. It's about Ultron taking over the world and killing a bunch of people and then Wolverine and Sue Richards go back in time and Wolverine kills Hank Pym (seriously) and then having to fix that and then everything is fine, except time is broken and Galactus is in the Ultimate universe and Angela is pulled from the Spawn universe.
Got that? Because none of it is really important. What's important is this:
One day, Black Panther discovered another Earth. And that other Earth was destroyed. He brought together the Illuminati (Black Bolt, Iron Man, Namor, Doctor Strange, Reed Richards, Captain America, and Beast filling in for the dead Professor X) to figure out what is happening. Which they do: Incursions.
Parallel Earths are merging and either one Earth is destroyed or both universes die.
And then things got worse. You see, in order to fight off the first Incursion they encountered, the Illuminati put together the Infinity Gauntlet and used it to push the other Earth to safety. This succeeded...and broke the Gauntlet. Five out of the six Infinity Gems shattered and then Thanos is alerted to their presence on Earth. Whoops? (Also, Doctor Strange had to mind-wipe Captain America because he knew that they would eventually build world-destroying devices.)
This then leads to Infinity. The majority of the superheroes on Earth went out into space to fight against an ancient race called the Builders, who were cutting a swath through space to destroy Earth (it being the epicenter of the Incursions). Almost every single race was fighting against the Builders. Except for Thanos, who decided now's the perfect time to invade Earth and 1) find the Infinity Gems and 2) kill his bastard son. (Didn't work.)
Meanwhile, over in the X-Men crossovers, Cyclops had become a mutant revolutionary and Beast was struck with a sudden thought: hey, if young Cyclops saw what he had become, then he would stop, right? So he went back in time and brought back the original five X-Men into the present.
This plot got even more complicated when the Original Five X-Men decided to stay in the present and then got involved in the Battle of the Atom against the Future Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, which consisted of Xavier and Mystique's evil son and a bunch of people he brainwashed and also Raze, who I think is Mystique and Sabretooth's son maybe.
Time travel, oy vey.
(And then the Shi'ar tried to put young Jean Grey on trial, in the appropriately titled The Trial of Jean Grey. All that resulted in is young Cyclops meeting his dad Corsair and then leaving to have awesome space adventures.)
And then comes Original Sin (2014). Which is the craziest goddamn crossover ever.
It started when Nick Fury and some others found the dead body of Uatu the Watcher...who had both his eyes stolen. What can you do with the Watcher's eyes? A lot, apparently, because they are full of secrets.
And then one goes off like a bomb. A bomb full of secrets. This leads to a bunch of things including 1) Spider-Man learning there was another person bitten by that radioactive spider (Silk) and releasing her starts Spider-Verse, 2) Thor learning he had a sister (Angela), and 3) Captain America learning he was mind-wiped.
And then we learn that Nick Fury is actually old — the Infinity Formula keeping him young ran out long ago — and that he had a secret other job as the "Man on the Wall," protecting Earth from aliens and monsters by shooting them a lot. And that he killed the Watcher (it's complicated). Old Nick Fury had a badass moment when he nearly took on the entire Avengers and caused Thor to drop his Hammer with a whisper. And then, after all that, he was punished by the other Watchers by being forced to
explain what the heck happened take his place as the Unseen.
Over in the pages of Uncanny Avengers, the Red Skull had dug up Professor X's corpse and stolen his brain. And then fused their brains together somehow and became the Red Onslaught and managed to set off a "hate wave" and caused World War Hate in a crossover called AXIS (2014). (I want to say "Comics!" right here, but I know this isn't the craziest thing that's ever happened.)
And then the Scarlet Witch tried some magic mumbo jumbo to get him to stop and he did! But, unfortunately, that also flipped the switch on everyone who was around at the time, causing their alignments to reverse (because this is just a giant game of Dungeons and Dragons). Iron Man became a greedy executive! The X-Men decided that Magneto was right and they need to exterminate all humans! DOCTOR DOOM GIVES AWAY FREE WI-FI! (The password is "richardssucks.")
Everything managed to be reversed in time (except for a few like Iron Man).
Also, Spider-Verse happened. Every Spider-Man ever. Spider-Man Noir. Spider-Man 2099. Spider-Ham. Spider-Gwen. Also, Supaidaman, who is awesome and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. And afterwards, they will explode.
Okay, stick with me, we're almost done.
So remember how the Illuminati were trying to stop the Incursions, but had to mind-wipe Captain America and then later he remembered they mind-wiped him? Yeah, that was a bad idea. Because now he wanted to hunt them all down. (Even though he was an old man now. Uh, because he was drained of his super solder serum in his own series. Look, I told you it gets complicated. Everyone just calls him Old Man Rogers now
and get off his lawn.)
And then things jump to eight months later in Time Runs Out (2014-2015) And the Illuminati are on the run. The Incursions are still coming and there is nothing they can do to stop them. And Namor has put together a team of villains called the Cabal to do what they can't, but they've gotten out of hand.
I mean, he probably should have known this would happen. He put Thanos on his team, for God's sake.
Also, there are so many factions to the Incursions: there's the Mapmakers and the Black Priests and the Ivory Kings and Rabum Alal and his Black Swans.
And then it turns out that the Ivory Kings are really the Beyonders and they've been killing Cosmic Entities and destroying universes. And Rabum Alal is Doctor Doom. And the Incursions are still happening, but there aren't many universes left.
In fact, there's two universes left. And when time finally runs out...
That's when the Secret Wars (2015) begin.
Secret Wars hasn't happened yet, but it's shaping up to be possibly the most interesting crossover yet. Because aside from the main title, every other title takes place in a piece of an alternate Earth — where writers can bring back old storylines and crossovers and play around with them.
Of all the series coming out during Secret Wars, these the crossovers being revisited: Age of Apocalypse, Spider Island, Spider-Verse, Avengers vs X-Men (but with A-Babies and X-Babies!), Civil War, House of M, Mutant Massacre, Inferno, Age of Ultron, and Infinity Gauntlet. And also some other storylines like Armor Wars and Planet Hulk.
So Secret Wars is both the largest crossover yet and a celebration of crossovers.
That's all, folks.
(Also, I know I missed, like, all of the Ultimate Marvel crossovers, like Ultimatum and Cataclysm. But, in my defense, look over there!)