When Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett and Don Heck began building what would become the Marvel Universe, they set out to create a world of mostly new superheroes. Those characters quickly became icons because their lives were a mesh of imaginative fiction and real-world problems, which also meant that, over time, they would change. So, over the course of several decades, many of those heroes died or gave up their costumed identities, only for those mantles to be picked up by a someone new. The originals would almost inevitably make a triumphant return, however, and their replacements would usually retire, perish or adopt a new moniker.
That slowly began to change with the dawn of the 21st century, and now superheroics in the Marvel Universe is a multigenerational affair. Characters who die or retire stay gone longer, and if and when they return, they’re often comfortable sharing their names with younger heroes — so much so that the Marvel Universe is now home to multiple Captain Americas, Spider-Men, Thors, Novas and Hawkeyes.
But in July, through still-unrevealed circumstances, that new generation of Marvel characters will embark on world-redefining adventures with the heroes who inspired them, even those who may have changed over time or are no longer among the living. It all unfolds in “Generations,” a miniseries that pairs together a different new and iconic legacy hero in each of its 10 issues. As readers prepare for the event, CBR offers an update on that status of each of the Marvel icons involved.
Iron Man (Tony Stark)
Last seen: “Civil War” II #8 (2017)
In the current “Invincible Iron Man” series, new armored hero Riri Williams, aka Iron Heart, is being trained and advised by an artificial intelligence copy of the hero who inspired her, Tony Stark. That’s because the real Tony Stark is in a coma.
In the climatic final battle of last year’s “Civil War II,” Stark’s rival Carol Danvers destroyed his latest Iron Man suit and dealt the hero what appeared to be a mortal blow. However, “Civil War II” #8 revealed Stark had conducted secret experiments upon himself that allowed him to survive the final battle, but left him comatose and entombed in a high-tech, life-sustaining sarcophagus.
Spider-Man (Peter Parker)
Last seen: Currently appearing in “The Amazing Spider-Man”
Peter Parker (the original Spider-Man) and Miles Morales (the new, teenage web-slinger) have met and fought side by side on a number of occasions, so they have a solid bond. However, when they come face to face in “Generations” their relationship may be redefined, because the next few months will find Peter dealing with his two greatest enemies: Norman Osborn and Otto Octavius.
In the current “The Osborn Identity” arc of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Peter has embarked upon a quest to take down the titular villain, who’s been operating under a number of false identities and hiding behind several different surgically altered faces. Complicating matters further is the fact that Osborn is no longer plagued by the mental instability that’s led to his downfall in the past.
Immediately following “The Osborn Identity,” Spider-Man will be drawn into the chaos of “Secret Empire,” where he’ll confront a newly resurrected Otto Octavius, who’s used an alliance with the terrorist group Hydra to form a new identity, the Superior Octopus. In June’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” #29, Octavius will use his new identity and allies to wage all out war against Parker Industries.
Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers)
First appearance as Ms. Marvel: “Ms. Marvel” #1 (1977)
Carol Danvers currently protects both Earth and outer space as the high-flying Captain Marvel, but it was her original heroic identity of Ms. Marvel that inspired shapes-hifting teenager Kamala Khan.
Kamala and Carol have interacted a number of times, but their latest dealings in “Civil War II” left the young Ms. Marvel with some conflicted feelings about the woman she once idolized. So it should be interesting to see her paired with a younger version of Carol Danvers in “Generations.”
During her career as Ms. Marvel, Carol endured a number of tumultuous events that affected her personality in dramatic ways, so the question is, Which version of Carol will Kamala meet? The Alex Ross teaser for “Generations” suggests it will be one who’s still rather new to superheroics, because the art depicts Carol in her original Ms. Marvel costume, with a bare midriff.
Last seen: “The Unworthy Thor” #5 (2017)
Thor Odinson may no longer be worthy of wielding the mystical hammer Mjolnir, but he’s still a god, a warrior and a hero. So these days he travels the cosmos in search of adventure, armed with the mystical ax from his youth, Jarnbjorn.
In the current “Unworthy Thor” miniseries, the Odinson embarked upon a quest to retrieve the hammer of a Thor from a destroyed reality that had crashed down into the Marvel Universe at the end of 2015’s “Secret Wars” event. “The Unworthy Thor’s” finale, in stores now, concluded with the fallen thunder god coming face to face with the otherworldly Mjolnir and realizing the Uru hammer isn’t his to wield.
Before Thor Odinson crosses paths with Mjolnir’s current wielder, Jane Foster, in “Generation,” he will be drawn into the “War of the Realms” storyline, unfolding in “The Mighty Thor.” The epic events of that storyline, which pits the heroic League of Realms against the malevolent Malekith the Accursed’s Dark Council, will likely have an impact on the “Generations” issue featuring the current and former Thor.
Hawkeye (Clint Barton)
Currently appearing in “Occupy Avengers”
Clint Barton was one of the first Marvel heroes to be OK with a young upstart sharing his name. In fact, he and the youthful Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, each used the moniker in their adventures together. Their partnership had many ups and downs, but it was “Civil War II” that finally made the two Hawkeyes go their separate ways.
In the event’s third issue, Barton was forced to make good on a promise he made to Bruce Banner to kill him if he was ever in danger of transforming back into the Hulk. After being acquitted at trial, Barton was wracked by guilt and in the weird position of being beloved by the nation at large, but hated by the superhero community. So he set out on a cross-country journey to help normal people caught up in the weird trouble that is a part of life in the Marvel Universe. The “Occupy Avengers” ongoing series chronicles the adventures of Clint and the growing band of non-powered superheroes assisting him in his exploits.
Hulk (Bruce Banner)
Last seen: “Civil War II #3 (2016)
As mentioned in the previous entry, Bruce Banner was struck down by an arrow with a special tip he’d provided Hawkeye in case he was in danger of transforming back into the Hulk. Banner asked Hawkeye to make sure his alter ego would never return in the aftermath of Amadeus Cho draining him of his gamma energy and using it to become the Totally Awesome Hulk.
Setting up a contingency plan wasn’t the only thing keeping Banner busy during his final days: He was reconnecting with his family, making a living will and generally getting his estate in order. In a video recording, shown posthumously in the 2016 one-shot “Civil War II: The Fallen,” he appeared to be somewhat at piece. So when Banner returns in “Generations,” it will be interesting to see if his destructive alter ego will come back as well.
Jean Grey (Adult)
Last seen: “X-Men: Phoenix End Song” (2005)
When a teenaged Jean Grey traveled to the present-day Marvel Universe with her fellow founding X-Men, many people weren’t surprised to see her. That’s because her now-deceased adult counterpart had a habit of coming back from the dead.
The adult Jean’s last resurrection came in the miniseries “X-Men: Phoenix End Song,” in which the titular entity came looking for a human host and revived her. A battle for control ensued, and after being reminded of what she means to the X-Men, Grey gained control of the Phoenix Force and used its abilities to ascend to the entity’s home dimension, the White Hot Room, where she waited to gather shards of the fragmented Phoenix entity.
A person who looked a lot like Jean made a brief appearance in 2009’s “Uncanny X-Men”#510, where she freed Emma Frost from a psychic attack by Lady Mastermind, but whether it was indeed her or has yet to be revealed.
Last seen: “Death of Wolverine” #4 (2014)
2014 was a pretty tumultuous year for Wolverine. He had been dealing with the loss of his healing factor when suddenly a number of his most dangerous foes began to attack. They were doing so at the request of Abraham Cornelius, the Weapon X scientist who had endowed Logan with his unbreakable adamantium skeleton.
Logan tracked down Cornelius and put an end to his attempts to create a new batch of super-soldiers with adamantium skeletons. Unfortunately, during the battle a vat of molten adamantium fell on Wolverine and eventually cooled, thus encasing him in an oxygen-less prison and ending his life.
Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell)
Last seen: “Secret Avengers” #28 (2012)
Carol Danvers chose her original heroic code name of Ms. Marvel to honor the original Captain Marvel, a Kree soldier named Mar-Vell who chose to turn against his people and protect Earth from invasion attempts by the alien race. That stand caused him to be labeled a traitor by the Kree, but it didn’t mean Mar-Vell harbored any antipathy toward them.
In fact, when he was resurrected in 2012 during “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” he gladly died to protect the Kree homeworld, Hala, from the marauding Phoenix Force. It was that sacrifice that inspired Carol Danvers to set aside her Ms. Marvel identity and assume the name Captain Marvel.
Mar-Vell’s sacrifice means that his return in “Generations” could be a poignant and tragic one, especially if he travels into space with Carol and learns that Hala was destroyed during the events of the 2015 crossover “The Black Vortex.”
Captain America (Steve Rogers)
Currently appearing in “Captain America: Steve Rogers”
The big reveal in the debut issue of “Captain America: Steve Rogers” was that the title character’s history had been altered by a cosmic entity so that he was a lifelong deep-cover agent of Hydra. In the current storyline, Steve is placing the finishing touches on a scheme that will allow him to step out of the shadows and transform Hydra into a global superpower. Those efforts will culminate in Marvel’s big summer event “Secret Empire,” which should conclude at around the time that “Generations” begins.
So which Steve will be paired with Sam Wilson in the issue of “Generations” that focuses on Captain America? And how will he feel about the trouble he caused as an agent of Hydra? The final issue of “Secret Empire” should answer both of those questions.
Nova (Richard Rider)
Currently appearing in “Nova”
Marvel’s original Nova, Richard Rider, and his youthful successor, Sam Alexander, aren’t scheduled to share an issue of “Generations,” but the duo appears together in the Alex Ross teaser image, so it’s worth checking in with Rider’s status quo.
He appears in the current volume of “Nova,” where he and Sam Alexander work together to protect the Earth and the cosmos as the sole surviving members of the Nova Corps. The series’ second arc, which kicks off in May’s “Nova” #6, promises to answer the mystery of what happened to Rider during the long period he was trapped in the Cancerverse, a reality where death does not exist and all life has become monstrous and corrupt.