Avengers: Infinity War brought the galaxy-spanning Marvel Comics locations of Knowhere, Vormir, Zen-Whoberi, Titan, and Nidavellir to life on the big screen. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 brought alive The Sovereign, Contraxia, Berhert, and Ego.
Nerds, trust me when I tell you there are many, many, many more stars in the night sky of Earth 616. Indeed, Marvel Comics has had DECADES of fantastic cosmic storylines that span the pages of X-Men to the Avengers to the Fantastic Four.
So, here is a list of 7 incredible cosmos-spanning stories form the pages of Marvel Comics. And this was a hard list to get down to 7, as I had at least 7 more that pained me to cut. But any one of the following 7 Marvel cosmic stories are an EXCELLENT read.
Dark Phoenix Saga
The Dark Phoenix Saga is not just a fantastic Marvel cosmic story, it’s largely regarded as one of the very best stories in all of comics. A cosmic entity known as the Phoenix Force consumes Jean Grey and she is ultimately driven mad.
Thus, the Phoenix Force becomes the Dark Phoenix and consumes the power of a star, destroying an entire solar system. In order to save the universe from further destruction, Jean Grey sacrifices herself, giving readers one of the most iconic panels in all of comics, that of Cyclops holding the fallen Jean Grey.
There is a nice collected paperback edition.
When Mattel did market research on boys, they found that two very popular words were “secret” and “wars,” so why not use that data as the basis for a monstrous 12-issue comic book event that featured the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Magneto, and Doctor Doom?
The cosmic entity known as the Beyonder observed the heroes on Earth. Fascinated by their potential, the Beyonder chose a group comprised of both heroes and supervillains and teleported them against their will to Battleworld, a planet he created.
Getting the superheroes and villains ready to rumble, the Beyonder stocked Battleworld with alien weapons and technology, making it an ideal setting for a Battle Royale! And there were 12 issues of that.
To be clear, Secret Wars wasn’t Faulkner. But it was BIG and the concept ushered in the idea of gigantic crossovers that persists in comics to this day. In fact, the latest version of Secret Wars was written just a few short years ago by Jonathan Hickman and was actually quite amazing.
There is a nice collected edition of the original.
Coming of Galactus
It’s hard to talk about Marvel cosmic stories without talking about the Fantastic Four and it’s hard to talk about the Fantastic Four without talking about Galactus.
The three issue arc begins with the Silver Surfer as he soars through the galaxy, gathering the attention of the Skrulls. Terrified, the Skrulls do everything they can to conceal their world from the Surfer, knowing that wherever the Silver Surfer appears, his master, Galactus, cannot be far behind.
Back on Earth, the Fantastic Four witness the entire skyline in flame and space debris created by a powerful being known as the Watcher. He explains that the Surfer is the herald of Galactus, a cosmic entity that does nothing less than consume entire worlds. It’s up to the Fantastic Four to stop him and they better hurry because in the sky above Manhattan, Galactus appears.
The Coming of Galactus is an iconic Marvel cosmic storyline told in just three issues: Fantastic Four #48-50. And there is a collected edition of this Stan Lee-written tale.
Annihilation is a Marvel cosmic event that was happening right around the time of Marvel’s Civil War storyline. Starting with a huge prologue issue that jumped into a 6-issue miniseries with a gazillion tie-ins, Annihilation is sprawling and hard as heck to keep up with unless you have a reading order guide.
The story goes thus: the Annihilation Wave, a large armada of warships, under the control of Annihilus, enters the 616 from an area of space called the Negative Zone. Several star systems are quickly subjugated, which draws the attention of The Nova Corps, an intergalactic police force. When the Annihilation Wave begins moving toward the Skrull empire, the Silver Surfer, among many others, become involved.
The Annihilation event features nearly every Marvel cosmic character and coalesces the Guardians of the Galaxy that are now part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But the importance of it is because it is part of what has become known as the DNA era of Marvel Cosmic, a years-long and incredibly wonderful mega-storyline by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.
A primer on Marvel’s DNA cosmic run was one of the very first articles the Nerds on Earth produced, it’s that important to us.
The Infinity Gauntlet
At the start of The Infinity Gauntlet, the alien nihilist Thanos has collected the six Infinity Gems and attached them to his gauntlet. With their combined power, he becomes god-like. Hoping to win the affection of Mistress Death, the living embodiment of death in the Marvel Universe, Thanos uses his powers to kill half of the living beings in the universe.
If that sounds familiar, you’ve been paying attention to the greatest movie franchise in the history of cinema. A 1991 series, The Infinity Gauntlet has it’s roots in 1970s stories written by Jim Starlin, one in particular called The Life and Death of Captain Marvel. Infinity Gauntlet then spawned two immediate sequels: The Infinity War (1992) and The Infinity Crusade (1993).
Fans bemoan the convoluted continuity of comics but it is storylines like Infinity Gauntlet that remind us how gosh-danged magical comics books can be. It’s a storyline that has spawned decades.
You can get Infinity Gauntlet collected in paperback for a nice price.
The Kree–Skrull War
It’s researching lists like this that I’m reminded of the absolute wonder that is the decades of Marvel Comics stories. The Kree–Skrull War is yet another iconic cosmic storyline.
The story spanned Avengers #89 – 97 and was written during the Vietnam War. Although we’ve seen threads from the story, like the introduction of the romance between Scarlet Witch and the Vision, already in the MCU, we will see more in the Captain Marvel movie.
The Kree hero Captain Marvel is captured on Earth by the Avengers. This event traps the Avengers in the middle of a galactic war that had been going on for millennia. We’ve written a full piece on the Kree–Skrull War, including an examination of the military ethics of the storyline, so I’ll point you there.
The Kree-Skrull War has a really great collected trade paperback.
Thor: Ragnarok brought elements of Planet Hulk to the MCU. And I gotta say, it did so fantastically. (And it has an animated feature-length film.)
The Planet Hulk storyline is basically thus: Some of Earth’s heroes are witness to the ongoing destruction that a rampaging Hulk inflicts upon Earth’s innocents. As a preventative measure, they jettison Hulk into space.
But you can’t keep a good Hulk from smashing, so lo and behold, the Hulk crash lands on a planet centered around gladiatorial-style battles and showmanship. Becoming their champion, the Hulk sees his influence on the planet rise…
Planet Hulk is a modern comic classic. It’s an excellent storyline already brought to the big screen. But if you are curious about the original story, it’s a comic that is an engaging and enthralling read.
Planet Hulk is collected in a Hulk-sized omnibus.