Top 10 World-Ending Threats In Comics

In recent weeks, there's been a lot of talk about the Apocalypse. Not the X-Men villain with the weird lips, but the honest-to-God end of the world. It was supposed to occur on May 21st, but it looks like there's been a change of plans; the new target date is October 21st. In recognition of our impending doom/close calls, we decided to take a look back at some of the more memorable storylines in comics that featured not merely world conquerors or even mass-murderers, but legitimate world-ending threats. Let the countdown to doomsday begin!


#10 – The Infinity Crusade

In keeping with the religious theme of many apocalyptic predictions, 1993's Infinity Crusade featured the "good" aspect of cosmic hero Adam Warlock, known as "The Goddess", striving to eliminate all evil from the universe. Unfortunately, her plan for achieving this was to eliminate all life, by causing every sun in the universe to go nova, thereby bringing about universal "rapture." She enlisted the aid of (read: brainwashed) the more religious heroes of the Marvel Universe, who were apparently more susceptible to her message. Fortunately for the universe, Warlock gathered the atheists and agnostics among the heroes, and put a stop to her plan.


#9 – Our Worlds At War

A major crossover in the year 2000, Our Worlds At War featured the cosmic threat of Imperiex, who detected an imperfection in the DC universe, and decided a reboot was in order… in the form of another Big Bang! Heroes and villains alike, including Superman, Darkseid, and Lex Luthor, teamed up to take down this threat. In the end, Imperiex was banished back to the original Big Bang, where he realized, too late, that the imperfection was himself.


#8 – Day Of Judgment 

An early work of superstar writer Geoff Johns, 1999's Day Of Judgment brought The Spectre, previously known as a force for justice in the DC Universe to the forefront as a major threat. The embodiment of the Wrath of God, who must be bonded with a host to guide his vengeance in appropriate directions, The Spectre, through the machinations of Etrigan The Demon, was instead paired with a demonic host, putting his vast power in the service of a world-destroying force. This story led to the far more responsible Hal Jordan taking on the role of The Spectre for a time.



#7 – Cosmos In Collision 

The rare example of a modern universe-shaking event contained in one title, 1991's Cosmos In Collision ran through issues #19-25 of Quasar, who was Marvel's designated "Protector of the Universe". This storyline had him facing off against the threat he was appointed to combat; the Inhuman/Deviant hybrid known as Maelstrom, who served Oblivion, the universal embodiment of nothingness. Nothingness was exactly what Maelstrom sought to return the universe to, and Quasar's first attempt to stop him ended with him being captured, his hands being chopped off in an effort to steal his quantum bands, and eventually dying. Quasar fought his way back from Oblivion though, and eventually emerged triumphant with a spiffy new costume.



#6 – Final Crisis 

Controversial and challenging, 2008's Final Crisis was a mind-bending journey through the DC Universe, anchored by Fourth World arch-villain Darkseid. Although Darkseid himself desired nothing more than absolute domination over all life, his machinations brought the universe to the brink of destruction, and eventually an even greater threat was revealed in form of Mandrakk, a cosmic vampire who sought to consume reality. The DC heroes, particularly Superman, were instrumental in thwarting this latest plan to extinguish reality, but not before seemingly losing Batman to Darkseid's deadly Omega Beams.



#5 – Final Night 

Another "final" event, 1996's Final Night featured the menace of the Sun-Eater, an alien monster with a habit of doing exactly what its name says. This story is notable for its slown-burn approach as our sun is extinguished and Earth, along with its inhabitants, begins to freeze. The day is saved by Hal Jordan, who had previously gone evil as the madman Parallax, but redeems himself by sacrificing his life to reignite the sun.


#4 – The Infinity Gauntlet

Thanos, The Mad Titan, was the prime mover behind 1991's Infinity Gauntlet, wherein he obtained six gems that gave him power over all creation. Being the death-worshipper he is, he promptly uses this power to extinguish half the life in the universe. But when Death, who manifests as a silent and mysterious woman of great beauty, rejects Thanos, the entire universe is in peril. Only Thanos' own psychological deficiencies are enough to bring him down and prevent the end.


#3 – The Dark Phoenix Saga

Widely considered a classic of comic book storytelling, 1980's Dark Phoenix Saga took X-Man Jean Grey, who had acquired the cosmic power of the Phoenix Force, and turned her into one of the greatest threats the Marvel Universe has ever known. Her most destructive act was consuming the star around which orbited a planet of broccoli-headed aliens, who ended up as unfortunate collateral damage. The alien Shi'ar threatened to destroy our own solar system in an effort to contain her threat, but Jean chose to end her own life in order to save us all.


#2 – The Galactus Trilogy

The original end-of-the-world storyline was done by the masters, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. 1966's Galactus Trilogy, which ran through Fantastic Four #48-50, saw a being beyond our comprehension, served by a herald, come to Earth to bring about the end of the world. In case that allegory wasn't clear enough to figure out who this was meant to be, he also had a big "G" on his chest. Yes, technically the "G" stood for Galactus, but the intent was clear; Lee and Kirby were raising the stakes, and going biblical on us. His herald, the Silver Surfer, eventually saw the worth of humanity and turned against his master, but ultimately Galactus was stopped by the threat of a weapon even he feared; The Ultimate Nullifier.



#1 – Crisis On Infinite Earths

Why destroy just one world, when you can destroy an infinite number? That was the approach the Anti-Monitor took in 1985's Crisis On Infinite Earths, which gave birth to the modern mega-crossover. Ostensibly a house-cleaning exercise by DC Comics, Crisis took their multiple Earths concept, which had existed since the 1960s, and used a universe-destroying villain to shrink it down to a more manageable single universe. Of course, over the years, various writers have chipped away at that original goal, and today DC once more has a multiverse, but the ambition and scope of the original Crisis still ensures it a place in the annals of comic book classics.


Email Matt Adler with questions or comments.


  1. I admit I am surprised Galactus was not number one.

  2. Great list!

    I know I may be in the minority, but Infinite Crisis is still one of my favorites. The scale was just huge, with four mini series leading into one huge event. Fun times.

  3. I was surprised The Infinity Gauntlet was number 4…it was bigger in scope than the mutie thing. But it’s also the first event I read when I got into comics in teh early 90’s so it’s, by default, the standard in terms of events for me.

  4. I am surprised that final night was number 5 since it was so bad, just terrible. but i guess its not ranked by how good the story was but how big the threat was.

  5. Crisis on Infinite Earths was, is, and forever shall be the event by which all other events are measured.  I only read it a few years ago after trying to read DC books and being a bit confused.  This locked everything into place for me and I understood a lot more.  It’s also a great read. 

  6. Infinity Gauntlet and the Dark Phoenix Saga are two of my alltime favorite stories.  I must ahve read each issue of IG a few dozen times each time a new issue came out.

  7. I’m surprised that Final Crisis was even on the list.

  8. Mageddon! 

  9. I thought the concept for the Infinity Crusade was weird, even as a 9 year old at the time. The picks for “religious” characters were odd and pretty contrived. Liked the Ron Lim art though.

  10. @boosebaster yeah, that one popped into my head before seeing this list.
    Actually I’m surprised nothing from the Morrison/Waid/Kelly JLA run got a mention

  11. It’s amazing how many times we’ve come close to universal annihilation.

    On another note, Our Worlds at War was the first comic book Event I ever read. So there you go.

  12. P.S. Love The Ultimate Nullifier.

  13. @redlibertyx  Final Crisis was a pretty brilliant idea, except for the Mandrakk part (that was just Morrison showing off). The problem with it was in the execution of the idea. Late books, things out of order, no reading list for order (or to know you MUSt read Superman Beyond for Final Crisis #7 to make sense). So what could have been fantastic was hobbled by poor execution.

  14. Does anyone else love “Our Worlds At War” for no reason? Because I really love it. And I don’t know why…

  15. No love for Zero Hour?  All time was being destroyed.  By crazy Hal no less!

  16. Our Worlds At War was sooooo good! It was the first “event” book I collected.

  17. thought there was an x-men angle with Onslaught. guess it wasn’t that good.

  18. I was gonna be pissed when I saw Infinity Gauntlet at #4, but I really can’t argue that much with the top 3.  Maybe I’d have put it above Dark Phoenix, but it’s a darn fun list.

  19. Crisis on Infinite Earths is what truly made me fall in love with DC. Up until that point, I liked DC but was much more a Marvel kid.

    COIE was just so epic and brought in so many characters! It was definitely something I hadn’t seen before. And the art! Just outstanding.

  20. Final Crisis was nonsense.  

    Crisis on Infinite Earths on the other hand was one of the best events ever.


  21. The Final Night actually seems kinda cool.  I wonder if it is still in print?

  22. Nightcrawler got shafted for Infinity Crusade.

  23. For a post-teenager kid like I was at the time, and a huge fan of the post-Zero Hour Legion, Final Night was amazing for me. For the first time EVER, a superhero comic-book about the end of the world where heroes couldn`t punch anybody`s face. It was all about “The world is ending… what do we do now??” Superman, without powers, proves to be the most heroic again, far away from his actual whiny, always doubtful despiction. It gave the writers a chance to shine, making all the charecters to introspect and face something they are not at all used to face: the impotence of not being able to do one thing to help. I haven`t read it in years, but for the time it was a discovery for me. And of course, Stuart Immonen`s art.

  24. I totally misread that title as Top 10 World-Eating Threats.