Here at SYFY WIRE, it’s no secret that we enjoy celebrating the things that we love. Sometimes that takes the form of unranked lists. To us, that’s love.
Join us as our entire staff celebrates anything and everything in genre through our series of “25 Greatest from the last 25 years” lists. They are all unranked, because all of the people, movies, shows, comics, props (and so on) have equal standing for us.
The comic book crossover is a time-honored tradition that sees characters who don't interact month to month suddenly thrust into an adventure together. Sometimes it's across different parts of the same world or comic book universe; sometimes it's across different parts of the multiverse; and sometimes it's even across multiple comic book publishers!
Over the last 25 years, the comic book crossover has often been a summer event and only rarely been between multiple companies, but it's churned out some of the most fun and craziest stories we've ever seen. In alphabetical order, here are 25 of our favorite comic book crossovers from the last 25 years.
Age of Apocalypse
When Marvel Comics announced the entire X-Men comics line was being canceled in their monthly mid-comic column, there were no websites to run to and find out what was really happening three months later. By the time Legion Quest began, it was clear they were serious, mostly: The X-Men line was coming to an end… but a new crossover event with a host of brand-new series would spring up in its place. For four months, the very Marvel Universe and every X-Men series was transformed, and it brought about some of the coolest looks at the characters ever. Swashbuckling Nightcrawler, intergalactic thief Gambit, Wolverine claws ninja Kitty Pryde, Magneto and Rogue together with a kid, Ultra-powerful Nate Grey, evil beast, and even one-eyed Cyclops and one-handed Logan were just so much cooler. The event was so popular, many of the characters, and even a series or two, wound up crossing over into the main universe when it all got reset. The Age of Apocalypse was even revisited a few times, years later.
Amalgam: Marvel vs. DC
In 1996, Marvel and DC held a versus crossover event that saw their two universe combine into an amalgamation of both. Suddenly, there were brand-new characters who were mash-ups of the previous two existing entities. Even their own crossovers were mashed up into a past story called “Secret Crisis of the Infinity Hour,” which is a story idea so utterly insane we expect one of the companies to make it any day now. Here, we got Dark Claw (Batman + Wolverine), Doctor Doomsday (um, you get it), Doctor Strangefate (Charles Xavier, Doctor Strange, and Doctor Fate all in one), Nightcreeper (Nightcrawler + Creeper), Spider-Boy (Spider-Man + Superboy), and Super-Soldier (Superman and Captain America). The Amalgam idea would be revisited a couple times, with other mashups like Iron Lantern, the Challengers of the Fantastic, and Lobo the Duck (seriously). Most of these comics and characters were goofy fun, but not anything we’d want to see around for too long.
Marvel’s cosmic corner of their universe had been languishing for a while in the early 2000s. Once the center of every major event, like the Kree-Skrull War, Secret Wars, or Infinity Gauntlet, it was now isolated, and barely any stories were being told there. Enter Annihilation, a cosmic crossover that renewed tons of characters, like Nova, Super Skrull, Ronan, Silver Surfer, and many more, kicked the cosmic world into high gear, and oh yeah, launched the modern-day version of the Guardians of the Galaxy! Yes, this story of Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave was awesome, and we wouldn’t have our favorite cosmic MCU characters without it.
Archie Meets The Punisher
It’s just so disparate that it winds up being perfect. Archie Comics, in its classic format, gets a visitor to Riverdale from the Marvel Universe, The Punisher. The ruthless killing machine is tracking a criminal that just so happens to look exactly like Archie Andrews, and mayhem ensues with Archie and the gang, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Josie and the Pussycats, and more Riverdale residents. Don’t worry, Punisher didn’t murder them all. Honorable mention, of course, to Archie vs. Predator, also a real comic that actually happened. Seriously!
Sometimes, a team needs to be broken down in order to be built back up, and man, oh, man, did Brian Michael Bendis and team break the Avengers down. This crossover was ruthless: Ant-Man (Scott Lang) got blown up, The Vision got torn in half by She-Hulk, who also gravely injured Wasp, Captain America, and Captain Britain, and Hawkeye blew himself up to stop a Kree warship. Thor and the Asgardians all died in Ragnarok (the Norse end times), and what’s worse is Scarlet Witch kicked it all off, having been driven insane. Not the Avengers’ finest moment, in other words.
This is one of the first “Black Label” comics that DC put out, and we can definitely see why it was put under that dark moniker. It has Bats on the ropes and losing his mind, and the only one who can seem to help him is…John Constantine. Bats may need Constantine, but he certainly doesn’t like him. He barely tolerates him. The “could not care less” attitude of everyone’s favorite cigarette chomping paranormal investigator contrasted with the ultra-seriousness of Batman is irresistible.
We’ve known for decades that Green Lanterns power their rings while saying the Oath: “In brightest day, in blackest night …,” but when Geoff Johns decided to make the Blackest Night an actual prophecy and see it fulfilled, he turned the DC Universe on its head. Dead characters from throughout DC history returned as evil Black Lanterns and fought friends and lovers. The various colored lantern corps rise and unite to fight back against Nekron and Black Hand. Barry Allen, Mera, Lex Luthor, Scarecrow, Atom, and Wonder Woman all get (temporary) power rings. Major characters die, and some major characters get brought back to life. It was an epic years in the making, had lasting consequences and multiple spin-offs, and is still really being dealt with in the DCU today. Hopefully this leaks into the DCEU when Green Lantern Corps comes out in some way.
At this point, everyone at least knows of the existence of Civil War, if only as the loose inspiration for the movie that bore its name. But the comic book epic was so much more than just a story of Iron Man and Captain America coming down on different sides of a political debate. It instilled a fundamental distrust from which the Marvel Universe hasn’t fully recovered to this day. Since, we’ve had Avengers vs. X-Men and X-Men vs. Inhumans and Civil War 2 and many other superhero vs superhero conflicts. That’s some serious staying power for an event comic over a decade old.
Death of the Family
There are many Bat-events, and even more than one written/led by Scott Snyder, but nothing quite touches 2012’s “Death of the Family.” The first real event of the New 52 era, it saw the entire Bat-family of characters engrossed in this event, a war against the Joker that for the vast majority of the story, he was winning. This Joker, obsessed with Batman in a way that he thinks is love, wanted to remove any distractions from their relationship, i.e. characters like all the Robins, Alfred, Jim Gordon, etc. While Joker lost in the end, he did “kill” the Bat-family for some time after, as none of them trusted Bruce for months after he kept them in the dark about what was happening.
It’s an extension of the original classic, written by Geoff Johns with art by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson. Not only does it continue the Watchmen story in very unexpected ways, it gradually weaves in the rest of the DC Universe. We never expected to see some of these characters interact with some DC favorites, but here we are. How would Superman get along with Dr. Manhattan, for instance? This book will give you the answer, and much, much more.
In a grand experiment, DC Comics decided the best way to chronicle the events of the DC Universe after all their books jumped to “one year later” was to hand the creative keys to superstar creators Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, and Keith Giffen. What a decision it was, as the expert creative team, along with a host of A-list artists, combined to elevate characters like Animal Man, Batwoman, Renee Montoya, and even Lex Luthor to new heights they’d never reached before. A world without Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman turned out to be an extremely compelling one, with in-depth stories for several previously B-list characters bringing them firmly into the spotlight. It also gave us World War III, an event-within-an-event, the Science Squad, a renewed Booster Gold, and led right into the Countdown to Final Crisis.
Love or hate the end result, there’s no question that Flashpoint was one heck of an event. While the core event reads as slightly disjointed if you don’t jump into all the (many) crossover issues, it’s also an epic reimagining of a comics universe, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since Age of Apocalypse. Many characters were almost completely reinvented, with Wonder Woman and Aquaman at war, Deathstroke a freedom fighter, and most shockingly, a Thomas Wayne Batman fighting a Martha Wayne Joker. The story was very lightly touched on in The Flash on The CW, and will be adapted in some way as a film in the DCEU in the next couple of years. The end of the story resulted in a fully rebooted DC Comics universe, the “New 52,” which started every single series (all 52 of them, get it now?) with a new first issue, even long-running series like Action Comics and Detective Comics, DC’s namesake.
House of M
After disassembling the Avengers, Scarlet Witch was manipulated by her father Magneto (um, that’s retconned now, sadly) and her brother, Quicksilver, into forming a whole new world, one where mutants ruled and humans were the second-class citizens. The series, itself, offered a compelling look at an alternate timeline, but it was the end that shook the Internet, when, while restoring the world to normal, Scarlet Witch declared “No More Mutants.” The end result was millions of mutants losing their powers, including prominent ones like Quicksilver, Magneto, Dani Moonstar, Jubilee, and Chamber. While very few actually lost them forever, it was an event that had lasting implications on the Marvel Universe (Jubilee, for example, is still powerless, though she’s also a vampire. Comics!).
Howard the Duck
Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones took the master of quack-fu and gave him a new series that was so funny that we could hardly believe it. Howard runs up against many other members of the Marvel Universe within the pages of his story (including Aunt May, She-Hulk, and Rocket Raccoon), but none of them compare to how Zdarsky writes Spider-Man. Mr. Parker is constantly haunted to a comical degree here, and almost always apologizing to an Uncle Ben who is, of course, not there. It’s impossible for Spidey to do anything right in his own eyes, and he endlessly tortures himself. It’s a hilarious take on a beloved character, and Howard laughing it off only makes it better.
This crossover is less traditional crossover and more Rashomon-style story in which several franchises deal with a single threat. In it, zombies from the Zombies vs. Robots series are transported into the worlds of G.I. Joe, Transformers, Ghostbusters, and Star Trek (TOS era). Not only did it tell one story with five very different franchises (four of which were licensed titles), it did affect the storylines within those series afterwards, as well.
The sequel, twenty years later, to Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis shook the DC Universe up significantly, killing off several characters, turning a Superboy into a supervillain, and probably most importantly, restoring the DC Multiverse, a concept the original Crisis had killed. OF course, we didn’t fully know the Multiverse was restored, since it looked like it had re-collapsed, until 52 was rolling along and the Final Crisis hit. It sought to explain a lot of disparate continuity issues, and did so pretty well, but in the long-form storytelling of the time, wound up really just being Chapter 1 of at least a 4- or 5-chapter larger story.
JLA vs. Avengers
In what’s very likely the final DC/Marvel crossover, as the companies don’t exactly get along or have financial reason to do one again, JLA vs. Avengers saw the characters meeting up not to combine into bizarre new characters, but to explore the fundamental differences – and similarities – between them. The story, spanning multiple universes and fighting against most of the worst of the worst of both universes, also carried consequences into both universes. It was a crazy crossover between two companies, and it actually counted! For instance, Scarlet Witch, exposed to the bizarre Chaos Magic of the DCU, started to be driven crazy, leading to Disassembled and House of M. This series also features several instances of someone calling Hawkeye “Purple Arrow,” and it’s hilarious and should happen again/more often.
No Man's Land
This Batman crossover was the 80-issue crossover before those were really a thing, but that’s because it was really five storylines in one major crossover. In the series, a 7.6 earthquake in the city of Gotham so devastates the city that the US Government blows up all bridges and isolates it as a “no man’s land.” It leads to an epic story In which Gotham City is divided up into various villainous gang lands. It introduced Cassandra Cain as the new Batgirl (after a brief run by Huntress in the costume). The way it ended, with help from Bane and Lex Luthor (neither of whom were acting very altruistically), saw the death of Jim Gordon’s wife Sarah at the hands of the Joker, and a Bat-family that had been tested, but ultimately expanded.
“Who do you trust?” The biggest crossover ever, with a shocking total of 219 issues, this was a story in which literally anyone could actually be a Skrull, the shape-shifting aliens that had plagued the Marvel Universe for decades. They’d been slowly but surely replacing Marvel characters for years, with characters like Elektra, Spider-Woman, and Mockingbird all having been replaced. The series also introduced all-new Super Skrulls designed around new groups of heroes, with Avengers-themed and even X-Men-themed Super Skrulls. Some aspect of this story could show up in the MCU, as Captain Marvel recently introduced Skulls to that universe.
Secret Wars (2015)
Having already drastically changed the Marvel universe in epic storylines across the Fantastic Four and Avengers series he’d been writing for years, Jonathan Hickman took it all to its head, giving consequence to the near-constant time travel and dimension hopping in the books for a few years. The story was very Crisis-adjacent, with the Marvel multiverse collapsing together into literally one world, a new Battleworld, at the hands of Doctor Doom (with forced help from Doctor Strange, thinking it was the only way to save anyone from the collapsing multiverse). The story brought back many major Marvel stories and crossovers from throughout the years, and brought the Ultimate Universe to its Ultimate End. The series concluded with a new Marvel Universe that included characters from the Ultimate U like Miles Morales and the evil Reed Richards, led directly to Doctor Doom turning over a new leaf, brought in characters from other timelines like Old Man Logan, and more. Its effects are still being felt.
Sinestro Corps War
Before the Blackest Night could fall, the Sinestro Corps brought the war to the Green Lanterns. This wasn’t your average set of Yellow Lanterns, either, as they recruited massive super-heavyweights like Anti-Monitor (yes, the Crisis villain), Superman-Prime, Cyborg Superman, and more. What’s more, the series ended with the first Blue power ring being created to bring Hope to the DCU, Scar being injured by the Anti-Monitor, and the building of the Black Power Battery. Yeah, you could say it changed the DCU pretty significantly.
One of those Marvel Multiverse (and time)-hopping stories we mentioned earlier, this saw every Spider-character from every universe unite to take down a family of totem-devouring vampires who had a taste for Spiders. Comics are weird, sometimes. But this story saw team-ups between every fan-favorite Spider character ever, including Superior Spider-Man alongside Peter Parker, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Girl (Anya), Spider-Girl (Mayday), Ultimate Black Widow (Jessica Drew, female clone of Ultimate Peter Parker – it was a whole thing), Spider-Ham, and even Spideys from animated series and one-shot What If? Comics. If you’re a Spider-fan of any stripe, it was basically impossible to come away from this crossover disappointed. It also led, though slightly indirectly, to a fun, if short-lived, romance between Miles and Gwen that needs to come back because we love our precious spider-babes.
World War Hulk
After the epic Planet Hulk storyline saw Hulk exiled to a fierce gladiator planet by the Illuminati of Iron Man, Namor, Doctor Strange, Mister Fantastic, and Black Bolt, he made his way back to Earth and he. Was. PISSED. Hulk systematically took down each member of the group, in often brutal ways. He walked directly through Black Bolt’s full screaming attack to knock him out. He takes out Ghost Rider, the Gamma Corps, Iron Man (crushing his helmet around his head in the process), two teams of Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and a team of Defenders or Champions or whatever they were calling themselves at the time, and crushed Doctor Strange’s hands so he couldn’t use his magic. It was the Hulk unleashed, and had he not been betrayed by one of his own Warbound, it’s unlikely anyone in the Marvel Universe could’ve defeated him.
This X-over was an X-citing X-ample of the way X-Men could take things to an X-treme. X-actly what it accomplished is up for debate, but its X-ellence in bringing the X-family, from X-Men’s two teams to X-Factor and X-Force, all in support of taking down Stryfe, the X-tra angry clone of Cable from the future, forgives its slight lack of consequences. It did, we would find out years later, introduce the Legacy Virus, and started us down the X-acting path of finding out whether Stryfe or Cable was in fact Nathan Christopher Charles Summers (Dayspring Askani’Son). Sorry for this X-cessive and X-crutiating entry. It really is an X-plosive X-tended X-over.
This “Crisis in Time” saw Hal Jordan go mad with power, and was a true universe-spanning crossover, touching almost every ongoing series in DC’s publishing line. Possessed by (though at the time it was him “turning into”) Parallax, Hal Jordan gave into anger and despair, and killed the Green Lantern Corps, taking several rings to amplify his power. He then went to rewrite history to revive Coast City and rewrite the world in his own image, blanking out and recreating much of the DC Universe. The Legion of Super-Heroes was rebooted, Batman’s origin was changed, and, um, Hypertime happened. OK, so the fallout was pretty messed up, but the story, itself was pretty fun, and Green Lantern’s fall from grace did eventually (you know, a decade and change later) lead to all the cool Lantern Corps stuff.
Those were OUR choices. What are yours? Let us know in the comments which comic book crossovers from the last 25 years you’d put on your list (Note: If we're talking within one company, it has to go beyond one title. Hence no Identity Crisis). And check out our complete "25 Greatest" lists here.