With movies like The Avengers: Infinity War and Justice League soon hitting the theaters, it’s time to take a look at some of the biggest comic book crossovers that have hit the splash pages. Crossover events are extremely important to the comic book industry, because it’s a great way to get all of a publisher’s biggest heroes or villains and put them together all in one storyline. You might have a villain like Magneto teaming up with Doctor Doom to end the Avengers, or even have Superman square off with the rest of the Justice League.
This list isn’t necessarily naming them in order from massive character participation, nor is it ranked from worst to best crossovers of all time; rather, they’ve been placed in order of the most memorable cast of characters. These events are typically like desserts for comic geeks everywhere, and in this list, we’ll be taking a look at some of the busiest, most satisfying, and frankly awe-inspiring events to ever hit the shelves. Prepare your eyes and get ready to squint at the pages to catch a glimpse of your favorite heroes in these extremely busy crossovers!
15. Maximum Carnage
After Carnage was defeated by Spider-Man and was taken to Ravencroft Institute, it was discovered that the symbiote was infused inside Cletus Kasady’s blood. With Carnage recruiting various villains such as Shriek, Carrion, and Demogoblin, Spidey knew he would need some backup as well. In Maximum Carnage, Spider-Man reluctantly enlists Black Cat and Venom, alongside with Captain America, Cloak and Dagger, and Iron Fist to battle the bloodthirsty symbiote’s posse.
This series has come to be known for the sheer number of Spider-Man characters assembled, and for giving us a tantalizing look at how Carnage, a blood-thirsty psychopath, could lead a team of villains that were even scarier than him (which didn’t seem possible). The crossover even brought us a serviceable video game, Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage, based on the comic arc. Ever since the Maximum Carnage event, the crimson symbiote has been a fan favorite because of his raw ruthlessness and Kasady’s lust for bloodshed.
Barry Allen’s Flash has had quite a few bad mornings, but none that quite compare to Flashpoint. This crossover takes place in an altered DC Universe where Allen wakes up to a world where he has no superpowers, Cyborg is the greatest hero left standing, and the planet is being ravaged by war. Right from the beginning, we’re introduced to a plethora of famous DC heroes with something a bit off about each of them. For instance in this universe, a broodier (if that’s possible) Batman is actually Thomas Wayne, Wonder Woman has conquered the British Isles, and a sickly Superman is having experiments run on him by the government. It’s not exactly a heroic timeline.
Eventually, our hero the Flash returns everything back to normal(ish) and saves the day, but before then, we see the United States entering into the Atlantean-Amazon War, famous heroes and villains being executed, and the world generally crumbling all around them. You know, just a normal day in the DC Universe.
13. The Death Of Superman
For comic book characters to be be killed off is nothing new, but when Superman bit the dust, it literally affected not only every DC hero, but the villains as well. The Death of Superman arc featured multiple characters, all revolving around the confrontation with the hulking Doomsday. The Justice League International were some of the first to encounter Doomsday and get easily manhandled by the beast. The nigh-unstoppable villain even ends up punching Booster Gold through the atmosphere, though he was saved from certain death by Superman.
Now that Supes has arrived on the scene, the real battle begins. The Man of Steel tracks Doomsday along with a few others as he barrels his way towards Metropolis. Superman even notices the battle taking a toll on him, he’s wearing down and starting to bleed. The showdown is one of the most brutal conflicts in DC Comics history, and it features many of the publisher’s mainstay heroes, all attempting to prevent Doomsday from unleashing anymore devastation. Eventually, Superman is the last hero left standing, and he manages to defeat the hulking monstrosity — but at the high price given away by the title of the event.
12. House of M
To say that Wanda Maximoff, better known to comic fans as the Scarlet Witch, is one of Marvel’s most powerful characters (let alone mutants) would be a massive understatement. Even powerhouses like Professor X and Magneto have trouble wrapping their heads around her reality-warping abilities. She can basically do anything she pleases. But, unfortunately for the entire Marvel Universe in the House of M storyline, Scarlet Witch loses control over her fantastical gifts, resulting in a completely new reality.
What’s interesting in this crossover is what makes all crossovers work so well — it involves a whole range of characters. Obviously, the event features plenty of X-Men (many of whom end up being stripped of their mutant abilities), but it also features a plethora of Avengers, Spider-Man, and even Doctor Strange. It’s a very fun and weird event, and pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from a massive Marvel crossover.
11. Blackest Night
One of the scariest villains in the DC Universe, Nekron, who is basically death itself, is attempting to reanimate dead superheroes and villains — and, of course, snuff out all forms of life in the universe. This led to one of the most brutal and interesting comic book crossovers you’ll ever read. The Black Lanterns, lead by Nekron, are basically super powered zombies that feature such heroes like Batman, Wonder Woman, and even Superman.
With plenty of gross, well-drawn splash pages, Blackest Night is a fun event for any comic book fan. One of the highlights of the crossover is seeing so many famous and even obscure heroes being turned into grotesque zombies and attempting to end all life within the cosmos. It’s definitely one of the darkest DC crossovers to date, but there’s always something fun about seeing heroes fighting with their backs against the wall.
Shadowland is an interesting Marvel crossover because it involved street-level Marvel heroes such as Luke Cage, White Tiger, Spider-Man, the Punisher, and Wolverine. We’re not seeing the likes of Thor or Hulk, or A-list baddies like Doctor Doom or Magneto. This only adds to the suspense of the story, however, since no one is going to get rescued by an ultra-powerful savior. It’s these up to these more humanized heroes to bring back Hell’s Kitchen.
The good guys have to deal with a crazed Daredevil, who is now the leader of the Hand. The Man Without Fear has been possessed by the Best of the Hand — which turns him into a bloodthirsty killing machine. The story has a gaggle of supporting characters ranging from Foggy Nelson, Misty Knight, and many others that help move the story forward. If you’re sick of seeing OP heroes like Captain Marvel, the Hulk, or Thor hog up Marvel events, and you’re in the mood for something with a bit more grit, Shadowland is the crossover for you.
9. Sonic & Mega Man: Worlds Collide
Combining two of Archie Comics’ most popular universes, Sonic & Mega Man: Worlds Collide literally throws everything and the kitchen sink at these two popular video game characters. Like all good events, both of our heroes’ universes are combined by a devious plot by their dastardly villains. While conducting research on a transported Chaos Emerald, Dr. Wily opens up a communication line with Sonic’s main antagonist Dr. Eggman.
There are some hiccups along the way, as both Sonic and Mega Man are tricked into battling each other. While the two blue-clad heroes eventually come to their senses, it’s still an exciting and innovative comic book battle. Fans of either video game series will be pleased by this crossover, as there’s a great number of classic Sonic and Mega Man characters that make appearances. The series brings in Tails, Knuckles, and Shadow the Hedgehog from the Sonic series, as well as the likes of Rush, Proto Man, and Bass from the Mega Man series. Sonic & Mega Man: Worlds Collide at its heart is pure fan-service, and a completely wild and exciting ride for readers.
8. Infinity Gauntlet
One of next year’s biggest blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War will be based on this insane crossover event that Marvel fans know and love. In it, Thanos the big purple space baddie we all love to hate, ends up grabbing all of the Infinity Stones and sets them into place inside his Infinity Gauntlet. This grants the Mad Titan pretty much every insane ability you can imagine, as well as the ammunition to end half of the sentient life in the universe — all to impress Death, his beloved.
Much like several other Marvel tales on our list, this event starred all of Marvel’s heavy hitters, including the Avengers, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and X-Men, among many others. But even with all of these characters teaming up, they’re nothing compared to the power that Thanos now wields. Next summer, it will be interesting to see how they implement so many heroes tackling Thanos. We should be in for a treat.
7. Justice League/Avengers
You know what’s better than the DC Universe and the Marvel Universe? Teaming them together. Originally planned to be released in the summer of 1983, collaboration between the two comic giants fell through. Luckily, comic book fans eventually got their chance to see their favorite heroes from both universes interact — it just took the companies two decades longer than expected to make it happen.
With the library of both publishers being so vast, it was probably hard for both DC and Marvel to select which characters to appear without being bloated. Luckily for us, it was a well-written comic extravaganza. Characters you know and love were featured, such as Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man, as well as some lesser-known heroes like the Phantom Stranger, Eternity, and Metron. If you’re a fan of either company, you should definitely check this one out.
6. Secret Wars (2015)
Since the early 2000s, Marvel had two main universes that their characters lived in: the 616 Universe, which is the regular timeline, and the Ultimate Universe, where alternate versions of characters lived (ie Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man). There were plenty of other alternate dimensions running around as well, like Marvel Zombies and the Age of Apocalypse timelines. As a way to help bring in all of their characters into one unified dimension/continuity, Marvel decided to combine them in a epic crossover.
Much like the 1984 series of the same name, Secret Wars included a crazy number of characters, ranging from Captain America, an army of police-like Thors, Old Man Logan, Spider-Gwen, and much, much more. There’s plenty of things going on in the crossover, but the basic premise is that Doctor Doom is now a god, reigning supreme in this world. Along the way, we see plenty of action, beautiful splash pages, and memorable characters from separate universes interacting (and of course, warring with) each other.
5. Crisis On Infinite Earths
Crisis On Infinite Earths is easily one of DC Comics’ best crossovers to date, if not one of their finest tales ever told, period. It was a limited 12 issue run with plenty of action and enough characters to make your head spin. The whole point of the crossover was to streamline many of DC’s storylines into one cohesive plot line. It may be confusing to some readers, but basically, there’s multiple universes within DC Comics, with many iterations of various heroes. For instance, Earth-3 is a universe where all of your typical heroes are bad guys, and the best known villains are the folks fighting for truth and justice. It was a really cool premise, and it was generally meant to make DC’s history a bit easier to understand for comic book fans.
The event came complete with a number of shocking deaths that shook the comic book industry. Almost all of the deaths that were in Crisis On Infinite Earths had an emotional impact upon readers. With the more streamlined storyline, it allowed the Justice Society to interact with the Justice League, Wally West replaced Barry Allen as the Flash, and the origin stories for the likes of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman were cleared up once and for all. Until Flashpoint and Rebirth, of course.
4. Avengers Vs. X-Men
One of the craziest things that Marvel could do was have the X-Men and the Avengers come to blows, and that’s exactly what they did in 2012. With the dreaded Phoenix Force headed to Earth, the Avengers believe that it’s coming to possess mutant Hope Summers, so they want to put her in protective custody. This doesn’t sit well with X-Men leader Cyclops, who believes the Avengers never truly stood up for mutants around the world, and that Hope is the messiah of their race that will allow the x-gene to blossom once more. It all comes to blows when Earth’s Mightiest Heroes attempt to extract Hope with dozens of fellow superheroes and a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier backing them up.
Eventually, the Phoenix Force does indeed come to our world, and its power is split between Cyclops, Colossus, Magik, Namor, and Emma Frost, giving them almost god-like powers. The sheer number of heroes battling each other is almost overwhelming here; in one issue, you’ll find Magneto taking on Iron Man, Namor engaging in an underwater battle between the Thing and Luke Cage, and Spider-Man taking on Colossus and his sister Magik. If you haven’t read the series, you’re missing out on some of the coolest looking fight sequences ever to bless our geeky eyes — assuming you can wrap your head around the chaos.
3. Amalgam Comics
You know what’s better than Batman or Wolverine? A character that’s spliced together from Batman and Wolverine. Enter Amalgam Comics — where DC Comics and Marvel Comics co-published a series under the name Amalgam. The characters from the different publishers at first battle one another in a series of frustrating comic book polls deciding who wins. After the battles were settled, these Marvel and DC characters were eventually fused into completely new heroes, and the same goes for their villains. It’s a very interesting concept, filled with some really, really, weird costumes, with Spider-Boy (a Superboy and Spider-Man fusion seen in the top left of the image above) serving as a shining example.
It’s a fun series, and nothing really more than that. Really though, what more would you want from a DC and Marvel crossover? Eventually, comic book fans would have another chance to see these famous characters team-up again in Justice League/Avengers, but this one was generally just eye-candy for geeks everywhere.
2. Kingdom Come
Arguably one of DC Comics best stories ever told, Kingdom Come involves an insane amount of action from hundreds of heroes and villains within the DC Universe. In this elseworlds crossover set in the future, the mainstay Justice League characters are nowhere to be found, and in their place is a younger generation of heroes who are more reckless and have little to no regard for collateral damage. Of course, this forces Superman out of retirement to teach these young whipper-snappers a thing or two about being a true hero.
With Alex Ross’s gorgeous art and Mark Waid’s excellent story, Kingdom Come is a must read for anyone who cherishes a well-written tale. Kingdom Come stands as a shining example of how to balance hundreds of characters and not make the story feel diluted or bloated. If you haven’t read Kingdom Come, you’re truly missing out.
1. Civil War
How could we put anything else at number one? Marvel’s Civil War was an instant classic once it came out, pitting the government backed Iron Man against the renegade Captain America. It’s a powerful story that asks its readers a fundamental question about the existence of superheroes: what’s more important, security or freedom? The crossover literally brought hundreds of Marvel characters into the trenches, pitting friend against friend, and hero against hero. There’s also plenty of tie-in books as well (Spider-Man’s moral journey — which features one of Steve Rogers’ finest speeches ever — is particularly great).
With so many characters battling each other, it might be difficult to keep track of the various superheroes, but the art was clean and refined. One of the most iconic battle sequences in comics was also featured in Captain America: Civil War, with Iron Man’s repulsor beams slamming against Captain America’s iconic shield. The comic eventually got a sequel in last year’s Civil War II, but the less we talk about that, the better, as it paled in comparison to the original. If for some reason you haven’t read the original, you need to — it arguably stands as one of the best crossover events in comic book history, and should not be missed.
What are your favorite comic book crossovers? Let us know in the comments.