Throughout the history of Marvel Comics, we've seen countless stories taking place within different realities that see much-loved superheroes perish, and versions of Earth turned to dust. Whether it's nuclear holocausts, zombie plagues, or dominance from a galactic threat, there have been plenty of disturbing realities.
There have been a number of events and story arcs set within these alternate realities that are so upsetting and cruel. We're left feeling numb and completely shocked at where the writers have taken these beloved characters during these tales. Let's take a look at some of these sorry stories.
10 Old Man Logan
Mark Millar's Old Man Logan is filled with tragedy. After Wolverine is tricked into killing the X-Men by Mysterio, he decides to live in peace with his family in Sacramento. He struggles to pay his rent and live a normal life, but when Hawkeye offers him a job to transport a package across an America ran by supervillains, he accepts.
It is a world made up of the descendants of the Hulk - known as the Hulk gang - and villains such as Kingpin, Doctor Doom, and Norman Osborn. After copious amounts of violence, Logan finally returns home to find his family slaughtered by the Hulk Gang. He unleashes his claws for the first time in fifty years, then goes on a murderous rampage.
In 1995, Warren Ellis' two-issue story Ruins saw former Daily Bugle reporter Phil Sheldon takes a trip around America to find various superheroes and see how their powers have caused them to fall apart, both physically and mentally. It's easily one of the most gruesome tales ever told, showing how heroes like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and Wolverine have all suffered greatly.
Hulk is a mutated monstrosity riddled with cancer, Mystique is disfigured, Quicksilver has had his arms and legs cut off, Cyclops was had his eyes cut out... it's super dark.
8 Thanos Wins
In Thanos #14, the Mad Titan gets to see a universe where he has finally won, albeit millions of years in the future. He has defeated the Avengers, X-Men, Galactus, and every other threat he's ever had to face. As he stands before the Celestials, he kills Black Bolt, who lets out a devastating scream that turns them to dust.
With everyone defeated, Thanos sits upon his throne as the "Lord of Ash, King of Nothing," with only Ghost Rider at his side (due to the Spirit of Vengeance's inability to die) and Hulk sitting at his feet like a pet. For all of Thanos' attempts to defeat his enemies, Donny Coates' story is a disturbing view of what happens when Thanos achieves his ultimate goal.
7 X-Men: Age Of Apocalypse
During the Age of Apocalypse event, we see a version of North America devastated by the arrival of Apocalypse. Millions of humans are killed, and his 'survival of the fittest' mantra is implemented to deadly effect. Magneto leads the X-Men to take down the mutant despot, eventually succeeding.
However, many mutants fall as a result of Apocalypse's actions, and even mutants we love became killers and just plain evil. Colossus murders Iceman and his own wife, Shadowcat, and Beast is a deranged scientist. It's not a pleasant future at all, and although the X-Men are victorious, the events of Age of Apocalypse are often disturbing.
6 What If The Phoenix Had Not Died?
The Dark Phoenix Saga was dark enough, but Uatu the Watcher ponders over a world where Dark Phoenix had never died, instead being born again to aid the X-Men against Galactus and Terrax. They are victorious, but afterwards the Phoenix Force once again becomes too much for Jean Grey to handle.
She returns to the X-Men mansion, and becomes the Dark Phoenix once more. She kills Shadowcat after she questions her for destroying a star, then murders all the X-Men, including Cyclops, Wolverine, Polaris, and Storm. Completely overwhelmed by the Phoenix Force, she destroys the city of New York, then the Earth, until the entire universe falls.
5 Hulk: Future Imperfect
Nuclear war has ravaged Earth, and as a result, Bruce Banner has gone mad with so much radiation that he's able to stay as the Hulk. He also keeps his brilliant mind, thus creating a super-intelligent wrecking ball known as Maestro. With many of Marvel's heroes -and much of Earth's population - now dead, there's nobody left to oppose this new monstrous being.
Rick Jones manages to get the current version of the Hulk to fight with Maestro. Even though he's physically inferior to him, he manages to send Maestro back in time to the point where the gamma bomb went off that turned Bruce Banner into Hulk, reducing his body to nothing.
4 Days Of Future Past
During the events of Uncanny X-Men #141 and #142, a dystopian future is created when Senator Robert Kelly is assassinated. This leads to many superheroes and mutants being killed by Sentinels, or sent to concentration camps, and gave us one of the first stories within the Marvel Comics Universe that wasn't all sunshine and rainbows.
Thanks to a time-travelling Kitty Pryde, the assassination attempt is stopped and the events of the Sentinel-controlled future never become a reality. It is heralded as one of the best X-Men stories ever told, and rightly so. From here on out, Marvel would tell many different tales where their superheroes would face dystopian futures.
3 Earth X
Although the Terrigen Mists have been unleashed on the Earth in mainline Marvel Comics before, Earth X saw what would happen if the mists turned every person on the planet into Inhumans. President Osborn is using Hydra to possess the population, and a teenage Red Skull is threatening Earth with the use of mind control. Its bleak version of Earth is one of the worst.
Spider-Man is a washed-up hero, Wolverine has become an overweight slob living in a dank apartment with Madelyne Prior, and a primal Hulk has been separated from Bruce Banner - now appearing as his own entity. On top of Osborn and Red Skull, the Celestials are also threatening Earth. Yeah, it's pretty miserable.
2 Punisher: The End
A nuclear holocaust is never going to be a great basis for a chirpy Marvel story, so when Earth is ravaged by one in Gareth Ennis' Punisher: The End, it does little to provide any kind of hope for its titular hero. Taking refuge in a bomb shelter, Frank Castle emerges with revenge on his mind, threatening to take out those responsible.
He travels to New York and finds the Coven - another shelter housing the politicians and generals responsible. Finding out that they are the only ones left, he decides to kill them regardless, leaving himself as the sole survivor of an Earth ravaged by radiation and destruction.
1 Marvel Zombies
Marvel Zombies was a 5-issue miniseries published in 2005, and was written by Robert Kirkman of The Walking Dead fame. It was a flesh-eating extravaganza that saw many of Marvel's superheroes succumb to the "Hunger," providing a very different take on a disturbing reality, with one of the most experienced zombie storytellers at the helm.
After everyone was consumed by the Hunger, the zombie population of Earth managed to devour Galactus in a fantastic ironical statement. They become Galacti - a collective imbued with the Power Cosmic - travelling across the universe looking for more worlds to sate their hunger for flesh.