The recent news that Jonathan Hickman and Bryan Hitch will be returning to the Ultimate Universe with the upcoming Ultimate Invasion miniseries makes for a great time to think about all the other very cool alternate universes out there that might someday invade Marvel-616.
Counting down, here are the Top Ten Alternate Universes in that Merry Mixed-Up Madness that is the Marvel Multiverse.
10. Earth-19529, aka the Zdarksyverse
In 2019 Chip Zdarksy did a six-issue mini, Spider-Man: Life Story, in which Peter Parker aged in real time and each issue represented a decade of his life. At times it got real dark—I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but Peter Parker has been through some STUFF. But it was also interesting and beautiful, and honestly Marvel should set more stories there, because watching heroes age in real time is real cool.
(And yes, I did dub this the Zdarskyverse because I also love the idea of Chip Zdarsky getting his own twisted Marvel universe where Howard the Duck is the Kingpin, there I said it.)
CHANCES OF A SUCCESSFUL INVASION: Slim to none. But if the universes did cross over, watch out, 19529 will drown 616 in tears.
9. Earth-7642, aka the ChicagoDogverse
This universe, in which the characters from Marvel, DC, and any other company that has ever done a crossover with a Marvel comic reside, is obviously the product of continuity and handbook heads out there, and I say that with great rejoicing, because who doesn’t want to imagine that they could some day read a book where Wolverine, Damian Wayne, Sara Pezzini and Betty & Veronica team up?
CHANCES OF AN SUCCESSFUL INVASION: Slimmer than Chip Zdarsky declaring himself Sabretooth and the Zdarskyverse his version of the Pit (which is also a comic I would definitely read).
8. Earth-807128, aka the OldPersonsverse
Originally seen in Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s fantastic 8-issue run on Wolverine, Earth-807128 (seriously Marvel? It needs six numbers?) is a postapocalyptic Earth in which the villains banded together and pretty much killed everyone, using a brain-washed Wolverine as their grenade. Decades later, a now “Old Man Logan” scrapes together a living with his two kids and red-headed wife Maureen (oh, Logan…), and refuses to pop his claws and kill again, no matter how much the horrible progeny of Bruce Banner deserve it. The series introduced a number of other cool characters, most especially Old Man Hawkeye, and has since led to a number of other heroes with books written in that universe, including Old Man Quill, Old Man Doom and Old Lady Black Widow.
CHANCES OF A SUCCESSFUL INVASION: Totally depends on how much sleep they get the night before.
6. Earth-928, aka the TwentyNinetyNineverse
The Marvel-2099 universe started way back in 1992 as a futuristic take on contemporary characters, including Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Hulk and the X-Men. With the exception of Spider-Man 2099 Miguel O’Hara, who has popped up often in the present-day Spider-Man, the rest have never really gone too far beyond their initial runs. But honestly, it’s always seemed like it’s just one good pitch away from becoming something pretty interesting.
CHANCES OF A SUCCESSFUL INVASION: An invasion, sure. A successful invasion? More like a 4-issue miniseries that spins off into some cool new 2099 books.
5. Earth-148611, aka The New Universe
30 years before the Ultimate Universe, Marvel launched its first all-new, all-different Marvel universe. But unlike almost any alternate universes of any canon, the New Universe included none of the characters or organizations from Marvel-616. Created by editor-in-chief Jim Shooter and a lot of others as part of Marvel’s 25th anniversary, the books were intended to be darker, more interconnected, and more realistic, which was highlighted by having time pass in real time—meaning each issue involved one month of time past.
Most of the New Universe books didn’t last more than a year, but it was definitely a cool concept, one that Marvel has tried to revive. A few of its ideas have found their way into the Marvel mainstream too, including Star Brand, Earth’s “planetary defense system.”
CHANCES OF A SUCCESSFUL INVASION: 50/50. There were some pretty powerful characters in the New Universe, including Justice, a sort of Punisher-meets-the Spectre that you DO NOT want to mess with.
4. Earth-811, aka the FuturePastaverse
Some people are going to tell you that the alternate X-verse is Earth-295, the Age of Apocalypseverse. I get that; it had some wildly fresh takes on old characters, and introduced a few new ones, as well. But for my money, nothing compares to the great grandparent of all the alternate X-universes and/or doom scenarios: Chris Claremont’s Days of Future Past. It had drama. It had pathos. It had a very cool adult Kitty. It haunted the X-Men pretty much from 1981 until the Age of Krakoa began. And it gave us Rachel Summers, maybe the coolest comic book lesbian ever (especially when Marc Silvestri is drawing her).
CHANCES OF A SUCCESSFUL INVASION: 25%. There just aren’t enough characters left alive there. Womp womp.
3. Earth-X, aka Earth-9997
Imagine a Marvel universe where everybody gets super powers, Cap kills Red Skull then goes away to live in shame, and Reed Richards pretty nearly destroyed the planet with one of his “I can solve everything” brainmelts. (Reed, just stop already. You always make things worse.) In some ways, Earth-X— which takes place many years after those initial events— has a similarly sad feel to the OldPersonverse, but it’s set in a landscape so vast that by the end of its third 12 issue series, it had incorporated pretty much every Marvel character ever (even the Micronauts).
Written by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross and beautifully rendered with Alex Ross on covers and John Paul Leon on interiors (followed in later series by Dougie Braithwaite), the book did a tremendous job of exploring what made each and every Marvel character tick. It also has maybe the coolest take on Daredevil and definitely the most heart-rending version of Machine Man ever (think, 'What if Stanley Kubrick created a comic book character?').
CHANCES OF A SUCCESSFUL INVASION: 65%. Honestly, the characters are so weird and wonderful I might actually be rooting for them.
2. Earth-2149, aka the Zombieverse
It’s a universe where the super heroes are all zombies. What more do you need to know?
CHANCES OF A SUCCESSFUL INVASION: 100%. Come on: They have zombie Galacti (yes, plural). They are definitely coming for you, 616.
1. Earth-65, aka the Spider Gweniverse
In 2014, Marvel did two things that no one thought could ever be successfully done: they brought back Gwen Stacy, and they made her even cooler than she was before. First debuting in Edge of Spider-Verse #2, Gwen Stacy lives in a universe in which Peter Parker didn’t get bit by that spider, she did-- while he became the Lizard (which, when you think about it, is a really smart take on where he might have ended up). And slowly in the ongoing series that followed, Jason Latour, Robbie Rodriguez and those who followed them built out this entire wonderful world in which Gwen lives with her dad; Captain America is a Black woman named Samantha Wilson; Daredevil is the Kingpin, and Mary Jane is the fabulously nasty lead singer in the rock band The Mary Janes, along with Gwen, Betty Brant and Glory Grant. Just as in the 616, things can occasionally get dark here, but in general, there’s a youth and energy to Earth-65 that is always delightful.
CHANCES OF A SUCCESSFUL INVASION: 20%. Their villains are definitely vicious enough to take a shot, but their heroes are way too nice to ever consider joining them.
BONUS: THE WORST MARVEL UNIVERSE: The Mojoverse
A universe where a media tycoon enslaves pretty much everyone and is constantly obsessed with the X-Men but no one else in the 616 is a mess of a concept at every level. It did produce some great characters, including Longshot (who needs to be on Krakoa, people), his son/father Shatterstar and Ricochet Rita/Spiral, one of Marvel’s most tragic characters. But there’s a reason why this fat-shaming, incredibly on-the-nose-with-its-metaphors universe has never gotten a number, Mojo is the worst (and not in a good way), and also the X-Babies is just a very creepy concept. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
CHANCES OF A SUCCESSFUL INVASION: ZERO. (Actually, if Mojo set his mind to it he could probably completely take over the 616, his powers are wildly strong. But most likely after he did he'd just want to turn everyone into Fraggles or some other incoherent nonsense.)
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