20 Comic Book Events Every Comics Fan Should Read

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Identity Crisis

The heroes before Identity Crisis
DC Comics

Let's come out of the gates swinging with one of the most well-known, controversial and impactful events from DC Comics in the 2000's. Calling Identity Crisis an event is a bit misleading, as the actual Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales product was initially a standalone miniseries. The ramifications of Identity Crisis are felt long after the series, though, particularly in the pages of DC's JLA.

At its core, Identity Crisis is a love story wrapped inside a murder mystery, with a concerted effort to bring real-world crime, ethical quagmires, and "darkness" to the JLA's ivory watchtower. There are two viewings of Identity Crisis, one as a dark tragedy reflective of the real world, and one as a tenaciously desctructive tentacle of the Watchmen's squid monster, still wriggling 15 years later. I've held both views, and depending on your comic book journey and perspective, each is equally valid.

But of course, you have to read the event first!

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Death of Superman

Superman dead
DC Comics

Death of Superman is one of the most far-reaching media events in comic's history, but it also lacks surprise of any kind. Obviously the end game is right there in the title, and for all the flack Zack Snyder's Batman v. Superman has taken (and let's face it, no two men should have all that dour), it's Death of Superman scenes are actually pretty much on par with the comics. Doomsday comes to earth, he rips off some Walt Simonson/John Workman Mighty Thor sound effects, and he trades punches with Superman until they keel over. Ulysses, it ain't.

What gives Death of Superman legs, and a slight recommendation, is the follow up in World Without a Superman and Reign of the Supermen. The DCU's reaction to the loss of Superman is appropriately poignant, and shines a light on the great beacon of hope. Reign of the Supermen is more of a mixed bag, but it's actually quite relevant for DC continuity, with the likes of Steel and Cyborg Superman getting there start here.

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Avengers Disassembled

2004 Marvel event Disassembled
Marvel Comics

 If you're a fan of Marvel Comics in the 2000's, Avengers Disassembled is the event that started it all, tearing down the Avengers of old and rebuilding a New Avengers for the new millenium. If the grand era of yearly events sends you in to sudden fits of Hulk-like rage, Avengers Disassembled is the event that ruined it all. Either way, Marvel Comics were never quite the same.

Personally, Avengers Disassembled was an important, heavy event for me, with character deaths and turning points feeling momentous at the time. If you're interested in the modern Marvel timeline, Avengers Disassembled is a necessary read, and in many ways a starting place for everything to come. 

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Ultimatum is a gathering of a universe
Marvel Comics

No, you didn't read the headline wrong - this is, in fact, a list of recommended event reading for every comic book fan. And no, don't worry, I'm not going to turn this into a "so bad it's secretly good!" defense of Ultimatum. Let's get this out of the way: Ultimatmum is unquestionably terrible. Genuinely, it's the worst comic book in the entire 15 years of the Ultimate Universe. If Sinead O'Conner's lyrics are actually discreet prophecies about terrible comics in the Ultimate Universe (and I have to assume they are), Nothing Compares 2 U would definitely be about Ultimatum.

So clearly, you shouldn't read this, right? Wrong! If you want to read the Marvel Ultimate Universe from start to finish - a journey I would highly recommend - you actually kind of have to read Ultimatum! Sure, it's a defecation sealed in a zip lock, dropped on your front porch, and ceremoniously burned, but good golly, the impact! Ultimatum actually changes the Ultimate Universe in completely irreversible ways, and the Ultimate U never goes back. For that fact alone, it's an event every comic book fan should read, if for no other reason than to find common ground on what constitutes terrible comics.

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Invincible War

The evil mark invincible army
Image Comics

Mostly this is just an excuse to recommend Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley's Invincible, one of my favorite comics of all time. 

I highly recommend the dozens of comics that lead up to Invincible War first, but once you get to this point, Invincible War hits impossibly hard in the way that all Robert Kirkman turning points inevitably do. 

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Messiah CompleX/X-Men: Second Coming

Mr Sinister and the X Men
Marvel Comics

Our first X-event on the list, this two parter comes hot on the heels of House of M and Decimation to change the game for a devastated mutant race. Mutants are down to 198, and no new mutants are being born: Until... Hope!

Messiah CompleX and Second Coming take all the Cable, Mr. Sinister, and weird time travel that makes X-Men stories strange and fascinating, and combines it into a race for literal and figurative hope. It's a must for X-Men fans, and set the stage for some great comics to come, such as X-Force.

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Batman: No Man's Land

Batman is sad about Gotham
DC Comics

The scope of No Man's Land is nearly unrivaled in Batman comics. Gotham City is effectively sealed off from the rest of the world, leaving Batman and company to fend for themselves. Some of the best Gotham City Police Department developments this side of, well, the follow-up this event enabled: Gotham Central.

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Death of Spider-Man (Ultimate)

Peter Parker meets his end
Marvel Comics

As always, I can't recommend the full Marvel Ultimate Universe enough,  but Ultimate Spider-Man is unquestionably the highlight. Ultimate Spider-Man is so good that it stays strong for over 100 issues, effectively kills Spider-Man (much harder to pull off than you'd think), and then generates a NEW Spider-Man who is just as strong a character and inspiration in Miles Morales. This event would be higher on the list if it wasn't for those pesky Ultimates tie-ins not adding much to the narrative. 

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House of M

All the marvel heroes before House of M
Marvel Comics

Not the best X-Men alternate reality, but a great one all the same. Following the events of Avengers Disassembled, we find a Marvel event set inside a world where Magneto and the mutants rule the world. The conclusion leaves plenty to be desired, but seeing the Marvel mutants finally on top is an interesting script flip.

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World War Hulk

Hulk is ready for war
Marvel Comics

WWH is going to be a lot more impactful if you read Planet Hulk first (and by all measures, you should check out Planet Hulk too). After Marvel's Illuminati decide to shoot the Hulk into space, the Jade Giant is coming back with his Warbound, and he's madder than ever. World War Hulk isn't exactly going to shed new insight on the human condition, but Hulk DOES fight Black Bolt on the Moon, and that's good enough for me.

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Bane breaks the bat
DC Comics

The Batman epic that introduced Bane and broke the bat. Knightfall has seen a resurgence in popularity following Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, but honestly there's no good reason Knightfall should ever fall off any selection of quality Batman recommendations.

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The Mutant Massacre

Wolverine in the mutant massacre
Marvel Comics

Believe it or not, there was a time when the X-Men didn't have a new event every single year. The Mutant Massacre changed that with a devastating below to the mutants of the Marvel Universe, going farther to challenge the X-Men's mission than just about anything Claremont and company had cooked up since 1975.

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Crisis on Infinite Earths

Heroes gather for crisis on infinite earths
DC Comics

DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths isn't the first comic book event, but it sure feels like it. For all the times we've heard "This changes everything!" from comic book event press over the past 30 years, Crisis on Infinite Earths is one of the few that actually delivered. And boy did it ever. 

In a lot of ways it's easier to celebrate the impact and scope of Crisis than the actual story itself, but even under the weight of every DC character and Earth to ever populate a comic book page, Crisis finds a worth new villain in the Anti-Monitor, as well as plenty of appropriately heroic sacrifice from some of DC's best.

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Civil War

Marvel's Civil War comic book event
Marvel Comics

I've already written way too much about whether or not Civil War is actually any good. Given the immense popularity of the event and Captain America 3: Civil War, there's really only one thing left for you to do it about it: Read it yourself and choose a side!

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Sinestro Corps War

The Sinestro Corps Yellow Ring Bearers
DC Comics

Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver's Green Lantern: Rebirth sold me on longtime Justice Leaguer Hal Jordan, but it wasn't until the Sinestro Corps War that I fully bought into the entire value of DC's Green Lantern Corps. 

True to its name, this is all out Corps War, and for my money the climax of Geoff Johns long and worthwhile Green Lantern run. 

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Infinity Gauntlet

Thanos wields the infinity gauntlet
Marvel Comics

If you mix Thanos Quest into the build up to Infinity Gauntlet, it is a far superior early 90's mega event from Marvel's cosmic overlord, Jim Starlin. As is, Infinity Gauntlet is the most enduring Thanos story of all time, and in many ways the end goal of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (except instead of naming their Phase 3 conclusion after a dope glove, they went with the inferior read: Infinity War).

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Annihilation Through Thanos Imperative

Cosmic Annihilation
Marvel Comics

There's a degree of sacrilege ranking modern Marvel Cosmic ahead of Infinity Gauntlet, and I'll be the first to acknowledge you don't get Annihilation on through Thanos Imperative without Jim Starlin's brilliant work (from Captain Marvel through warlock through Infinity Gauntlet, this modern Marvel cosmic run is steeped in the Starlin-verse). Nonetheless, you could very easily make a case that the best Marvel Comics from 2000 to 2010 are a part of this Marvel Cosmic run. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning get an immense amount of deserved credit for their work on Guardians of the Galaxy (as we know them!), but it's Keith Giffen's work on Annihilation that launches the entire brilliant enterprise.

For those looking to dive in, I recommend the Marvel cosmic reading order, or the below sequence:

Annihilation: Conquest
War of Kings
Realm of Kings
Thanos Imperative

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DC weekly comics
DC Comics

52 is one of those DC events that on paper seems destined to fail, then takes on a life of its own and reminds you why the DC Unvierse is so great. One comic a week for 52 weeks, in a mysterious future DC Universe missing the trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman? What could go wrong?!

Turns out not much, especially when you have the likes of Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and Greg Rucka writing powerful, exciting expansions across the entire DCU.

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X-Men: Age of Apocalypse

The Age of Apocalypse
Marvel Comics

Speaking of wild ambition, Age of Apocalypse reimagines the Marvel Universe as an alternate reality in which En-Sabah Nur has finally ascended to his rightful place atop a global throne. Age of Apocalypse is madcap 90's X-Men action, with furiously kinetic and colorful action across a surprisingly well-connected group of X-Men tie-ins and teams.

It's my favorite X-Men event of all time, and the comic book event that made me love events, but it's not my number one... 

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Secret Wars (1982 and 2015)

Marvel's gathering of secret wars heroes
Marvel Comics

Whether we're talking past or present, Secret Wars is my favorite comic book event of all time. I've written in detail about how much I love this epic, and while the early 80's original is largely nostalgia and blissfully child-like action, the 2015 update is the perfect conclusion to a years long series of excellence by author Jonathan Hickman. 

I love 'em both darn near to death, and if you've made it this far, you now have the 20 comic book events every fan new and old should read!

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Honorable Mention: Valiant Comics Armor Wars

the valiant universe event
Valiant Comics

Is this totally an excuse just to recommend you check out the Valiant Comics superhero universe? Yeah, a bit. Nonetheless, Armor Wars is one of the best non-Big 2 comic book events out there, and if nothing else, should encourage you to read great books like Matt Kindt's Unity.