With Marvel on the precipice of an unprecedented relaunch with <I>Secret Wars</I> and whatever comes next, the time is perfect for a look back at some of the longest running cliffhangers in all of Marveldom. <p>After all, with <I>Secret Wars</I> putting anything and everything on the table, it's always possible one of these long dangling plot threads will come back. <p>On the other hand, there's always the more likely scenario - all of these threads will be left dangling, probably forever, in the wake of the new Marvel Universe.
The reunion of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on the adventures of Norrin Radd was the kind of thing that should have thrilled the Marvel faithful when it happened in the eighteenth issue of the first <Em>Silver Surfer</eM> series in 1970, especially when it brought about a new direction for the character as the "Savage" Silver Surfer, mad, bad and declaring himself an enemy of all humanity. <p>Instead, the title was cancelled after this issue, and when the Surfer reappeared in <em>Sub-Mariner #34</eM> the next year, he'd apparently worked out his anger issues.
Officially, <em>Amazing Adventures #16</em> wasn't the end of the series but it was the intended final installment of the solo run starring Hank McCoy, a.k.a. the Beast, and all before writer Steve Englehart had a chance to wrap up any of his long-running subplots... or even his primary plot of Hank and former girlfriend Vera on a mission to help her brother in some unexplained way. <p>Englehart took the cancellation in his stride, moving the plots to two different series; <em>Incredible Hulk #167</em>, released two months after this issue, explained what Vera wanted from Hank (spoiler: her brother turned out to be old-time X-Men foe the Mimic), while the subplot of what nefarious deeds were going down at Roxxon got resolved two years later in <em>Avengers #137</em>, as Hank joined the team and Patsy Walker became the never-bashful Hellcat. Sometimes, all you need is patience, true believer.
Steve Gerber and Mary Skenes knew that, if <em>Omega</em> was getting cancelled, they wanted to go out with a bang. In particular, the bang of the gun that on the last page of the issue kills the title character before any of the secrets that the series has been hinting at all along have had a chance to be revealed. <p>The mystery of who Omega was and what his connection was to the child known as James-Michael Starling would remain unsolved until two years later, when writer Steven Grant took a stab at an explanation in the pages of <em>Defenders</em> #76-77. And even then, Gerber denied that it was anything close to what had been originally intended.
When Jack Kirby's <em>Machine Man</em> got cancelled it would be revived, numbering intact, a year later with a new creative team it was just as Aaron Stark had decided to stand up to the US Military who'd just spent the last nine issues chasing after him. No more Mister Nice Robot? <p>Well, not exactly; the book was cancelled, and when the character reappeared in a three issue storyline in <em>Incredible Hulk</em> #235-237, he suffered a complete shutdown and reboot that cleared the way for a friendlier, more emotionally-controlled version to star in the relaunched series a few months later. Clearly, the world wasn't ready for new robot overlords back in 1979.
You might imagine that the final issue of a series would try and bring things to something resembling a conclusion, but that wasn't the route Marv Wolfman and Carmine Infantino chose for the final issue of the original <em>Nova</em>, which ends with our hero in space, preparing to defend the planet Xandar against a Skrull invasion... that actually takes place in that month's issue of <em>Fantastic Four</em>, also written by Wolfman. <p>"In Final Battle!" declared the cover of <em>Nova #25</em>, but that's only because "In Preparation For The Final Battle In Another Comic Altogether!" wouldn't fit on there comfortably.
You could argue that the final issue of <em>Spider-Woman</em> actually wrapped everything up quite nicely, as long as you're okay with the character dying and then being retconned out of continuity to save her friends from grieving for her. What's that? You're <em>not</em> OK with that? <p>Well, neither was then-<em>Avengers</em> writer Roger Stern, who began a storyline to undo Ann Nocenti's surprising series climax and reintegrate the character into the Marvel Universe with #238 of the Earth's Mightiest Heroes' title, just six months later. If nothing else, Brian Michael Bendis was a happier man as a result.
An example of what happens when plans change along the way, the final issue of Alison Blaire's solo series ends with her being offered a position in X-Factor by the Beast a position that she ended up not taking, because original behind-the-scenes plan to have her as the fifth member of the team ended up being changed once cooler heads had decided to resurrect Jean Grey to fill that role instead. <p>Things ended up working out for Ali, however; after a few months of hanging out in comic book limbo, Chris Claremont reintroduced her in <em>The New Mutants</em> #42 before bringing her into the cast of <em>Uncanny X-Men</em> soon afterwards. Just imagine what could have been, however, had she ended up taking the Beast up on his offer...
Ben Grimm didn't exactly make it out of his first solo series in good shape. By the closing pages of the issue, he's started mutating from his well-known rocky form into something apparently far hideous a plot that would eventually lead him all the way back to Monster Island, albeit with a stop-off in <em>West Coast Avengers</em> the next month just to underscore how horrific he was apparently becoming. <p>By the time he reappeared in <em>Fantastic Four</em> #296, five months after his series had ended, he was filled with enough self-pity to take his place back on the team in time for the book's 25th anniversary. See how that worked out?
Talk about the ultimate cliffhanger: The final issue of <em>Power Man and Iron Fist</em> not only saw the apparent death of Danny Rand, a.k.a. the not-so-immortal Iron Fist, but it actually ended with Luke Cage being framed for his murder and going on the run to try and clear his name. <p>Again, Roger Stern hoped to resolve this plot in <em>Avengers</em>, but he was replaced on the series before he had his chance, leaving it pretty much unresolved for <em>six years</em>, until John Byrne brought Rand back to the land of the living in <em>Namor The Sub-Mariner</eM> #22 in 1992.
Another series that ended with the apparent demise of its lead, Alex Summers was presumed dead in the mainstream Marvel Universe by the time the original run of <em>X-Factor</em> concluded. <p>Actually, he'd been shunted over to the alternate reality of <em>Mutant X</em>, which launched the very next month, but it would take 32 issues and three annuals of that series before he managed to return to the Marvel U we know and love.