The last decade for Marvel has had one of some of the most extraordinary changes take place that readers could imagine. There have been multiple Captain Americas, a female Thor and a female Iron Man. Their once highly successful Ultimate line of comics came to an end in Secret Wars, which was just one of multiple events that led to line-wide relaunches for the Marvel titles. During this entire time, Marvel Studios has continued to release many well-received movies about the characters that have had a lot of influence on what is being published. In fact, the movies being released by Fox, such as X-Men and Fantastic Four have seen their comic book counterparts face dramatic changes which are often attributed to their not being a part of the Marvel cinematic universe.
Throughout this period, there have been some disturbing things revealed about the actions of villains and the motivation of heroes. Marvel has had multiple events where the conflicts are as much between the heroes themselves, rather than between clear-cut sides of good and evil. So what could have really shocked readers during the last 10 years considering all of the above things going one along the way? We’ll take a look at 15 that really stand out.
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers for recent issues of multiple Marvel Comics titles.
15 THE VISION FAMILY
Sometimes titles are published that seem to have a hard time finding their initial readership. When The Vision by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta was announced, this was the case, especially considering the small amount of comics work by King at the time. The book quickly gained a lot of buzz for its incredibly different take on the character and its unexpected depth.
The story had many disturbing elements as each character committed actions that had tremendous consequences. This all occurred through the lens of suburban life with teenagers having to fit in, a father who doesn’t have enough time for his kids and an overprotective mother. In this case, overprotective means murdering a villain that tries to hurt your family and then having to murder other people who blackmail you for said first murder. It is not what you expect, but it is great reading.
14 WOLVERINE DIES (REPLACED BY OLD MAN LOGAN)
The trope of death in comics can be a great storytelling tool to bring characters into difficult places, but because of it being overused and overturned on a regular basis, fans don’t always respect its use. However, the Death of Wolverine storyline did play out in a way that many readers didn’t expect.
Wolverine’s death was a story told over a time following the loss of his healing factor, and eventually his death came after him being incased in the very adamantium that had been his weapon for so many years. The whole plot came from the mind of Dr. Abraham Cornelius, founder of the Weapon X program. It had real weight in that it felt like everything came full circle for the character. Perhaps most astounding was that his death actually stood (well, for now), but was followed by the arrival of his older self from the now classic “Old Man Logan.”
13 CIVIL WAR II
Marvel has loved to bring about conflict between its heroes in the past decade and in their sequel to the massively successful Civil War, the moral question was raised about how to use knowledge of what will happen in the future. Ulysses, an Inhuman, had visions of futures that we come to find out are based on data. This data is not an end-all, be-all truth, but it is highly reliable. This leads to Captain Marvel taking the side of acting on this data, and Tony Stark saying that is just glorified profiling.
Some of the visions include Miles Morales, the younger Spider-Man, killing Captain America and the Hulk going on a massive rampage. This leads to heroes like Hawkeye making life-changing decisions about what to do to prevent these potential futures, and the heroes of the Marvel universe are still reeling from the consequences of this conflict.
12 SECRET INVASION
One of the biggest fears any group of people face is an enemy among them. The trust that is given and received creates potential for betrayal at any given moment. The Skrulls possess this kind of potential because of their shape-shifting abilities, and coupled with the constant death and resurrection of comic book characters they become highly able to invade.
Such was the slow-building story that Brian Bendis started in New Avengers and introduced pieces over years, starting with the revelation of Elektra as a Skrull and leading such startling revelations of the Marvel’s version of the Illuminati featuring heavy hitters like Reed Richards, Professor X and Tony Stark amongst others. The ads alone for the Secret Invasion event were pretty disturbing and the stories of how the infiltration occurred over the years were well crafted.
11 NORMAN OSBORN SAVES THE DAY
Of all the words that could be used to describe Norman Osborn, heroic is not one that many people would consider. The events of Secret Invasion thrust Norman into an interesting position as he was able to take the shot that killed the Skrull Queen, essentially putting an end to their threat. This makes him a hero who is instantly put on a pedestal that would make Marvel’s main titles go into a period called “Dark Reign.”
The disturbing part here was the power Norman was granted following these events. He took over an offshoot of S.H.I.E.L.D called H.A.M.M.E.R. and created his own team of Dark Avengers. He even started wearing armor and calling himself the Iron Patriot. It was a startling shift in status for the cackling Green Goblin, and while it was short-lived, it put the Marvel heroes on notice about just how much certain actions meant.
10 ULTIMATE EVIL
The early Ultimate Universe books were a huge hit and were arguably the best books being published in the early ‘00s. Ultimate Fantastic Four was a later arrival into the line and things seemed relatively similar to their regular Marvel Universe counterparts... until a few years later when it was slowly revealed that the Reed Richards of the Ultimate Universe had become darker after the Ultimatum wave’s destruction and Sue Storm turning down his marriage proposal.
Just from a pure conceptual standpoint, an evil Reed Richards is absolutely terrifying. His schemes have included the use of dead aliens to repair his teleportation device, as well as leading the killing of many Asgardians. While it may have seemed like a gimmick to make this Reed evil, it should be noted that this character survived the incursions during Secret Wars and is still part of the Marvel universe.
9 MESSIAH COMPLEX
The last decade has been a wild one for Marvel’s merry mutants. At its beginning, there had been a declaration of “No More Mutants” by the Scarlet Witch and only the emergence of a new mutant aptly named Hope could make things better. The problem was that when word of her existence got out, there were lots of people who targeted her, some in very violent ways.
This led to the death of many infants as many groups were after this supposed “mutant messiah.” The whole ordeal really took many of the concepts that make the X-Men great to some very dark places. The cost of keeping the mutant race going was extremely high, and some individuals like Cable and Bishop had very understandable opposing agendas that both involved putting a baby in some very dangerous situations. The idea of such an important baby led to years of shocking stories.
8 SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
Peter Parker is known for his extraordinarily bad luck, and he has had some truly awful things happen. One of the worst was when Doctor Octopus, one of his greatest enemies, wound up porting his mind over to Peter’s body, which was a disturbing thought for both Peter and readers as well.
The stories that resulted were actually very well-received, but one of the most disgusting moments of all came when Doc Ock went into the recesses of Peter’s mind to experience what it was like to be with Mary Jane physically. It was moment that made sense in that Ock would likely go there, but seeing it in panels with Otto in the place of Peter and reading Dan Slott’s dialogue was truly uncomfortable. It is a credit to the whole creative team to pull of something so salacious in the pages of a Spider-Man comic.
7 THE CLONE CONSPIRACY
Cloning brings with it an inherent cringing from comic fans. For Spider-Man, the Jackal has wreaked a massive amount of havoc on his life with clones of Peter himself as well as people he loved such as Gwen Stacy. But nothing was as disturbing as what happened during The Clone Conspiracy, when Jackal was behind a pill that would apparently allow the dead to live again.
Emotionally this is inspiring on the surface, but it has a feel of being too good to be true. It called many morals into question for Spider-Man, but his spider-sense was on target once again. There was something much more sinister at play here and what it was doing to these reanimated characters was truly horrifying when it was revealed as their skin melted and they no longer resembled anything human. For the characters, the emotional roller coaster this produced was unfathomable.
6 A CAPTAIN AMERICA MIND WIPE
Magic allows for the creation of new rules and the breaking of many pre-established ones as well. When the Marvel Illuminati were faced with the incursion of worlds and having to allow the destruction of some to ensure the survival of others. The moral questions abounded and Captain America would not approve of what Reed Richards and others were proposing in terms of allowing certain death to occur.
This was disturbing in the sense that it was another example of Marvel heroes acting less heroic than we were used to in most cases. It also was disturbing in the sense that it bore a strong resemblance to a DC plot point in Identity Crisis involving a similar mind-wiping of Batman by Zatanna. The deed here was completed by Dr. Strange on Cap, and the ensuing events would lead to a new world governed by one Victor Von Doom.
5 DOOM BECAME A GOD (AND THEN IRON MAN)
Dr. Doom is one of the most well respected villains in all of comics. He is an intelligent political leader and an incredibly powerful sorcerer to boot. So how disturbing is it when Doom takes power from the likes of the Beyonders and becomes the God of his own creation, “Battleworld,” during Secret Wars? He even has the audacity to take Sue Storm as his wife among other actions that insult the Fantastic Four.
This ultimately leads him into conflict with Reed Richards, who turns the tide by using the godly power to fix the universe, heal Doom’s face and make him into a better man. This leads him to the door of Tony Stark, where Victor eventually winds up donning a new suit of Iron Man armor, following the events of Civil War II. Doom seems to have gone on the path of the straight and narrow... for now.
4 THE STUDENT KILLS THE TEACHER
The Phoenix Force has been a thorn in the X-Men’s side for many years. When it came back during the big Avengers vs. X-Men storyline, the threat took on a whole new level. While the Avengers are trying to take down the Phoenix Force, they accidentally split it into five parts, which each possess one of the X-Men. On top of all this, Cyclops had been progressively becoming more militant in his protection of mutants in storylines of the time.
It all came to a head in one of the most tragic moments in X-Men history. A Phoenix-powered Cyclops finally takes all the rage to a boiling point when he uses the power to murder Professor X, who was once Scott's greatest mentor. In many ways, it all felt like a blunt ending of the very dream that had gotten the X-Men started in the first place.
3 RED SKULL WITH THE BRAIN OF XAVIER
The Red Skull is one of the most irredeemable villains in all of comics. His time as a member of the Nazi party during World War II and the many vile acts that he’s been a part of since put him in the annals of some of the most evil despots of all time. So, imagine the horror of the very concept of giving that character the brain of one of the world’s most powerful telepaths.
This is what happened in the beginning of Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers run that followed Xavier’s death. It would lead to the Red Skull’s formation of his own “S-Men” and a plot that would span years and conclude with a crazy combination of Red Skull and Onslaught. It would take a joint venture from the once feuding Avengers and X-Men to address this kind of massive threat.
2 THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
When the Red Skull became the Red Onslaught, the heroes were truly desperate. The events of Avengers vs. X-Men: Axis featured another Scarlet Witch spell, this time attempting to invert the Red Skull to be more like Charles Xavier. What resulted was an inversion of many characters within range, including one Tony Stark.
Tony’s inverted personality was one of extreme selfishness, but also great technological skill. It led him to introduce an app called Extremis 3.0 that essentially used nano-tech to make people perfect versions of themselves. The only catch was that after an addicting free trial, you had to pay a whopping $100 a day! Not only that, but Tony is using the water supply to get everybody the nanites inside them. This invasion of people on a physical and mental level was a pretty frightening social commentary using one of Marvel’s greatest characters.
1 HAIL HYDRA
There may have been no more disturbing revelation in all of comics in the past decade than Steve Rogers being a secret agent of Hydra. And while everybody knew on some level that it wouldn’t last forever, and that it was the product of the reality-warping cosmic cube, there was still major anger and confusion.
Steve Rogers is the creation of Joe Simon, the son of a Jewish immigrant, so naturally fans were infuriated to see the character on the side of a terrorist group. It will be interesting how history looks back at this whole era of Captain America: Steve Rogers and Secret Empire. Nick Spencer keeps promising that the type of man that Steve Rogers is will be at the heart of everything when the story resolves, but the goodwill of fans is sometimes difficult to earn again.
What Marvel revelations disturbed you the most? Let us know in the comments!