*** This story contains high level spoilers for major Marvel events that have taken place over the last 2 years or so. Proceed with caution.
Marvel and DC, the Big Two publishers in comics, are no strangers to large scale multi-issue crossover events. They often throw out the bold claim that “nothing will ever be the same”, but that rarely ever sticks. A major hero dies? They’re back from the dead within a year or two. The villain wins? They get trounced soon after when a new writer comes on board. So why do them if they nothing ever really changes? Well, love ’em or hate ’em, they bring in the big bucks. Because maybe, just maybe, this time things will be different. And stick.
To be fair, these events often do set up situations where we get to see moments fans have hoped to see for years. All the heroes team up to fight all the villains… or a bunch of other heroes. “Civil War” pit Captain America and Iron Man against each other over the freedoms of heroes and it ended in Captain America‘s death (he eventually got better). They even made a movie about it that was smaller in scale, but no less exciting. Spider-Man revealed his identity as Peter Parker, something that happened in a very different way in the movie Spider-Man: Far From Home and will soon be dealt with in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home this December. So when these events happen, they often tend to inspire films or TV series (on Disney+), now that the MCU is a big hulking profitable storytelling and moneymaking machine. Why not steal from yourself?
In years past, we’ve seen comic events reach dizzying scales with hundreds of tie-in issues that cover nearly every current series being published (see “Secret Wars” in 2015, not the original 1984 series). In some cases, they lead to those series ending and restarting with a new #1, which is always a tried and true way to garner new reader interest and again, more $$$. Those new #1 issues now go for $5 each!
Since the pandemic began what feels like a century ago, Marvel brought us “Empyre“, which had the Avengers and Fantastic Four teaming up to save the galaxy from sentient plant people and establish an alliance between the Kree and the Skrulls, enemies for millennia, but now united under a king that just happens to be one half of the most powerful gay couple in the universe (Hulkling and Wiccan of the Young Avengers).
Soon after, Knull wiped out almost everything that was built when he came to Earth to take on Venom in the “King in Black” mega crossover event. The X-Men brought together all the mutants in their sovereign island nation of Krakoa to take part in the “X of Swords” event and followed that up with the “Hellfire Gala” crossover that was all about putting on a fashion show and terraforming Mars (at the same time). Then it turns out all of the non-mutant heroes never existed, mainly the Avengers, which led to the Squadron Supreme filling the void with a fascistic/nationalist take on the DC’s Justice League taking on bad guys in a much more definitive manner, at least until Blade (who was the only one who remembered the Avengers ever existed) gathered together the real heroes to set things right. All of that happened during the pandemic, even though new comics stopped getting published for a good number of months.
And that leads us to the latter half of 2021. There are no less than 6 major crossover events either concluding or starting before the new year takes us into 2022. That doesn’t even count the other major events taking place in currently running books like Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and the Immortal Hulk (there’s even a “World War She-Hulk” story over in the Avengers book). And then there are a handful of multiverse-embracing limited series that are introducing new takes on classic characters that usually do a pretty good job of making collectors snatch up every copy in hopes that one of those variants might show up in an MCU property and make that first appearance comic worth a mint on the secondary market. Yes, no matter whether the stories are good, bad, or relevant (canon), it still comes down to money. Books featuring the first appearances of Spider-Gwen, Ms Marvel, Hawkeye’s Kate Bishop, and comics veteran Shang-Chi are selling like hotcakes on eBay. What? Did you think it was just about the story and art?
To get an idea of where we’re heading, here’s a pile of currently running and upcoming Marvel comic events that might be worth keeping an eye on, just in case you either want to enjoy an intriguing story or make a boatload of money. Just keep them bagged, boarded, and at least near mint, True Believer! Excelsior!
The Last Annihilation
When you see the word “Annihilation” in a Marvel comic, it usually means there is a big cosmic war a-brewin’. This time, the Guardians of the Galaxy sit squarely in the middle of it (okay they were last time too), but instead of an attack from the Negative Zone, these newly restructured Guardians teams must take on Dr Strange villain Dormmamu among other magical entities. So what magically based doctor do they enlist to fight back an evil that consumes planets on a Galactus level scale? Dr Doom, of course! He’s not just armor and Doombots. He knows his magic spells too. And he won’t stop reminding everyone of that fact.
The Trial of Magneto
This is a 5 issue limited series, where Magneto stands accused of murdering is (former) daughter the Scarlet Witch. It turns out she and Quicksilver aren’t mutants anymore, due to Fox owning them for a time before Disney bought the studio. But even though it’s a limited series, it is closely tied into Jonathan Hickman‘s very tight knit re-imaginging of the X-Men past and future. There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Krakoa and resurrection protocols (mutants officially don’t stay dead anymore… it’s a whole “thing”) and selling flowers that they sell to humans as cure-all drugs and make teleportation gates wherever they’re planted. So let’s just keep it to Magneto is suspected of killing Wanda. The Avengers don’t like that. Magneto is offended at the accusation. And even Wanda doesn’t think she’s really dead.
Speaking of the X-Men and the desire to retain titular IPs like “Inferno“, which they last used in the 80s to make former good gals like Magik and Madelyne Pryor into bad gals, this one is going to have some big deal repercussions on the X-Men. Hickman has been building to this story from the start, but since the honchos at Marvel want to keep things going the way they are, its impact will probably be diminished, as he’s leaving as the head writer of the X-Men books after the “Inferno” event finishes. As for the story, let’s just say that while all mutants, whether they’ve been good or bad in the past, are welcome in Krakoa and thousands have been resurrected thanks to their newfound technology, one hasn’t. And that one is Destiny, Mystique‘s long dead wife. Y’see, Destiny can tell the future and she’s never wrong. And that’s something those in charge, including Charles Xavier and Magneto, who have a HUGE secret of their own they’re keeping from everyone, don’t want to know. I can’t say any more without spoiling everything, but let’s just say that Mystique is going to burn that island down if she doesn’t get her way. Just go read the “Powers of X/House of X” launch series in trade paperback if you want to know just how precarious their world is and how just one (maybe two) women can make life hell for our mutant heroes.
In a lot of horror stories, even one in the Marvel Universe, a book called the Darkhold is always going to be a book that is a source of trouble for anyone who opens it. This time around, those in the magic world must contend with heroes (and villains) who have dared to open this most evil of all evil tomes. Iron Man, Spider-Man, Black Bolt, Blade, and the Wasp all have conjured up some pretty twisted magic. Even Dr Doom and Dr Strange might not be enough to set things right. But they probably will, as this is a comparatively small event compared to others, with every issue a #1. Isn’t it money that’s the root of all evil?
Death of Doctor Strange
Speaking of Dr Strange, he’s dead. Or going to die at least. Maybe. Who will take his place as the new Sorcerer Supreme? It’s not an easy job. It’s not all about wearing a sentient cape and wearing the all-powerful Eye of Agamatto as a fashion statement. You need to know your Wand of Watoomb from the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak without even a second thought or everyone in this reality is dead. This is a 5 issue limited series, but it has a bunch of one-shot tie-ins to pad out the story. There’s a very good chance that whoever takes up the mantle will be the last person anyone suspects (except for first appearance collectors/resellers).
While this sounds like another supernatural themed event, it’s very much not. This one stars Marvel’s own Devil of Hell’s Kitchen – Daredevil! This is a story that’s been building for years, with Elektra taking on the role of Daredevil for a good many issues, but you can expect Matt Murdock to step back into the limelight as he enlists all of his super pals to take down the Kingpin of Crime, who just also happens to be New York’s Mayor. A corrupt politician! Who could have seen that coming?
Among all of that epic storytelling published in a way that requires a constantly updated and spoiler-free checklist to be collected, there are still other big events happening throughout the 616. The Hulk ceases to be Immortal with its 50th issue coming in October, starting over with #1 just titled “Hulk” in November. In “Amazing Spider-Man“, Ben Reilly takes over the name in a brand new suit after all the crap Peter and MJ have gone through over the past 2 years (did I mention Mephisto is also involved?). And the Fantastic Four turn 60 this year (in our reality years, not comic years), celebrating in a massive issue that pits them against every incarnation of Kang all at the same time. Oh, and Johnny can’t flame off. And his powers are set to the top of the Scoville pepper hotness scale. Not good.
And did you notice that the Multiverse is a big deal right now? With reality warping and multiverse jumping stories all the rage in the MCU (WandaVision, Loki, What If…?, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania), it’s no surprise that Marvel has had big stories in the works for a long time that catered to that exact audience.
“Wastelanders” takes us back to the world of Old Man Logan and teams him up with a bunch of aged-up heroes and villains who have also gotten their AARP inspired stories over the years, including Old Man Star Lord and Old Man Hawkeye. We even get one-shots featuring Dr Doom and Black Widow (Old Woman Widow? Nahhh) added to the mix. It’s what people want. Heroes that are gray and grumpy, but still kick butt while complaining about “kids these days”.
“Dark Ages” sets our heroes in a world where all electricity has been removed from existence on Earth. When the first issue shows Peter and MJ’s toddler crawling on the ceiling and at least two major heroes get killed off by the end of the first issue, you have to know this isn’t a main 616 universe Marvel story. This alternate reality brings us a steam powered Iron Man and more interesting takes on the super powered heroes and villains living in a world without power. It’s more devastating than it sounds.
“Amazing Fantasy” is the comic where Spider-Man was first introduced in issue #15 back in 1962. This book has nothing to do with that kind of story, but we do get a teenage Peter Parker in this story. But Captain America is also bare chested and riding a lion. Imagine the heroes you love brought together from different realities to battle something or someone. I honestly didn’t get past the gorgeous painted covers by Greg Tocchino that look straight out of the Frazetta or Hildebrandt brothers collections.
“Avengers Forever” takes the name of a beloved cross-time Avengers story from a few decades back and blows it up big. Expect this to be that book that will feature a billion different versions of your favorite Avengers all battling each other or something. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s one of those books they’ll print a million copies of it and resellers will buy them all in hopes that one of those variant characters will show up in a future episode of What If…? or that Doctor Strange sequel, hoping that its value will quintuple overnight. Never forget. Nobody EVER saw Spider-Gwen coming.