Part of the fun of comics is exploring characters in other ways. One way for creators to do this is to explore versions of this character that reside in alternate timelines. Over the years, DC and Marvel have both put out some of the most insane and surprising takes on characters that have been from the past, future, or alternate present. Typically though, when a person comes from the future to the present, it is because the future doesn’t look so good. At times, several incredibly dark and undesirable futures have been introduced to audiences to offer not only intriguing takes on characters, but also cautionary tales for the characters themselves. Looking specifically at Marvel’s alternate timelines, here is our list of the 10 darkest future timelines for the Avengers, ranked.
10 King Thor
Though the series itself has yet to launch, the King Thor character has been seen periodically throughout Jason Aaron’s time with the character, and enough details have been given for fans to know that this is a very dark future. After Thor ascends to the throne of Asgard, being godly, of course, means that he lives far longer than his friends on Earth. Over time, things have gotten so bad that very little of the universe remains. Now, thanks to War of the Realms, hope in this timeline has been restored, but several key factors and villains remain that continue to threaten the existence of this timeline.
9 Earth X
In this alternate timeline, the Inhumans decide to release the terrigen cloud throughout the Earth, turning virtually everybody into superheroes. As a result, Earth X is born and the Marvel Universe is thrusted into a whole new era. While more superheroes may sound like a good thing, too many is definitely a problem, which led to one very dark interpretation of Marvel’s biggest characters. Norman Osborne is President, Captain America is aging and full of doubt, and irresponsible teens with incredible powers threaten all of existence. Overall, however bad things may look in the main Marvel Universe, they are almost certainly better than they are in Earth X.
8 Cable’s Future
As many X-Men fans already know, Cable is the son of Scott Summers and Jean Grey from the future. In Cable’s future though, things are incredibly dark. Not only is a techo-virus plaguing the planet, but Apocalypse reigns over the entire domain. With such a powerful and ruthless villain in power, Cable was actually looked to as a savior. After bringing the X-Men into the future to fight the villain though, the power vacuum left behind led to worse and worse leadership. Eventually, Cable was forced to flee to the past, where he would reside for several years, and remains today.
7 Old Man Logan
Widely considered to be the best Wolverine story of all time, Old Man Logan takes readers into an incredibly dark future where most Marvel heroes are dead. After several key villains decided to band together, many heroes and countries fell as a result. Unfortunately for Logan, he was manipulated into murdering the X-Men, some of his closest friends. After that, Logan was so broken that he refused to bring his claws out again. It wasn’t until things got so bad that Wolverine was forced to fight to avenge his family. Though not every Marvel hero was dead in this timeline, a lot of key ones were. Likewise, it was all the more heartbreaking to witness some of the aftermath of the destruction along with Logan, easily making this one of the darker timelines Marvel has to offer.
In the not-so-distant future, Nueva York is home to many of Marvel’s key heroes. Specifically in 2099, not everything about this world is darker. However, certain things have definitely cast their fair share of shadows. According to Miguel O’Hara, the future’s Spider-Man, greed and corruption continue to plague the city. Likewise, a lot of villains continue to pop up, causing just as much trouble as they have in the past. Though things in this timeline keep changing due to the events of the past, it still isn’t the best one to look forward to.
5 Spider-Man: Reign
As one of the darker Spider-Man stories out there, Spider-Man: Reign serves as the character’s The Dark Knight Returns. After an aging Peter Parker has retired his mask for years, things eventually get so bad for New York that he is forced to don the suit once again. Nowadays though, heroism is outlawed, and anyone wearing a mask is to be immediately detained. Furthermore, all other heroes have long abandoned their efforts to fight back, either moving to a new city or giving up entirely. In the end, Spider-Man is able to reignite some hope for this timeline, but it is still one of the bleaker future’s Marvel has ever offered.
4 Future Imperfect
Future Imperfect is a storyline that sees the end of the Marvel Universe as we know it come about due to nuclear war. In this dark timeline, Hulk is the only thing that remains alive on the planet. However, because of all the radiation, this version of Hulk actually has Bruce Banner’s mind inside Hulk’s body. Going by Maestro, this dark interpretation of the character has been seen several times over the years, typically depicted as a villain, though not always. Granted, it would make sense that spending a thousand years as the only living thing would make someone more bitter than usual.
3 Days of Future Past
To this day, X-Men: Days of Future Past remains one of the most celebrated X-Men books. In this dystopian timeline, Sentinels police the Earth, keeping humanity safe by exterminating mutants on the spot. Eventually the death and destruction is so great that Kitty Pryde is forced to travel back in time for assistance. Over the years, Rachel Summers eventually came from this timeline as well, serving as a constant reminder of what mutants fight for. For as dark as some timelines have gotten, this one remains one of the more frightening ones because of the way mutants continue to be treated in the Marvel Universe.
2 Age of Ultron
In the comics, the Age of ultron storyline sees the villain successfully take over the entire planet. Furthermore, Ultron exterminates as many heroes as he can, as fast as he can. Eventually, it is up to Wolverine, who is sent back in time to stop Hank Pym from ever creating Ultron, to save the world. In actuality, this story mostly takes place in Marvel’s past. However, it still offers a horrifying glimpse of what could become should Earth’s Mightiest Heroes fail. Furthermore, Ultron himself isn’t in too much of the story, but remains the central focus of the conflict. With so many twists and turns throughout the story, it is easy to see how this is one of Marvel’s best, yet darkest stories out there.
1 Thanos Wins
In what is arguably the darkest alternate future Marvel has yet to publish, Thanos Wins takes a look at the universe when Thanos successfully manages to defeat the Avengers. As a result, all life in the entire galaxy is brought to an end, just so Thanos can marry Death. In one last-ditch effort to save the universe, the Silver Surfer and a small army of survivors attempt one last stand against the Mad Titan, though even they eventually fall. After everything is said and done, Thanos remains the only thing alive. Despite being an incredibly dark future, the story actually offers a very interesting look at one of Marvel’s deadliest villains, making it well worth the read for any fans of Thanos.