the Marvel Universe
circa 1999-or-so 20 years in the future. Aaron Stack, the Machine Man, is awakened by a monolith. The black slab rips away his synthetic skin and human appearance and transports him to a lost city on the moon. There he is greeted by Uatu, The Watcher
, who has been blinded. There, Aaron is told that he is to be the new Watcher, and to release all aspirations to be human.
Meanwhile on Earth, civilization has crumbled, and prominent heroes as well as villains across the world have risen to power to save their nations. America is under the control of Norman Osborn
, the Goblin King. Across the world, people are enslaved to the parasitic Hydra. Tony Stark
has armored himself in a sanitary skyscraper. Half of the Fantastic Four
are dead. Marching up to the streets of New York is the mysterious Skull, who has built an army by controlling all he meets.
Oh, and everyone (and we mean literally EVERYONE
on Earth) has super-powers. Nobody knows why.
And thus begins a journey from the dawn of the universe to its twilight, exploring the themes of heroism, empowerment, life, death, afterlife, and the cosmos.
Written by Jim Krueger and drawn by John Paul Leon, with ideas from Alex Ross' sketchpad. It has two sequels, Universe X
and Paradise X.
Earth X contains examples of:
- Abusive Precursors: The Celestials.
- A Fate Worse Than Death: In retaliation for killing his uncle Johnny, Franklin Richards uses his Reality Warper abilities to make it so that half of Namor's body is constantly burning for as long as he lives.
- All of the Other Reindeer: The Monster Generation is made up of people who mutated so hideously that they became outcasts even among the entirely mutant population of Earth.
- Alternate Continuity: Word of God from Marvel is that nothing from this series is canon to the mainstreamFrachise/Marvel Universe. ** Ret Canon: Expect Norman Osborn ruling America, the detail about the 2001 monolith from Machine Man's origin story was a Celestial gizmonote , and infecting Earth's population with the Terrigen Mists to turn everyone into Inhumans has been done twice in the Mainstream universe—during War of Kings and Inhumanity.
- Always a Bigger Fish: At the beginning of chapter 12, the Celestials tower over the skyline of New York City. At the end of chapter 12, Galactus towers over the Celestials, looking big enough to literally munch the Earth in one bite. When he actually fights them, he's reverted to a smaller form, but he still turns out to outpower them.
- And I Must Scream: What became of The Eternals.
- Assimilation Plot: Before the start of the comic, much of the Inhuman population began leaving the Hidden City and Black Bolt along with Inhuman Royal family planned on leaving for space. Black Bolt knowing many of them would be weakened by the pollutants outside of the Inhuman home and targeted as being mutants or being too different, decides to release a weapon, of his brother Maximus' design, that would release Terrigen Mists all over the world mutating the entire population of the world so that no one would be able to tell who was originally human, Inhuman, a regular mutant or not.
- Bald of Awesome: Steve Rogers has no hair.
- Batman Gambit: Magneto calls his Brotherhood "Evil", which places the X-Men as being the judges of mutantkind, at the same time portraying Xavier as a bigot, thus winning converts by the score around the world.
- Beware the Superman: Justified and explained. Also, Beware The General Populace.
- Big Bad Ensemble: It's a three way between The Skull, Osborn and The Celestials, though the Skull and Osborn are pretty much Big Bad Wannabes in comparison to the Celestials.
- Bittersweet Ending
- Body Horror: The Monster Generation, which includes a woman with a spider for a head and a man whose bones grew too fast for his muscles to keep up with.
- A Boy and His X: Bruce Banner and his diaper-wearing, ape-like Hulk.
- Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Tony Stark goes into battle against the Celestials. They blast his armor into scrap (actually shooting off an arm). But he only needed to slow them down...
- Brought to You by the Letter "S": Steve now sports scars on his forehead in the shape of an A. The Skull calls him Alice.
- Crisis Crossover: Everybody gets involved in this. And we mean everybody.
- Death Seeker: Daredevil.
- Doing In the Wizard: The Asgardians are revealed to be Sufficiently Advanced Alien Shapeshifters.
- Doing In the Scientist: The Marvel universe mutants never really squared up with science to begin with, but in this continuity they're the result of experimentation by the godlike Celestials. The above case of killing the wizard is also, oddly, an example of this, because the means by which they became Sufficiently Advanced Alien Shapeshifers is also by Celestial manipulation.
- The Dog Bites Back: When Toad and Magneto involuntarily exchange powers, the former becomes one of the mightiest mutants on Earth, outsts the latter from control of Sentinel City and makes him his personal court jester, abusing him every chance he had.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: What happens when the growing Celestial hatches.
- Enfant Terrible: The Skull.
- Epic Hail: Black Bolt calls for help and dies in his Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Face-Heel Turn: Clea. Also Uatu (not so much this as a Face Heel Reveal; he's always been like that).
- From a Single Cell: The second Daredevil can do this.
- Gender Bender: Thor is a woman. That is all.
- A God Am I: Ubiquitously deconstructed.
"Why did they hide? Wouldn't they be treated as gods?" "Yes. But mankind always turns on its gods. Isn't that right, Uatu?"
"And I wondered... could a goddess lose her faith? And what does a goddess put her faith in?"
"The Celestials made us gods, so who do we pray to now?"
"(Hank) Pym's first creation as a god was to make a monster."
- Godiva Hair: Medusa, several times. (Later averted for no apparent reason, all things considered. Scenery Censor with shadows replaces it.)
- Heel-Face Turn: Loki.
- Heroic Mime: Black Bolt.
- Homage: Inspired by Aaron/Machine Man's origins in the 2001 comic book, and the theme of human evolution, there are several homages to 2001: A Space Odyssey, most notably when Aaron wakes up to find a monolith at the foot of his bed.
- Humongous Mecha: Tony Stark's tower is a gigantic robot made from the remains of the Red Ronin, whose guns fire IRON MEN SUITS.
- Identical Stranger: Spiders Man happened to mutate in such a way as to very closely resemble Spider-Man when he was, you know, still Spider-Man.
- Incendiary Exponent: + Half of Namor = Even MORE Badass.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Alicia Masters, and with good reason.
- Informed Ability: In the sketchbook special, Ben Grimm is said to be a voice of wisdom in a world still in shock. It doesn't show.
- Inherent in the System: All of Mankind's ills are because of the Celestials.
- Interactive Narrator: Uatu and Aaron Stack.
- Legacy Character: The Skull, Ahura Boltagon/Black Bolt II, The Iron Avengers...Really, the place is crawling with them.
- Lens Flare Censor: Mar-Vell, via the big star on his chest, the bottom ray of which covers his unmentionables if they'd be visible.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Nearly every Marvel character as of 2000 is touched upon here, as well as many, many others specially created.
- Merlin and Nimue: The backstory shows this relationship between Doctor Strange and Clea. Clea got fed up with being Strange's student, decided he was just using her for sex, then betrayed and killed him.
- Meta Origin: It's all the Celestials' fault. Everything in the universe.
- Mythology Gag: Far too many to mention.
- But it should be stated that pretty much every character's altered appearance is meant to be a Mythology Gag of some sort. For instance, the fact that half of Namor's body is now on fire is apparently a reference to the original, Golden Age Human Torch. Alex Ross had depicted a fight between Torch and Namor in his Marvels series.
- Neck Snap: How Cap defeats the Skull.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Reed Richards turned Galactus into a star, which allowed the Celestials to run around and impregnate entire planets.
- No Matter How Much I Beg: Cap gave the Black Panther the Cosmic Cube, capable of reshaping reality. He's not going to give it back.
- Old Superhero: Obviously.
- People Puppets: The Skull's shtick.
- Pinocchio Syndrome: Aaron Stack really wants to be more human.
- Planetary Parasite: It's revealed that Celestials gestate their young inside of planets, and genetically manipulate the dominant species to turn them into superpowered protectors for their child.
- Power Perversion Potential: The Skull uses his mind control to force Venom (Mayday Parker) into becoming his "lady".
- President Evil: Norman Osborn.
- Retcanon: The plot point of Black Bolt releasing the Terrigen Mist across the globe to create a new race of human/Inhuman hybrids was later brought into the mainstream Marvel canon during Infinity and its follow-up, Inhumanity.
- Right Makes Might: The above quote.
- Screw You, Elves!: "You know what your problem is, Uatu? Your head's too big."
- Shout-Out: Lots of them, resulting in a great many ironic roles.
- Shrouded in Myth: The identity of Daredevil is the subject of this sort of rumor. Some say he's Johnny Blaze, Deadpool, Foggy Nelson, the original Daredevil (don't ask!), or Mr. Immortal, but nobody knows for sure.
- Starfish Aliens: The new parasitic Hydra.
- Star-Spangled Spandex: Mar-Vell.
- The Stoic: Black Bolt, but not out of disdain.
- Summon Bigger Fish: What happens you are facing down a bunch of Celestials? You send in a giant Iron Man. That don't work? Send in GALACTUS.
- Take Up My Sword: Wyatt Wingfoot uses the deceased Falcon's flight harness as Captain America's new partner. He even calls himself Redwing after the Falcon's pet bird.
- Unreliable Narrator: Uatu.
- Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Captain America wears a toga made from a flag. Nobody minds.
- What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: It's never really explained just what is uniquely useful about Dogface, Double-Header, or Mermaid's powers, particularly in a mutant-dominated world.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: That's easy. No one's human now.
- Winged Humanoid: Wyatt Wingfoot/Red Wing, Luna, as well as many other unnamed characters.
- Writer on Board: A mild case, but you get the feeling that all involved (especially Alex Ross) really don't like Wolverine.
- Also, Peter Parker's One True Love was Gwen Stacey, and he only married Mary Jane out of guilt. Explored further in the sequel series, which had Peter Parker's "perfect world" depicted as one where he was married to Gwen with a son named Ben, rather than what happened in his real life where he married MJ and had a daughter May (who was this reality's Venom). Again, another mild case but you do get the feeling that the creators (again, especially Alex Ross) definitely had their own feelings on who Spider-Man's OTP was.
Universe X contains examples of:
- Autocannibalism: Multiple Man eats a duplicate of himself while lost in the frozen wilderness. This results in him becoming the new Wendigo.
- Batman Gambit: Mephisto offers the key to Limbo to Cap, knowing full well that Cap will throw it back in his face, sending Belasco back in time to his first appearance in the Savage Land.
- Chessmaster: Mephisto's been manipulating everything.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Marvels of the dead who don't know they're deceased have their costume colors rendered negative. Those who do know - and have ascended to Paradise - retain their natural color. Usually, anyway.
- Dead to Begin With: The many dead heroes fight for paradise. They can only be defeated if they believe they're alive.
- Also, Moon Knight, Marlene Alraune, the Living Mummy, and everyone else brought back by the Reanimator Stone. They just never knew it.
- Death Seeker: In addition to Daredevil, there's Marc Spector/Moon Knight, the Sons of Set, and by extension, Red Ronin and the Tong of Creel.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "Mar-Vell will be reborn as the perfect child of Him and Her. And the child's name will be Mar-Vell."
- Also; "He was hidden with the person I would least likely be thought to ally with. I put him in the place people would never think to look. I gave him to the man who killed Susan's brother. I gave him to the man who killed Susan's brother. I gave your son to Namor, king of Atlantis. And hid him far beneath the eyes of man."
- Face-Heel Turn: Multiple Man. Nightcrawler. Wong.
- Heel-Face Turn: The Absorbing Man. Doctor Doom. Thanos.
- Heel Realization: The Gargoyle.
- Humongous Mecha: The Seven Silver Samurai and the Iron Avenger Monolith, all built by Tony Stark. He certainly has a penchant for them.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Jamie Madrox/Multiple Man with himself.
- I Always Wanted to Say That: "Welcome, (Isaac) Christians. You can't know how long I have wanted to say that."-Mephisto
- Interactive Narrator: Now taken over by Kyle Richmond/Nighthawk and the Gargoyle.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: A particularly convoluted example—Rom (the Spaceknight, not the Ferengi) is a Marvel character, but he was originally created as a toy—which flopped. But the rights to the character have reverted to the toy creator anyway. Rom appears de-cyborged in Limbo using the chestpiece of his cyborg armor as a shield, and is referred to only as "the greatest of the Spaceknights".
- Loss of Identity: This is what happened to Asgardians before they were Asgardians, and what would happen to Earth.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: Spiders-Man traps Peter in a world where he actually saved Gwen's life. For a while, he doesn't want to leave.
- Petting Zoo People: Black Panther, Wakanda's Ani-Men, Dog-Face of the new X-Men, Ka-Zar and Shanna, and many others of the mutated humanity.
- Puppeteer Parasite: The Hydra organism created by Owsborn.
- Pro-Human Transhuman: Once the truth about humanity being genetically manipulated by the Celestials and mutated by Terrigen mists is revealed, Richards creates massive torches to burn the mists out of the atmosphere to allow people to become human and fertile again. Inhumanity does not like this, and starts destroying the torches.
- Rock Beats Laser: Eons ago on the moon (long story), the primitive Kree slaughtered the peace-loving, star-crossing Skrulls.
- Shout-Out: "Why does Death come on wings? Why not as a skeleton? Or in the form of a teenage girl?"
- Superman Stays out of Gotham: An interesting attempt to justify one of the bigger examples of this in the Marvel Universe; one charater suggests that the reason the X-Men and the other superheroes kept on butting heads rather than working together more often is that the major dark forces of the world- strongly implied to include Mephisto, and other such demonic entities- manipulated events to play up anti-mutant prejudices so as to keep them apart.
- Temporal Paradox: Apparently, this is how alternate universes are made.
- Timey-Wimey Ball
- Took a Level in Badass: The Absorbing Man. In fact, he destroyed a third of the world's population. (The Avengers keep it quiet.)
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Not really, but the new Inhumanity works very hard to keep their new power, and are prepared to kill anyone who would take that away.
- Wolverine Publicity: Subverted, as he's hardly in the story at all.
- You Shall Not Pass: Subverted. The Black Knight tells this to the Tong of Creel as they assault Windsor Castle, but enough of them manage to get by King Britain's army to achieve their objective.
Paradise X contains examples of:
- Anti Anti Christ: Inverted by Loki, who decides to bring about Ragnarok; because it's the right thing to do.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Those who live in Paradise, and further yet, the Avenging Host.
- Batman Gambit: Aaron/X-51 plucks heroes and villains out of alternate realities to warn other Reed Richards' about the growing Celestials in their planets' cores. The Watchers come out of hiding to judge Uatu, and Aaron sends them to alternate worlds (by way of portal-spamming) to let those Earths know that they are being watched, thus setting the infinite war against the Celestials in motion.
- Another one; Thor, Loki, Dr. Strange and Xen trek to Asgard to find Clea. When they get to Yggdrasil, they find out that she's in Hel. Odin then appears, and they make a deal, trading one of their band in Clea's place (them's the rules). Loki volunteers to be the substitute, but Odin rejects the offer, and chooses to take Thor instead. After returning to earth and killing zombie Fin Fang Foom, Thor teleports back, revealing that he had freed everyone in Hel with a speech, and that was the plan all along. If it was Loki who did it, they wouldn't have believed him. But Thor... who wouldn't believe Thor? As Loki put it; "Ain't I a stinker?"
- Captain Ersatz: Hyperion, referred to repeatedly as a "super man" His storyline is meant to be the Alternate Company Equivalent of Kingdom Come, and the expanding Paradise that's devouring the Negative Zone is an affectionate parody of the "white wall" effect in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Thor, Loki, and Sutur can change forms at will. Just by thinking real hard.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Jude, the Entropic Man.
- Deadly Distant Finale
- Death Seeker: Hyperion. And the patients of the Human Torch hospitals.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "In Egypt, a Reanimator Stone was found. This was needed to reanimate those in Death's Realm, to carry them over to their new existence."
- Drop the Hammer: Mjolnir is now Thor's hammer hand.
- Eyes Always Shut: Matt Murdock, although this might just be an artist quirk.
- Face-Heel Turn: Mar-Vell? Nope. Just an Omniscient Morality License.
- Flat "What."
- Friendly Neighborhood Vampires: Bloodstorm.
- A God Am I: Mar-Vell.
- Gods Need Prayer Badly: Belief holds the Asgardians together. Without it, they wouldn't even have an identity.
- Heel-Face Turn: Iron Man 2020. Blastaar and Annihilus. Phoenix. The artificial Hyperion. Jude. Surtur. The Skull.
- Hurricane of Puns: Bobby Drake, Iceman's entire role. Peter Parker even Lampshades it.
- Jerkass: Vance Astro, and by extension, the old Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Zatanna (or her cousin, Zachary Zatara).
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Even the long-dead live, after a fashion.
- Merged Reality: What the Elders of the Universe try to create. They don't succeed.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: After Mar-Vell destroyed Death, hospitals are filled to the brim with people who cannot die, existing in a state of perpetual suffering.
- Pinocchio Syndrome: Now transfered to Deathlok.
- Plague of Good Fortune: Mephisto's curse on Doctor Doom, the defining reason behind his hatred for Richards.
- Power Perversion Potential: A brief instance late in the story, after Captain Britain marries Medusa; she of the Prehensile Hair.
- The Problem with Fighting Death: The old and sick start piling up, needing the help of Jude to fix.
- Progressively Prettier: Jude's features look softer after it is revealed that he is not malicious, and only spreads entropy as his own measure of mercy.
- Scenery Censor: Angel Steve always has an American flag curled around his body. It's just floating there, right above his groin.
- Shooting Superman: Fully lampshaded in the last issue, with Hyperion standing in for Superman. Especially egregious because all parties are already dead and in an afterlife dimension.
- Stripperiffic: As usual in comics, but applied more than usual to the males as well. See Lens Flare Censor above; also, Captain America in his angelic incarnation has only a strip of red-and-white bunting that streams around his body at a distance.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Really, who can die now?
- You Bastard: "We fought and died and were brought back to life over and over again for your damned comic book need for excitement!"