While the Marvel Universe has some of the greatest superheroes in comics working to prevent catastrophic events, this doesn’t mean they’ll always be successful. Whether it’s heroes arriving too late to stop a crisis or sacrificing their lives to save others, tragedy always seems to follow fans’ favorite crime fighters.
Some of these moments have risen in pop culture, creating tragic and unforgettable tales of loss and heartbreak that readers still feel to this day. While several of these events have been retconned, this doesn’t lessen the impact of these devastating moments.
10/10 The Death Of Mar-Vell Saw A Hero’s Light Diminish
The Death Of Captain Marvel by Jim Starlin
While various Marvel heroes have sacrificed their lives multiple times and returned from the dead, a few have remained in the afterlife. In Jim Starlin’s The Death Of Captain Marvel, Marvel’s first Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell, was a popular superhero whose life was taken by an unexpected, yet common, affliction: cancer.
Unable to find a cure, heroes and villains from across the Marvel universe came to pay respects to the dying superhero who sadly passes away at the end of the book. His death saw the harsh reality of life affect the world of superheroes, showcasing that even their fantastic powers can’t save everyone.
9/10 One More Day Broke A Power Couple
Spider-Man: One More Day by J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada
One More Day is considered by Spider-Man fans to be the most infamous storyline in the history of the Wall Crawler. The revelation of Spider-Man’s identity had Kingpin put a hit on the hero, with Aunt May caught in the crossfire. Blaming himself, Peter was visited by the demon Mephisto and was given a deal: the return of Aunt May and his secret identity for his and Mary Jane’s marriage.
Fans witnessed one of Marvel’s most beloved relationships dissolve, leading to Peter regressing from a mature adult back to an unlucky loser, wiping years of continuity from the series. Seeing Mary Jane and Peter return to the status quo of 20 years earlier was a choice that upset many readers who wished for more adventures with the happy couple.
8/10 “Stand Tall” Saw The Marvel Heroes Face Reality
Amazing Spider-Man vol. 2 #36 by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr.
While the world of Marvel takes place in a fictional universe, certain worldwide events find their way into the books. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 was a catastrophic moment that saw many real lives lost. In Amazing Spider-Man #36, “Stand Tall,” the Marvel universe, the heroes of Marvel bore witness as their version of the event took place, with the same tragic results.
In the issue, heroes, and even some of the greatest supervillains of the Marvel Universe, worked tirelessly alongside other public service units to save as many lives as they could. While the comic paid tribute to the real victims and fallen heroes, it also served as a reminder of the devastating calamity that shook the real world.
7/10 The Heroes Of Marvel Divided Cannot Stand
Civil War by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
In Marvel, heroes fight for what they believe in. However, sometimes certain morals and principles aren’t always agreed on by others, coming into conflict with friends and family. In Civil War, fans watched as their favorite heroes split into two factions: those who sided with the government and those who opposed it.
The result saw various heroes and villains be betrayed or even killed by former allies for what they believed was the greater good. The aftermath of Civil War saw Captain America surrender to the authorities, only to be assassinated. The tragic event scarred those involved, and the repercussions are still felt across the Marvel Universe to this day.
6/10 The Avengers Were Destroyed By One Of Their Own
Avengers Disassembled by Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch
The Avengers are Marvel’s premier team, facing some of the universe’s greatest menaces. However, the team fell apart thanks to an unforeseen adversary: long-time member the Scarlet Witch.
A mental breakdown saw the magical hero attack her team using various enemies from their past, resulting in the deaths of several members. Though they managed to stop Scarlet Witch, the Avengers tore the group apart, forcing the team to split up. While a new roster arose months later, fans still felt the impact of Wanda’s attack and mourned the heroes lost in the battle.
5/10 The Infamous Thanos Snap Changed The Universe
Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin, George Perez, and Ron Lim
There have been few villains in the Marvel mythos who came close to destroying the universe. In The Infinity Gauntlet, the mad Titan Thanos seeks to assemble the Infinity Stones to rewrite reality. Heroes from across the universe came together to stop the Eternal–Deviant, but their combined might wasn’t enough.
In the end, Thanos successfully used the Infinity Gauntlet to snap away half the Marvel universe in order to impress Death. Fans watched several of their favorite heroes be wiped away in the blink of an eye, unaware if they would or could return. This event cemented Thanos as one of Marvel’s greatest adversaries and showed readers the destructive power of the Infinity Stones.
4/10 Ultimate Spider-Man’s Death Ended An Era
Ultimate Death of Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley
It’s no secret that Ultimate Spider-Man revitalized Marvel Comics in the 00s, retelling the classic Spider-Man mythos under a new perspective. While the series remained popular among old and new readers, a risky move was taken near the end of the series: Peter Parker’s final battle as Spider-Man.
A battle between the Sinister Six and the Green Goblin saw Peter succumb to his injuries, dying in the arms of Aunt May. While this Peter is an alternate version, his death has had a lasting effect on the Marvel Universe, as it gave the world Miles Morales as the newest Spider-Man.
3/10 The Mutants Were Massacred By The Marauders
X-Men: Mutant Massacre by Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson, John Romita Jr., and Sal Buscema
Being a mutant in the Marvel Universe has never been easy, as those born with special abilities face persecution every day. Some, like the Morlocks, suffer the disadvantage of looking like monsters, making them greater outcasts. Believing them to be worthless, long-time X-Men villain Mister Sinister hired the mutant mercenaries Marauders to exterminate the Morlocks.
The Mutant Massacre saw the X-Men and a few of their allies try to rescue as many Morlocks as they could. Sadly, the outcome saw the deaths of thousands of Morlocks and several X-Men members becoming severely wounded. While the Morlocks were resurrected during the Krakoan era, their deaths haunted the X-Men for years.
2/10 The Death Of Gwen Stacy Still Haunts Spider-Man
The Night Gwen Stacy Died by Gerry Conway and Gil Kane
Spider-Man’s professional and personal lives have always conflicted, resulting in some of his greatest, yet tragic, stories. A victim of this was Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s at-the-time girlfriend, who became a pawn in another battle with the Green Goblin. Kidnaped by the villain, Spider-Man raced to save his love and watched as the Green Goblin threw Gwen off a bridge.
Using his webs, Peter tried to save Gwen, unfortunately snapping her neck in the process. Readers were horrified as the helpless Spider-Man held his dead girlfriend in his arms. This event still haunts Peter, Gwen’s death serving as a reminder of one of the few times he failed as a superhero.
1/10 The Death Of Jean Grey Changed Comics Forever
The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
Jean Grey is one of the X-Men’s strongest and most beloved members. In 1980, Jean received a power boost thanks to the mysterious entity known as the Phoenix Force. Unfortunately, manipulation by the Hellfire Club saw the X-Men witness a founding member of the team become their greatest threat.
The Dark Phoenix Saga saw a fan-favorite hero turn to the dark side, forcing her former teammates to take her down for good. Jean Grey eventually sacrificed herself to save her friends while facing trial off-world for her crimes as Dark Phoenix. Her death shook many X-Men fans at the time, unaware that the Phoenix wasn’t quite done with the powerful telepath yet. The story also turned the X-Men into a sales success at a level the mutants had never seen before, putting the X-Men at the top of the Marvel Universe.
NEXT: 10 Marvel Events That Overstayed Their Welcome