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Marvel's Dark Ages asks 'what if the superheroes lose?'

The Dark Ages
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

"The world outside your window…is about to end," says Marvel Comics ... after 365 days, anyway.

After almost exactly a year since first teasing the storyline and announcing a Fall 2020 release, Marvel has officially announced (again) that writer Tom Taylor and artist Iban Coello's Dark Ages six-issue limited series will debut September 1. 

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

First foreshadowed in 2020's Free Comic Book Day: X-Men offering from Marvel, and teased this week in a series of mysterious images including this one - the limited series will unite superheroes from every corner of the Marvel Universe against a new threat ... but they will "fail."

'What if the superheroes lose?' seems to the calling card/differentiator of this series. 

"Their defeat will usher in an exciting new age full of heartbreaking loss and unimaginable stakes," reads Marvel's announcement. "As the world is remade, fans will meet fascinating new versions of their favorite heroes as they fight to overcome insurmountable odds and restore hope to the universe."

Taylor calls Dark Ages "a story unlike any we've told before."

(Image credit: Ryan Stegman/JP Mayer (Marvel Comics))

According to the publisher, the story begins with the "shocking revelation" of what the Watcher has been watching for all these years. Adding to new, untold layers to old school continuity in a favored story device at Marvel in recent years. 

In this case "a danger older than the Earth threatens everything. And for once, the heroes who have saved the planet time and again find themselves almost completely powerless in the face of it," continues the description. "X-Men and Avengers will assemble. Spider-people and the Fantastic Four will come together. Heroes for Hire will fight alongside Champions. But none of it will be enough. The lights are about to go out... forever."

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

As mentioned by Marvel, the storyline was first previewed in last year's Free Comic Book Day: X-Men, although it was announced as a fall 2020 release at the time (see above).

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

In the story preview, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts deal with a mysterious phenomenon that attacks New York City and seems to cause an earthquake, eventually leading to the disruption of all electronic systems in the city – including Tony's Iron Man armor. As Tony tries to reach Pepper while she is stuck in an elevator, his armor fails and he's sucked into a jet engine, falling thousands of feet to the Earth, losing his leg and possibly even his life.

In one of his last acts before his crash and possible death, Tony calls Captain America, saying simply "Avengers Assemble" before being cut off by the loss of electronics. Though there's no indication of what's behind the blackout, a mysterious green energy is seen collecting in the sky over Manhattan leading up to the loss of electronics. Just before he loses consciousness as Pepper stands over his body, Tony says "Dark... It's all gone dark... Forever."

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

No effects of the blackout outside of New York are shown in the pages, however. But after waiting a year, Marvel readers are just a few months away from figuring out who and/or what will cause the blackout. 

In most of Marvel Comics' best stories of all time, the heroes usually win. Maybe Dark Ages will be an exception.

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)