With Infinity Countdown nearing its end and setting the stage for Infinity Wars, it's time to look at where Marvel's next big event fits into its overall landscape - both in terms of the Marvel Universe, and its potential impact in the real world.
Infinity Wars is the first major Marvel crossover event since Secret Empire, after which Marvel editorial famously swore off events for some time. And even though Infinity Wars is still technically a crossover event, it doesn't have the same breadth of tie-in issues and core spin-offs that many of Marvel's recent major events have had.
From writer Gerry Duggan (who is helming his first major Marvel event) and Mike Deodato Jr. (whose experience includes serving as the main artist on 2014's Original Sin), Infinity Wars focuses on arguably Marvel's biggest concept right now: Thanos and the Infinity Stones.
Thanos is about as core a Marvel threat was it gets, so how will Infinity Wars stack up to other big Marvel crossovers, especially the many that include Thanos?
Read on to find out.
Creative Team: Nick Spencer (writer), Rod Reis, Daniel Acuña, Steve McNiven, and Andrea Sorrentino (artists)
Number of issues: 11
Hype: “Hype” may not exactly be the right word for Secret Empire. The crossover revolved around the idea of Steve Rogers secretly betraying the Marvel Universe to Hydra – a twist that was generally unpopular among readers. However, a year of build-up to the story did get people incredibly ramped up to see how Rogers’ betrayal would be resolved.
Marvel Universe Impact: Secret Empire profoundly left its mark on the Marvel Universe. Steve Rogers was replaced with a villain for a time, which led to numerous character deaths, betrayals, and tragedies (some of which have since been undone). Las Vegas was destroyed, leading to still ongoing consequences, and other ramifications of Hydra’s admittedly brief rule over America are still showing up all over the place. On the other hand, some parts of the story have been summarily relegated to the backburner, with Marvel following Secret Empire with a focus on what the publisher considers its classic characters and core concepts.
Real World Impact: Secret Empire was a financial success for Marvel, but it was generally critically drubbed. Many audiences failed to get on board with the idea of evil Steve Rogers from the get-go, and many of the story’s subsequent twists left audiences cold as well. Secret Empire was hardly a flop for Marvel, but the story did not reach the critical and commercial success of Marvel’s best.
CIVIL WAR II
Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), David Marquez, Mark Bagley, Jim Cheung, Olivier Coipel, Alan Davis, Sean Izaakse, Adam Kubert, Esad Ribic, Marco Rudy, Andre Sorrentino, Leinil Yu (artists)
Number of issues: 9
Hype: Civil War II dropped just about the time Captain America: Civil War hit theaters and put the title of Marvel’s biggest event ever back in the public consciousness a decade on from its release. Given the impact of the film and the first comic book, it’s not surprising Marvel pushed out a sequel – however, reception to the new event was lukewarm at best.
Marvel Universe Impact: Civil War II cut a deep swath across the Marvel Universe, killing Bruce Banner at the hands of Hawkeye, traumatizing She-Hulk, killing War Machine, putting Tony Stark in a coma, and leaving a huge rift among Marvel’s heroes. The story also weirdly punked Thanos by having him defeated offscreen after killing – just ahead of bringing the Mad Titan back as one of Marvel’s biggest threats. Two years on, almost everything that was put in place by Civil War II has been undone (including the prominence of the Inhumans in Marvel’s line), and it remains a dark chapter of recent history.
Real World Impact: Civil War II landed with a bit of a thud, doing well in sales but not coming close to its predecessor’s ubiquity in both sales and outside media. Let’s just say we're not expecting this overly philospohical but still somehow brutally violent crossover to lend itself to any blockbuster movies the way its predecessor did.
Creative Team: Jonathan Hickman (writer), Esad Ribic (artist)
Number of Issues: 7
Hype: Secret Wars was marketed as the biggest Marvel event of all time. It drew on the legacy of its namesake, the original Marvel crossover, to build up its importance to the future of Marvel’s line.
Marvel Universe Impact: Secret Wars had an impact on the Marvel Universe that could best be described as “massive.” By collapsing all of Marvel’s extant universes and timelines into one reality, Secret Wars added elements of other continuities, such as Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man, to the main Marvel U, while also taking Marvel mainstays the Fantastic Four off the board. There’s also the little matter of Secret Wars leading to a relaunch of Marvel’s entire publishing line.
Real World Impact: Secret Wars wasn’t quite the massive media sensation Civil War was, but nonetheless it enjoyed big sales numbers, and drew many readers back to Marvel by promising a new world in its wake. Its long delays led to some scrutiny from fans, but did not affect the event’s overall performance in a major, measurable way.
Creative Team: Jonathan Hickman (writer); Jim Cheung, Jerome Opena & Dustin Weaver (artists)
Number of issues: 6
Hype: Infinity was built on the idea of Thanos returning conquer the universe, but for the world at large he was already here thanks to his cameo in Marvel’s The Avengers. Marvel used that, and the character’s track record with previous events like Infinity Gauntlet, to usher in a swath of new villains, both for his army, and the secondary villains of the piece, the Builders.
Marvel Universe Impact: Infinity was intended to be the first major event in the post-Brian Michael Bendis era of the publisher’s flagship Avengers franchise, and it cemented Jonathan Hickman’s role as Marvel’s primary Avengers storyteller. Story-wise, no major hero deaths came out of Infinity but it did serve to transform its long-suffering “cosmic” line of titles into the wheelhouse of the core Marvel Universe. It also seeded the forced evolution of the Inhuman race into the just-released Inhuman series.
Real World Impact: Infinity didn’t dominate comic shelves the way Avengers vs. X-Men did a year prior, but it didn’t have to for it to be considered a success. It was all about forging what it had done so far and building new characters, and it achieved both those goals. Infinity #1 ruled the roost in August 2013, and all five of its subsequent issues sold above 100,000, even at $3.99 a pop. But its effects are still coming, as it connected the cosmic to the core Marvel U as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova and Captain Marvel, and that continues to pay off, while also influencing Marvel’s film slate as a direct influence on Avengers: Infinity War.
Creative Team: Jim Starlin (writer), George Perez and Ron Lim (artists)
Number of issues: 6
Hype: It’s hard to judge the contemporary hype of a series that took place almost 30 years ago, but modern hype for Infinity Gauntlet is fevered to say the least. Thanks in large part to Avengers: Infinity War adapting core aspects of the story for film (and Marvel Studios spending ten years pointing to the crossover as one of its blueprints), Infinity Gauntlet might just be the most well-known Marvel story ever.
Marvel Universe Impact: Infinity Gauntlet is a classic Marvel event in that it’s immediate impact – killing half the universe – was essentially unprecedented, but when the dust cleared the impact on the permanent status quo was mostly minimized. However, it shouldn’t be understated that Infinity Gauntlet has still had massive in universe ramifications that still echo to this day – particularly in the constant and looming presence of both Thanos and the Infinity Stones in so many major Marvel stories.
Real World Impact: For many fans, Infinity Gauntlet and its subsequent sequels remain the pinnacle of Marvel’s crossover storytelling potential. It’s telling to note that in the decades since its release, Infinity Gauntlet has provided the basis for hundreds of Marvel Comics stories since in almost all media. If nothing else, Infinity Gauntlet has defined the standard by which we judge Universe-wide stories.