There’s nothing like a good old fashioned alien invasion. Name a mainstream superhero comic published in the last 75 years or so and you’d be hard-pressed to find a book that didn’t feature the threat of extraterrestrial invaders at some point during its run. The recent blockbuster success of the CW’s “Invasion!” crossover is a testament to our enduring fascination with the concept of life behind the stars – even if we are a little paranoid about their intentions.
Be that as it may, braced behind every alien invasion, there must be an appropriately powerful (and often malevolent) space empire. The following list assembles a collection of the coolest, most memorable invaders gathered from the furthest reaches of the comics universe. From star-spanning religious fanatics to cosmic gods, these 15 galactic war machines will stop at nothing to realize their destinies as rulers of the stars.
SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for numerous stories published by DC and Marvel Comics.
15 THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH OF TRUTH
There are few creators, save Jack Kirby of course, who have had the impact on Marvel Cosmic than Jim Starlin. Not only responsible for breathing new life into the flagging property that was Captain Marvel and creating the mad Titan Thanos, Starlin also introduced our first entry to comic fans in 1975’s “Strange Tales” #178. Founded by another Starlin creation, Adam Warlock’s evil doppelganger, Magus, the Universal Church of Truth is an interstellar army of fanatics hailing from various worlds across the galaxy.
In its most recent incarnation, the Church used faith engines fueled by the belief of billions of worshippers to power their colony worlds and an armada of temple ships. Under the leadership of Magus, the Church sacrificed billions of people when it destroyed several planets to facilitate an invasion by the denizens of the Cancerverse. After Magus was killed for failing a mission given to him by the Cancerverse’s ruler, Lord Mar-Vell, the Church attempts to resurrect him on Earth. Luckily, they are thwarted in their efforts to resuscitate their dying religion by the Annihilators.
14 THE BROOD
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. A voracious race of insectoid aliens ruled by a queen threatens to chew its way across the galaxy by violently taking over their victims’ bodies. First appearing in 1982 in “Uncanny X-Men” #155, the Brood were created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum as little more than a plot device for their introduction of the Shi’ar into the X-Men mythos. Obviously inspired by the Xenomorphs of the “Alien” film franchise, it was eventually revealed that the Brood function as cosmic levelers, preying upon races that are even more loathsome than themselves.
RELATED: Aliens: The 15 Best Xenomorph Comics
Although the Brood have primarily come into conflict with the X-Men, they are a known and feared quantity in the intergalactic political arena, holding an influential position on the Galactic Council. They were dealt a crushing blow during “The Black Vortex” storyline, which saw a cosmically-powered Kitty Pryde strand them behind amber on the planet Spartax, after which they were promptly exterminated. You can’t keep a good Brood down, though and we’re sure this wasn’t the last we see of the tenacious little bugs.
13 THE BADOON
An ancient race older than both the Kree and the Skrulls, the reptilian Badoon were created by Stan Lee and John Buscema and first appeared in the pages of “Silver Surfer” #2. They are a gender-segregated, xenophobic race ruled by the dominant male species dedicated to galactic conquest. They abide by a strict hierarchy that informs every aspect of their lives, from reproduction to politics.
They’ve often been cited as a galactic threat in more than one potential future timeline. In the future of the original Guardians of the Galaxy, they hold the entire Terran solar system in their thrall, prompting widespread resistance. They were also cited in another potential timeline as the only race capable of holding back the expanding Fault using a cosmically-powered Celestial Engine after exterminating most of their intergalactic rivals. However, they might be lucky to see either eventuality thanks to Gamora, who in the pages of her new solo series exploring her origins, murdered the Badoon royal line in response to the genocide of her people, effectively plunging the Badoon Empire into chaos.
12 THE CITADEL
Created by writers Marv Wolfman and the late Roger Slifer, the Citadel first appeared as overlords of the Vega System in “Green Lantern” #137. Although built around an intellectually-stunted race of clones, the Citadel also includes numerous other subjugated alien peoples, including the Gordians, the Branx, the Okaarans and the Tamaranians among many others. What set them apart from most other space-faring empires existing in the DC Universe was that, until the “War of Light” storyline that rocked the Green Lantern Corps, their home turf in the Vega System was unregulated by the Guardians of the Universe, who forbade their Lanterns' intervention. This allowed the Citadel to operate freely for years, opposed only by the resistance fighters, the Omega Men.
Most recently, in the pages of the latest "Omega Men" limited series, a post-Flashpoint version of the Citadel oppressed the worlds of the Vega System, prompting an extreme response by the Omega Men that rivalled their enemy’s brutality. Although the Omega Men successfully overthrew Citadel rule, aided by an emotionally-beleaguered Kyle Rayner, it was at the cost of their own morals. After Kallista beheaded the Citadel’s viceroy, she took over five formerly enslaved Vegan worlds and immediately instituted her own brutal regime.
11 THE DIRE WRAITHS
The sorcerous alien species known as the Dire Wraiths are the product of a confusing genesis that saw them created by Bill Mantlo and Al Milgrom as the villains for the Marvel comic book adaptation of the Parker Brothers toy, Rom the Spaceknight. Within the Marvel Universe, the Wraiths were a Deviant evolutionary offshoot of the Skrulls created by the Celestials. Like the Skrulls, they were shape-shifters, able to take the forms of other creatures. Utilizing a hybrid form of science and magic, the Wraiths were mainly opposed by Rom and his fellow Galadoran Spaceknights.
In the pages of IDW’s “Rom” ongoing series, the Dire Wraiths are depicted as an insidious galactic force opposed by the Solstar Order. Unbeknownst to the world at large, the Dire Wraiths invaded the Earth years ago, using their shapeshifting abilities to infiltrate virtually every level of society. Although their connection to the Skrulls no longer exists, the Wraiths remain powerful adversaries, using human hosts to fuel their shapeshifting abilities and sow dissent among the human populace, much as their comic book progenitors did in the pages of “Secret Invasion.”
10 THE DAEMONITES
Within the Wildstorm universe, the most feared alien species in the galaxy was the Daemonites. Created by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi, the Daemonites debuted in “WildC.A.T.s” #1; they were the grotesque, evil flip-side to the much prettier and agreeable Kherubim. Millenia ago, during their age-old interstellar war, the Daemonites crash-landed on Earth alongside their Kherubim enemies and immediately set about conquering the planet. However, unbeknownst to the factions on Earth, the greater Daemonite-Kherubim War had come to a conclusion, with the immortal Kherubim now ruling over the remnants of the battered Daemonite people. It was eventually revealed that the Daemonites were actually created by the Kherubim, who were attempting to expand their reach across the universe.
As a part of the New 52, DC brought the Daemonites into the DC Universe proper and set them up as an insidious race of alien invaders who have been attempting to take over the planet for centuries. With the advent of yet another Wildstorm reboot under the guidance of architect Warren Ellis, it’s unclear what role the Daemonites will play, but we’re betting they won’t be selling Avon. Or maybe they will. With that Ellis guy, anything is possible.
9 THE KHERUBIM
Like their evil counterparts the Daemonites, the Kherubim first appeared in Lee and Choi's “WildC.A.Ts” #1. A race of near-immortal warriors who prided themselves on their so-called innate nobility, the Kherubim have shown themselves to be every bit as ruthless and relentless in their quest for galactic dominance as their demonic foils. Superficially at least, the Kherubim belong to a utopian society that has successfully curtailed most forms of crime and corruption. The harsh reality lurking beneath the surface is that the Kherubim adhere to a strict militaristic hierarchy built along lines of class, gender and superhuman ability.
Even their war with the Daemonites was revealed to be far more complicated than originally believed, when it came to light that the conflict originally began as a Daemonite slave revolution. Massively powerful with several “Superman-class” warriors counted in their number, the Kherubim’s secret history would seem to indicate that they are even more dangerous than their traditional enemies.
8 THE MANHUNTERS
“No man escapes the Manhunters!” This was the rallying cry heard across the cosmos, used by the android police force first created by the Guardians of the Universe over three billion years ago. Created by Steve Englehart and Dick Dillin, in the pages of “Justice League of America” #177, the Manhunters were the Guardians' first attempt at keeping a semblance of cosmic order. However, the robots’ lack of empathy and single-minded programming caused them to rebel against their creators. Although most were decommissioned by the Guardians prior to the creation of their beloved Green Lantern Corps, several hidden Manhunter cells survived, clandestinely rebuilding their power base from the shadows.
With their ability to use their advanced tech to infiltrate targeted worlds at every level of society, the Manhunters use fear and paranoia to undermine their adversaries’ defenses. Most recently, in DC’s post-New 52 continuity, it was revealed that the Manhunters were originally created by the Guardians to capture the power of the First Lantern, Volthoom, adding another dimension to their already rich history. In many ways a cautionary tale about the dangers of relying too much on technology, the Manhunters stand as a reminder of what it means to be human (or maybe just organic) in an ever-evolving universe.
7 THE PHALANX
Another technological menace -- this time native to the Marvel Universe -- the Phalanx actually has its origins on Earth. Created by Scott Lobdell and Joe Madureira as offshoots of Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz’s Technarchy, the Phalanx first appeared in “Uncanny X-Men” #304 as a group of mutant-haters who experimented on themselves with the Technarchy’s transmode virus. Granted the ability to assimilate other beings into its collective hive mind and capable of extensive shapeshifting abilities, the Phalanx originally had one goal: the eradication of mutantkind.
Although this version of the Phalanx would ultimately fall to the X-Men, other breeds would arise far from Earth. The Shi’ar Empire was almost overwhelmed by a new breed that had spread to space after a Terran scientist attempted to construct a techno-organic army of Sentinels. As resilient as any normal virus, the Phalanx survived the X-Men’s repeated attempts to destroy their race and eventually evolved into the villains of “Annihilation Conquest.” Under the leadership of Ultron, the Phalanx threatened the galaxy and successfully decimated the powerful Kree Empire. Only the efforts of a Kree resistance, with help from Adam Warlock, Quasar and Starlord (among others), prevented the Phalanx from spreading across the universe.
6 THE VILTRUMITES
Created by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker, the Viltrumites exploded onto the comics scene within the pages of “Invincible,” where they were initially depicted as a peaceful, if immensely powerful, alien race, dedicated to helping Earth through the diplomacy of the world’s premiere superhero, Omni-Man. In reality, as Omni-Man’s son Invincible would soon discover, the Viltrumites were a war-like race intent on galactic conquest. Secretly driven by the threat of extinction thanks to a virus targeting their DNA, the Viltrumites intended to use Earth as a breeding colony in an effort to save their race. This led to a brutal war of attrition that ends when both sides agree to a truce.
The surviving Viltrumites, fearing total extinction as a result of the war, would be allowed to remain on Earth, living and breeding with the human populace, if they agreed to 1000 years of peace. Such deals with devils never seem to work out as intended, though. Most recently, the Viltrumites, under the leadership of the Regent Thragg, have returned to their conquering ways, vowing to kill both Invincible and Omni-Man as the last remaining Viltrumites with pure blood.
5 THE DOMINATORS
Although they have recently entered the popular imagination thanks to their starring role in the CW’s massively popular four-part Arrowverse crossover, the Dominators originally debuted in “Adventure Comics” #361 as adversaries of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Created by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan and Jim Mooney, the Dominators proved to be easy pickings for the Legion and they wouldn’t really reappear in a major way, until they showed up in the present as the main antagonists of the comics event “Invasion!” by Bill Mantlo, Keith Giffen and Todd McFarlane.
In the source material, the Dominators led an alien alliance that included Daxam, Thanagar and a host of other races, who shared their worries about humanity’s limitless genetic potential. When the invasion took a turn for the worse, the Dominators cut their losses, detonating a gene bomb, which negatively impacted scores of metahuman heroes and villains worldwide. Although they haven’t been seen much over the past few years, we’re thinking their star turn in the CW crossover makes the Dominators a sure bet to plague the Earth again in the near future.
4 THE SHI’AR
First appearing in 1976, in the pages of “X-Men” #97, the Shi’ar Imperium was created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum as a galactic empire on par with classic Marvel invaders, the Kree and the Skrulls. Their influence on the lives of the X-Men, especially Charles Xavier and the Summers clan, cannot be understated. Xavier was the consort of Majestrix Lilandra for years, while the third Summers brother, Vulcan, actually ruled the Shi’ar for a time as a despotic usurper. Although the Shi’ar have been plagued by civil war and conflicts with the Kree and the Inhumans in recent years, they still remain a force to be reckoned with.
Led by the ultra-powerful Gladiator of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, the Shi’ar targeted Earth for destruction after it was determined the planet was the source of universal decay. Thankfully, Iron Man was able to destroy the invading fleet using his Dyson sphere, Sol’s Hammer. It was recently revealed in the pages of “The Mighty Thor” that the Shi’ar left on Earth formed a corporation called Shi’ar Solutions Consolidated and were still influential enough to warrant a seat at the table of the powerful Universal Bank.
3 THE KREE
Aside from the Skrulls perhaps, there is no other alien race that has had such a profound impact on the Marvel Universe as the Kree Empire. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Kree first appeared on-panel in 1967, in the now-classic “Fantastic Four” #65. Their history is inextricably tied to that of their longstanding rivals, the Skrulls, from whom they stole the technology that allowed them to spread across the galaxy. A warlike, technologically advanced race ruled by the hive-minded Supreme Intelligence, the Kree were experimented upon by the Celestials and in turn experimented on humans, resulting in the creation of the Inhumans.
Their interminable war with the Skrulls, which lasted for over 100,000 years, is considered a classic storyline that continues to have widespread consequences decades after it was first depicted. Although the Kree have suffered catastrophic setbacks in recent years, including the destruction of their homeworld, Hala, hope still exists for the resilient Kree, thanks to the survival of Ronan the Accuser, the Imperial Fleet and a valuable seed of the late Supreme Intelligence.
2 THE SKRULLS
As we’ve seen throughout this list, a running theme in many alien invasion stories is the idea of the “secret invasion.” Like their long-time intergalactic foes the Kree, the Skrulls were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, debuting way back in 1962 in the pages of “Fantastic Four” #2. A race of devious shapeshifters who often prime planets for conquest by infiltrating the populace and sowing seeds of dissent and paranoia, the Skrulls have targeted Earth numerous times over the years. Perhaps their most successful attempt came during “Secret Invasion.” Having claimed the Earth on religious grounds, the Skrulls spent years infiltrating the planet’s resident superhuman community in order to destabilize and demoralize its numerous powerful protectors.
Although their ploy to conquer Earth ultimately failed, thanks in large part to the combined efforts of Nick Fury and Norman Osborn, the invasion had long-lasting repercussions, not least of which was Osborn’s ascension as the director of H.A.M.M.E.R. More recently, during the events of “Infinity,” the Skrull Empire was stitched back together by its most revered warrior and perennial FF sparring partner, Kl’rt the Super-Skrull.
Created by the King of Comics, Jack Kirby, in 1971, Apokolips first appeared in “New Gods” #1 and has occupied an infamous place in comics history ever since. A grim, hellish world, where brutality and violence are valued over peace and kindness, under Darkseid’s seemingly interminable rule, Apokolips has been transformed into a planet-sized war machine capable of mounting campaigns across multiple universes. With a colorful arsenal of weapons and warriors at his command, including Steppenwolf, Kalibak, the Female Furies and a near-infinite supply of Parademons, Darkseid seeks to spread the influence of his Anti-Life Equation across the cosmos.
Most recently, Apokolips went to war on two fronts as Darkseid entered into battle with the Anti-Monitor, while his favorite general, Steppenwolf, decimated the peoples of Earth 2. Although Darkseid ultimately failed in his bid to kill the Anti-Monitor and subjugate Earth Prime, Steppenwolf fared much better, murdering Earth 2’s trinity of wonders -- Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman -- and plunging the planet into a chaos, from which it never truly recovered. Embodying the classic struggle between good and evil, there is no greater threat to the DC Multiverse than Apokolips and its undying overlord.
The truth is out there! Which alien invaders did we miss? Let us know in the Comments!