42. "Secret Wars" by Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina (Secret Wars (2015) #1-9) - 254 points (4 first place votes)
I tend to believe that when people voted for "Secret Wars," they were really voting for the overall Jonathan Hickman-penned story, "Time Runs Out" plus "Secret Wars." I don't know that for sure, of course, but since barely anyone voted for "Time Runs Out" and "Secret Wars" got a lot of votes, I suspect that to be the case. "Secret Wars" was the culmination of a long storyline that began in the very first issue of Jonathan Hickman's New Avengers run. That run introduced the concept of Incursions, where a hole in the Multiverse led to an alternate version of Earth showing up and it became a question of "What do you do if another Earth shows up and it is a matter of either destroying the other Earth or letting it destroy our Earth?"
Captain America was brought into the Illuminati and he agreed to destroy the first Earth, but then he could not do it any further. The Illuminati then wiped his memory, so that they could continue to come up with solutions for the Incursions. They, too, though, decided not to destroy any other planets. Namor, though, found out about this and decided that that was foolish. He then formed the Cabal, with Maximus and Thanos, and they began destroying all of the other worlds that would come up in other Incursions, until there were only a dozen or so realities left standing.
Around this time, Captain America regained his memories and he declared the Illuminati to be enemies of the state. Finally, one last world showed up for the Incursion, the Ultimate Universe version of the Earth. This time, the Ultimate Universe saved their world and the two worlds collided. This led to the creation of a gigantic Battleworld, where the various realities were all merged together. They were all held together by Doctor Doom, who had gained the power of omnipotence from the Molecule Man, and Doom saved as many people as he could by turning the destroying realities into one big one.
Most people on the original Earth were killed, but a handful of heroes made it to an arc, of sorts, where they stayed in suspended animation for 8 years. The Cabal were also put into suspended animation. They came back out after 8 years, at which point Doom had been "god" for all that time.
The surviving heroes then had to work with the surviving members of the Cabal to take down Doom, using whatever items that they could use, like Namor and Black Panther finding out some weapons to fight Doom...
In the end, though, it came down to Reed Richards versus Doctor Doom, as it always does, but in this instance, Doom finally admits that Reed is a better man for the job than he is, and Reed Richards helped to re-form the Marvel Universe, just like how he helped form it in the first place in 1961.
41. “The Korvac Saga” by Jim Shooter, Roger Stern, David Michelinie, George Pérez, Sal Buscema, David Wenzel and Pablo Marcos (Avengers #167-169, 170-171, 173-177) – 262 points (1 first place votes)
Michael Korvac was born in the future but eventually, after becoming powerful through various events, traveled to the present and discovers the base of Galactus. While there, Korvac gains great cosmic power, and recreates himself as a man named…Michael. The Guardians travel back through time to capture Korvac. In the meantime, the Collector (brother to the Grandmaster) realizes that Korvac is a threat, so the Collector transforms his daughter, Carina, into a being powerful enough to combat Korvac. However, his daughter instead falls in love with Korvac/Michael, and the two go to Earth and begin living a quiet live in Queens, New York.
The Collector then tries to capture the Avengers (and the Guardians) in an attempt to protect them from Korvac, but when Korvac finds out about his plot, he kills the Collector.
Jim Shooter plays the whole thing like a slow burn, as the Avengers deal with the fact that they’re dealing with someone who might be able to wipe them from existence as easily as he would flick a bug off of his shoulder (at this point they do not even know of Korvac’s change into the normal-looking Michael).
So the Avengers eventually travel to Queens where they discover Michael and Carina living quietly. They investigate their home as they are looking for something there to tie into the powerful being who killed the Collector. Shooter plays with the notion of whether the Avengers are, in effect, provoking a fight with Korvac…
The next issue is a tremendous battle that does not end as well as you might expect for a battle of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes against one guy.
Jim Shooter (working with first Roger Stern and then David Michelinie) uses the whole universe at his hands here to create a sprawling epic with tons of guest stars.
The artwork for the storyline was done mostly by David Wenzel, filling in for George Perez.
This was the first of what became a trend for Shooter, detailing what it was like for an ordinary person to suddenly become all-powerful. How does a person adjust to a situation like that? Can they even remain human? What does it even MEAN to be human? Can someone who is all-powerful be held to the same moral standards that you hold a human? If you have the powers of a god, should you be held to the moral standards of god (which is, to say, none)? Shooter explored these ideas with the Molecule Man in his third Avengers run. Then he explored these ideas with the Beyonder in Secret Wars II. Then he explored these ideas a bit with Star Brand. Then he explored these ideas with his Valiant series, Solar, Man of the Atom.