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The most impactful Marvel comics events of all time

Marvel event images in a collage
Marvel event images in a collage (Image credit: George Marston)

As you've probably noticed, Marvel Comics is all about big event storylines. From the current Daredevil-centric crossover Devil's Reign to the upcoming Avengers/X-Men/Eternals three-way standoff Judgment Day, rarely do a few months go by in which Marvel Comics isn't waist-deep in at least one event.

And that preoccupation with events isn't limited to just Marvel comic books. Civil War (opens in new tab), The Infinity Gauntlet (opens in new tab), Spider-Verse (opens in new tab), and Age of Ultron (opens in new tab) are all comic book storylines that have been adapted into MCU stories, with the upcoming Secret Invasion (opens in new tab) and Armor Wars (opens in new tab) Disney Plus streaming series both having similar roots in comics.

Now, everyone has their opinion on what's the best Marvel stories, and the events Civil War and the Infinity Saga rank highly among fans. But what events have impacted the Marvel Universe the most? That's a different question and we've got answers. So check out Newsarama's in-depth look at the most impactful Marvel events of all time.

Honorable mention: The Infinity Gauntlet

The Infinity Gauntlet

The Infinity Gauntlet (Image credit: Marvel)

Early on in The Infinity Gauntlet (opens in new tab), it seemed as if it would be the series that would change everything – half of humanity was dead! Natural disasters had altered the very world our characters lived in! – but everything was reset by the series' end, with the only lasting effects being that a new Warlock series could be spun out of the whole shebang. A masterclass in the whole 'No change, just the illusion of change' thing.

A spiritual follow-up, Infinity (opens in new tab), promised more lasting change - while Thanos and the gems were still a part of the story, the biggest fallout from that event was the unleashing of the Terrigen Mists and unlocking the powers of thousands if not millions of latent Inhumans.

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10. Fear Itself

Fear Itself

Fear Itself (Image credit: Marvel)

2011's massive event series Fear Itself (opens in new tab) featured developments that certainly felt big at the time, and by the final issue of the series, Bucky (who was Captain America at this point) and Thor were still dead, and Paris was a city of stone statues instead of people.

And then came the three epilogue issues that, one by one, undid each of those things. Cleaning up after itself or a statement on the impermanence of death in superhero comic books? Potentially both, as the writer Matt Fraction told Newsarama at the time: "Death in superhero comics is meaningless. It's the escape. It's the resurrection. That's the story. These issues were kind of the chance to focus on that under the microscope, once all the pyrotechnics were done." 

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9. Secret Invasion

Secret Invasion

Secret Invasion (Image credit: Marvel)

It's tempting to suggest that ending the then-long-running thread of 'Who Do You Trust?' and 'Maybe one of these characters is an alien shapeshifter' is enough to make the end of Secret Invasion (opens in new tab) an important event in and of itself.

In terms of narrative, though, the series moved Tony Stark away from the position of power that he'd been in for months, and placed everything in the hands of Norman Osborn, heralding a period where the bad guys really had won... Well, at least until they started messing everything up for themselves.

The title of this series, if not its entire premise, will be adapted for an upcoming Disney Plus MCU show.

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8. Secret Wars

Secret Wars

Secret Wars (Image credit: Marvel)

This is a tough one because it wasn't the end of Secret Wars (opens in new tab) that changed everything, but the start. Still, that's what you get when the entire series is essentially a 12-part flashback to explain away the changes already seen in everyone's regular book.

She-Hulk in the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man's black costume that would later turn out to be Venom are two changes that may not have stuck forever but ended up becoming surprisingly welcome additions to the canon. Less so, that giant dragon girlfriend for Lockheed, of course. Thankfully, 'Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger,' didn't make a comeback when Secret Wars (opens in new tab) was revived in 2015 - but he did end up back in space with the Guardians of the Galaxy.

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7. Schism

Schism

Schism (Image credit: Marvel)

Unusually, Schism (opens in new tab) was an event book that existed for the sole purpose of the end result: Splitting the X-Men franchise in two. And yet it worked, and in the process refreshed the franchise in a way that nothing else had managed since the days of Grant Morrison.

It wasn't just the clash of ideologies that surprisingly came to life, but the characters presenting those ideologies. 'Wolverine as Teacher' made perfect sense, even as it seemed counter-intuitive, a sign that something has gone right.

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6. Avengers vs. X-Men

Avengers vs. X-Men

Avengers vs. X-Men (Image credit: Marvel)

Aside from the death of Charles Xavier – as if we've never seen that before – and the criminalization of the 'Phoenix Five,' what exactly did Avengers vs. X-Men (opens in new tab) achieve for the larger Marvel Universe?

Well, in theory, it ushered in an era where the X-Men and cosmic characters were brought further into the wider Marvel Universe, which ended up being a quieter, but more meaningful change to Marvel than we normally see from these event books.

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5. House of M

House of M

House of M (Image credit: Marvel)

"No More Mutants."

With those three words, the Scarlet Witch upended the X-Men franchise in a seemingly out-of-nowhere denouement to the alternate reality series, reducing the mutant population of the Marvel Universe to less than 200 and beginning a race against extinction that finally came to an end a decade later.

House of M (opens in new tab) rewrote the Marvel Universe - literally - creating a place where mutants were in charge under the leadership of Magneto. The fallout of the event had massive ramifications on both the X-Men and Avengers for years to come and set up plot points still referenced in both franchises today.

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4. Mutant Massacre

Mutant Massacre

Mutant Massacre (Image credit: Marvel)

Mutant Massacre (opens in new tab) wasn't an event crossover in the way that we consume and understand them today. There was no core limited series in which the main events occurs. There wasn't even a 'Mutant Massacre' banner on the covers of the tie-ins. But despite lacking the standard trapping of a Marvel event had the kind of impact that a crossover such as 'Maximum Security' could only dream of.

This storyline marked the end of the X-Men's stay at Xavier's school for close to the next 100 issues and included the deaths of a handful of familiar faces, the introduction of new characters and revised team rosters, Warren Worthington/Angel being wounded to the point his wings are amputated, and a more somber tone for a franchise already known for its dourness.

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3. Onslaught

Onslaught

Onslaught (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Hey, remember that time when a crossover ended with the Marvel Universe devoid of some of its most famous characters? Now, we can look back and say that the absence of the Fantastic Four, Avengers, and their respective members was only a temporary thing, but at the time that was far from a known fact, meaning that the 'Onslaught' saga (opens in new tab) genuinely did have that feeling of having changed everything in real ways, possibly forever. 

Onslaught has made a couple of comebacks, including as 'Red Onslaught,' a twisted manifestation of Xavier's powers in Red Skull's body - a nightmare that finally ended with Xavier's resurrection. Most recently he resurfaced on Krakoa in the one-shot X-Men: The Onslaught Revelation #1 (opens in new tab).

Xavier is now back whole, helping lead the newly-formed mutant island nation of Krakoa.

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2. Civil War

Civil War

Civil War (Image credit: Marvel)

Oh, Civil War (opens in new tab), how you changed the Marvel Universe. There was that whole 'You work for the government or you're a criminal' thing, that whole 'Now no one gets on with anyone else' thing, the skillful creation of a second Avengers book for the first time since West Coast Avengers, but more importantly, it changed the Marvel Universe by changing the tone of the Marvel Universe.

Even though House of M (opens in new tab)'s decimation of mutantkind came earlier, it was Civil War that felt as if it actually had an impact on the style and content of all of Marvel's titles for months afterward, setting the pattern for events that followed.

And Civil War is the Marvel event that just keeps giving, not only as the inspiration for Captain America: Civil War (opens in new tab), but in 2016's comic book sequel, Civil War II (opens in new tab).

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1. Secret Wars

Secret Wars

Secret Wars (Image credit: Marvel)

... Secret Wars (opens in new tab), again? Déjà vu? Not exactly. See, this entry is about the second event to use the title Secret Wars.

The fallout of the newer iteration of Marvel's first-ever crossover event included the Ultimate Universe ending completely, with aspects of it, including Miles Morales and the Triskelion, folded into the mainstream Marvel Universe, the world at large believing the Fantastic Four were dead while they rebuilt the multiverse, and the death of Marvel's oldest character, Namor, in the aftermath (he got better.) 

While the in-universe consequences stemming directly from Secret Wars are, on their own, enough to give this event a spot high up on this list, the real-world implications are even more staggering. During its run, the entire Marvel Comics line was put on hold while tie-ins explored the various aspects of the makeshift, hybrid world the storyline occurred on, Battleworld, only to see every single Marvel comic book relaunched with a new #1 as part of the 'All-New, All-Different' Marvel Universe.

The new universe very closely resembled the old one, making this less of a reboot and more of a retooling, but it's likely as close as the venerable company will ever come to fully rebooting its universe, as its very proud of the fact DC has rebooted its universe multiple times and its has not. 

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