Warning: This article contains spoilers for Avengers: No Road Home #1, by Mark Waid, Jim Zub, Al Ewing, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco and VC's Cory Petit, on sale now.
Thanks to Thor, the Asgardians are the most famous gods in the Marvel Universe. But even though those Norse gods usually get all of the attention, they're hardly the only Marvel deities based on real-world mythological figures.
The Avengers' super-strong Hercules, his all-powerful father Zeus and the other gods from classical Greek and Roman mythology have a history that stretches back to Marvel's earliest days and are still the publisher's second most prominent pantheon. Named for the home on Mount Olympus, the Olympians are essentially extra-dimensional aliens who traveled to ancient Earth, much like the Asgardians.
Both Hercules, Marvel's Olympian God of Strength, and Ares, the God of War, have had prominent stints with the Avengers and starred in a few series of their own, but the Olympians aren’t usually the focus of Marvel's mythological spotlight. And even though they usually get lost in the shadow of the Asgardians, the Olympians are a powerful group, and Zeus is the kind of cosmic-level being who can hold his own against Galactus and the strongest forces in the Marvel Universe.
But now, Nyx, the rarely-seen Olympian God of Night, just slaughtered Zeus and most of the other Olympians in Avengers: No Road Home #1.
After Nyx uses her darkness-manipulating abilities to cover the universe in darkness, Voyager, an alien Avengers ally, starts gathering a powerful team of Avengers that includes the Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Spectrum, Vision, Hawkeye, Rocket Raccoon and Hercules.
Although Hercules was safely on Earth during the attack, the rest of his Olympian family wasn't so lucky. When Voyager takes him to Mount Olympus, the hero finds his heavenly home in ruins. After finding the bodies of the gods Zeus, Hermes and Dionysus in the devastation, his half-sister Athena dies in his arms.
While taking out that many powerhouses would be an accomplishment for any villain, it's an especially notable one for Nyx, who's had a relatively unimpressive career until now.
Under her Roman name Nox, Nyx was brought into the Marvel Universe in 1991's Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #31, by Roy Thomas, Jean-Marc Lofficier and Larry Alexander. In that story, she was introduced as a member of the Fear Lords, a group of demonic villains who unsuccessfully tried to take over the world using fear.
In her only major subsequent appearance outside of the Fear Lords, Nyx fought several human pulp-inspired heroes in the 1930s during the 2011 miniseries Mystery Men.
While Nyx is a little-seen but unimaginably powerful figure in real-world Greek mythology, she's never really shown that level of power in the Marvel Universe until now.
Given the hushed way that Hercules and Athena spoke about Nyx in this issue, it seems like Nyx was always this powerful, and that she simply hadn't shown the true level of her power until she spread darkness across the universe and slaughtered the Olympians.
After wiping out those gods, Nyx has already set her sights on the Avengers for her next act. After the Scarlet Witch says her forbidden name, Nyx attacks her with some unidentified form of dark energy on the last page of this issue.
Marvel has also announced that at least one Avenger will die before the end of Avengers: No Road Home. While it's not clear if Nyx will have a role in that death, she's already proved that she's likely strong enough to take out any member of Voyager's Avengers team.
Given the cyclical nature of death and rebirth in the Marvel Universe, it probably won't be too long before the fallen Olympians are reborn in some capacity. However, their absence could be a factor in War of the Realms, the upcoming crossover event that will see the heroes of Earth and Asgard go to war against forces from darker worlds.
In the meantime, the Avengers will try to figure out a way to defeat Nyx in the 10-part weekly series Avengers: No Road Home, by Mark Waid, Jim Zub, Al Ewing, Paco Medina and Sean Izaakse.