Heroes of the Marvel Universe have faced off against some of the most powerful threats imaginable. Over the years, all sorts of stakes have been raised to challenge ideas of hope and heroism, only for good to win out over evil at almost every turn. However, just because good always wins, doesn’t mean that there are no repercussions. During some of Marvel’s biggest events, some of the sacrifices have actually been incredibly great. In fact, some endings are so surprising that they have altered the course of the entire universe. To look back at some of the bigger surprises over the years, here is our list of 10 shocking Marvel event endings that no one saw coming.
10 The Death of Gwen Stacy
One of the biggest surprises in all of Marvel Comics is the death of Gwen Stacy. After being captured by the Green Goblin, Gwen is tossed off a bridge, only to have her neck snapped as Spider-Man tried to save her. Though it is unclear if Gwen was dead before taking the fall, this single moment continues to haunt Peter Parker to this day.
Not only was this a very surprising twist in the series, but it really broke from the trope of, “the hero always saves the girl” and the like. Furthermore, this version of Gwen Stacy has remained dead ever since, which is another unusual thing for comics, Though there have definitely been other versions of her over the years, Gwen’s death remains one of the most surprising and permanent things to ever happen in comics.
9 The Death of Captain America
If the ending of Marvel’s Civil War event wasn’t surprising enough, they added to it by killing off Steve Rogers, Captain America. While many fans were surprised to see Cap suddenly give up the fight he had fought so hard for, seeing him be assassinated was all the more shocking. Likewise, learning that a brainwashed Sharon Carter was actually the one who shot him only added to the shock factor.
While this gave Bucky the opportunity to ascend to the mantle and gave the character some great development, the fact that Steve was gone had almost as big of an impact on the Marvel Universe as Civil War alone did. Thankfully though, he wouldn’t be gone a terribly long time.
The overall quality of Avengers Vs X-Men is often debated by fans. However, whether it is loved or hated, the conclusion of the series is still one of the more surprising twists that Marvel has put out, especially in recent years. AVX ends with the tragic death of Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men and long-time advocate for mutant rights.
Yet, even as one of the most important mutants in the Marvel Universe, the fact that Cyclops, Xavier’s earliest and most promising student, was the one to kill him only adds to the surprise. Following AVX, every X-Men related title seemed to change in terms of creative direction, making it one of the most impactful moments in the characters’ history as well. While Charles is once again back among the land of the living, the ending of AVX was still incredibly shocking.
7 The Dark Phoenix Saga
Chris Claremont’s, The Dark Phoenix Saga was full of incredibly shocking moments. Towards the start of the event, Jean Grey completely loses control of her powers, resulting in the extinction of an entire alien race. As things got worse, the X-Men themselves ended up being the ones needing to take her down.
In the end, Jean herself realizes the full extent of her powers, and sacrifices herself in order to protect her team. The original death of Jean Grey remains one of the biggest moments in X-Men history today. Though the character has been in a constant cycle of death and rebirth ever since, her original death is easily one of the most shocking moments in a Marvel event yet.
6 Mutant Massacre
Though it is not as big as stories like The Dark Phoenix Saga, Mutant Massacre still proved to have a lot of influence on the X-Men going forward. After Mr. Sinister enacts a devastating attack against mutantkind, it is up to the X-Men to stop him before it is too late. Throughout the series, many significant changes are made to some key members of the X-Men.
For example, Angel lost his wings, Kitty Pryde was stuck in a permanent phase, and Cerebro was completely destroyed. Lastly, in one of the more shocking reveals, Wolverine discovers that Jean is actually still alive. Despite being a lesser-known X-Men event, Mutant Massacre is still full of all sorts of surprising twists and turns that make it well worth a read for any fan of the team.
5 Kraven’s Last Hunt
While the beginning of Kraven’s Last Hunt was incredibly surprising, the end proved to be just as shocking for readers. After Kraven the Hunter, one of Spider-Man’s biggest villains, manages to shoot Peter and bury him alive, he then assumes the mantle of Spider-Man for himself. While Peter eventually is able to free himself from the grave, the biggest surprise comes from Kraven’s motivations which are revealed at the end.
As he is confronted by an infuriated Peter Parker, Kraven explains that he is dying, and that he wanted to prove before his passing that he was greater than his greatest enemy. Not only is Kraven’s Last Hunt one of the best Spider-Man stories around, but it offers an incredibly in depth look at a very complex villain. With all the surprises contained within the series, it is easy to see why it has received such high praise.
4 Secret Wars (2015)
Shortly before Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars was announced, it was pretty clear that Marvel’s Ultimate Universe would soon be combined with their mainstream 616 Universe. However, while that much was known before the conclusion of the series, Secret Wars still offers plenty of surprises.
Not only does it take Dr. Doom to a whole new level in terms of power, but the final face off between him and Mr. Fantastic was one of the most epic fights in modern Marvel comics. Furthermore, seeing Black Panther with the Infinity Gauntlet and half of the Fantastic Four remaining behind led for a highly fulfilling and emotional end to a run that had been building for several years.
3 Secret Wars (Classic)
Years before Jonathan Hickman even began his Avengers run, author Jim Shooter wrote the original Secret Wars event. To this day, it remains one of Marvel’s most celebrated Event books. After The Beyonder shows up and plucks several key Marvel heroes from the Earth, they are transported to a dimension known as Battleworld and forced to fight each other for The Beyonder’s amusement.
While the stakes are high throughout the entire series, one of the biggest surprises came when Dr. Doom assumed the role of the Beyonder, overseeing the fights for himself. While the movies have not been kind to the character, events like this easily display just how clever, powerful, and threatening Dr. Doom can truly be. Furthermore, the introduction of Spider-Man’s symbiote suit would continue to have an impact in the comics, years after Secret Wars officially concluded. Though the series obviously had to end with everything going back to normal, Secret Wars still packs many surprising moments within.
2 Secret Invasion
Like AVX, Secret Invasion tends to be very love-or-hate with fans. The series opens by revealing that Skrulls, a shape-shifting alien race, have secretly replaced several key Marvel heroes. Not only did this mean that some characters weren’t who they said they were, but some key moments in a character’s history were actually accomplished by a Skrull, rather that the actual hero.
By the end of the series, so much distrust had spread throughout the Marvel Universe, drastically changing the course of many comics. Tony Stark was no longer the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Norman Osborn was handed his own division of Avengers. Considering how it started the era of the Dark Reign, Secret Invasion still had a surprise ending, despite the quality of the overall story.
1 House/Powers of X
Recently, Jonathan Hickman has transitioned from Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to the likes of the X-Men. Though he has just started what is very clearly going to be a long run with the characters, he has already proven to have a strong new direction for the various teams of mutants. Beginning with House/Powers of X, the X-Men begin to play a whole new role within the Marvel Universe, with mutants clearly established as superior to humans.
Both series featured a great number of surprises as well as changes to some key characters, yet just about everything seemed to receive high praise from fans. Furthermore, considering the role that Moira MacTaggert played in everything makes it easy to see why the ending was so surprising. Since the series is still so new, spoilers will be avoided so people can check the series out for themselves. However, any fan of any era of X-Men is going to want to check out this series, as well as all other X-books following it.