?Like it or not, the prevailing business model for Marvel and DC for the past decade-plus of comics has been to build up to crossover events, publish events and set up crossovers within the events they’re publishing. It’s a cycle that’ll continue as long as people to continue to buy them, which probably isn’t going to end any time soon.
And why do people keep buying these comics? Because they always promise big repercussions. Characters deaths (nevermind the revival a few months later)! A reshaped universe (that goes back to status quo within a year)! Superheroes getting turned into murdering zombies (they get better)! But of course, those aren’t the things that really last. Big event comics’ real legacy comes in what they introduce, how they change the tone of comics in general or if their plot elements get referenced again in later stories. That’s certainly why these 10 series are remembered.
10) Secret Wars
?Marvel’s Secret Wars series in the early ’80s was one of the first big event crossovers of its kind, and it shows. It was basically an excuse to have virtually every Marvel hero and villain go to some planet and fight each other for 12 issues. But one big thing happens that shaped one Marvel character’s history for decades: Spider-Man finds the black symbiote costume that would later become Venom. For better or worse, Venom’s been the persistently popular Spidey villain/anti-hero of the past 30 years. He’s even got a new series starting soon (and a new host).
9) Crisis on Infinite Earths
?Almost every major plot development from DC’s most famous event book has been undone — Barry Allen and Kara Zor-El are alive again, the multiverse is back (sort of) and character backstories are as messy now as they’ve ever been, just in a different way. But that hasn’t stopped every DC writer from trying to catch lightning in a bottle again. No fewer than three DC recent crossovers have had the word “crisis” in the title (itself a reference to the old JLA/JSA crossovers of the Silver Age), and every event has aimed to have the same universe-changing continuity fixes.
8) The Infinity Gauntlet
?In addition to being the inspiration for Adam WarRock’s “The War for Infinity,” The Infinity Gauntlet not only set the stage for basically all of Marvel’s “cosmic” events forever, it also focused on an item that, along with the Cosmic Cube, has become Marvel shorthand for “limitless godlike power.” The Infinity Gauntlet was a major part of the Avengers: Illuminati series, and was the basis for a great recent Fantastic Four scene in which every alternate-universe Reed Richards had one. It’s a lasting symbol.
7) Batman: Cataclysm/No Man’s Land
?Hey, you guys! Remember that time Gotham City got completely destroyed in an earthquake and then was abandoned by the U.S. government to become a den of lawlessness? No? Well, they rebuilt Gotham pretty fast, I’ll give them that. But unlike that time Bruce Wayne got accused of murdering his girlfriend (remember that one?), this big event actually gets referenced from time to time, as it did in recent issue of Scott Synder and Jock’s Detective Comics (seriously, read that book).
6) Avengers Disassembled/House of M
?You’ll recall that this list is of comics crossover events that “mattered,” not necessarily those that are good. Avengers Dissasembled, which led into House of M, featured a lot of character deaths and a whole bunch of mutants being demutantized. That’s mostly been reversed (still waiting for Jack of Hearts to make his comeback, though), but one thing that has persisted in the years since House of M is Marvel’s distinct changes in the character of the Scarlet Witch. She’s still an enigma wrapped in a mystery in a crazy lady, and the recent Young Avengers series, The Children’s Crusade, is all about the lasting legacy of this crossover.
5) Identity Crisis
?Again, I’m talking about what matters, not necessarily what’s good here, so I have to bring up Identity Crisis because of its continuing influence on the DC universe, in its need to be Dark and Adult. It’d be hard to imagine a DC where superheroes could torture people like they did in Cry for Justice or have crazy hallucination sessions with dead cats as in Rise of Arsenal without the prominent rape scene and heroes-being-jerks plot of Identity Crisis.
4) World War Hulk
?This series is important for one big reason, aside from it being pretty good: It didn’t introduce Amadeus Cho, Marvel’s best new character of the last decade, but it really burst him onto the scene in a big way. Also, it spun off the Incredible Hercules series, which isn’t around anymore, but dang, it was good. That matters, right?
3) Infinite Crisis
?For all the arm-rippings and head explosions and punching-through-reality in this series, the one real, lasting effect is the return of the multiverse. 52 worlds! One of them is the Watchmen universe! This is absolutely going to be kind of a mess!
2) Spider-Man: One More Day
?The crossover that ended Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s marriage forever with a simple snap of Mephisto’s fingers will forever be notable as possibly the event that resulted in the most pissed off fans in history. But you know what else it resulted in? The best Spider-Man comics in like 25 years (though many have argued that those comics could be more or less the same, with the marriage intact). Still, three years after the big change, Marvel shows no signs of restoring the marriage.
1) Final Crisis
?Lots of readers found Grant Morrison’s year-long megaseries which reshaped Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, included crazy characters including the Japanese Super Young Team and ended with Superman singing the universe back into existence, hard to follow and confusing. But the part that matters most is pretty easy to grasp. Batman kills Darkseid with the radion bullet; Darkseid shoots Bruce Wayne with Omega Beams. Those beams send him hurtling through time. Long story short, Batman went through a lot of crap, traveled to a bunch of different times, came back and decided to incorporate. What I’m saying is because of Final Crisis, there’s now a Muslim Batman of France. And that definitely matters.