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If you thought the regular Marvel Universe was dangerous, just wait until you get a load of these places. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today, we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 darkest Marvel alternate timelines.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the absolute bleakest of Marvel’s many parallel universes, so no feel-good or funny universes here.
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#10: House of M
This limited event series written by Brian Michael Bendis in 2005 features an alternate reality created by Scarlet Witch in which mutants rule over a world where humans were seen as second-class citizens. Magneto, now known as Magnus, is in charge, with his children Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch at his side. It’s an authoritarian world that, despite not seeming too bad for mutants, doesn’t look to work out too well for non-mutants. Though things were eventually returned back to normal, Scarlet Witch uttered “No more mutants,” which decimated the mutant population in the main Marvel continuity.
#9: Earth X
Earth X is a dystopian future timeline which sees a large number of shocking changes to the normal Marvel universe after Black Bolt releases Terrigen Mists onto Earth, causing the population to become Inhumans and develop powers. The series features an aging and self-doubting Captain America, a Bruce Banner that has been physically separated from the Hulk, President Norman Osborn, and a depressing, past-his-prime Wolverine along with a number of new heroes and villains. It’s a complex and cosmic story, but the highlight is the dark tone of the world.
#8: Future Imperfect
In the early 1990s, The Incredible Hulk featured a storyline that explored a post-nuclear-war future that has nearly caused humanity to go extinct. The Hulk is driven insane due to the radiation, and is able to gain the mental ability of Bruce Banner while maintaining the physical form of the Hulk. This results in Maestro, an evil super-intelligent, super-strong Hulk that rules over the remaining population with an iron (and green) fist. So when the Hulk we know and love finds himself in this dark future, he goes toe-to-toe with his evil counterpart.
#7: Punisher: The End
In 2004, Marvel published this Punisher one-shot written by legendary writer Garth Ennis that introduced a post-apocalyptic world in which Frank Castle is one of the few remaining survivors of a nuclear holocaust. After taking refuge in a bomb shelter underneath the prison where he was being held, The Punisher hunts down the politicians and leaders responsible for the massive world war that caused the end of almost all human life. When he finds them, they tell him that they are the last remaining people left alive on Earth, but Castle kills them anyway. Talk about a downer ending.
#6: Marvel Zombies
This horror-themed Marvel timeline originated in the mid-2000s with a limited series very appropriately written by Walking Dead scribe Robert Kirkman. The five-issue series sees a zombie plague spread through the superhero community, who quickly devour all the humans left on Earth, leaving no food for the zombies other than each other. The original series ends with several zombified heroes eating Galactus and becoming infused with his powers, forming their own planet- and flesh-devouring cosmic entity.
#5: Old Man Logan
2008’s “Old Man Logan” storyline, memorably an influence on 2017’s Logan, tells the story a future ruled by supervillains. After being tricked by Mysterio into killing the rest of the X-Men, Logan has decided to retire from fighting. The story picks up with Logan accepting a job with Hawkeye to escort a package across the country, and we see the sad remnants of a society controlled by the likes of an evil Hulk and Red Skull. Eventually, after a great deal of violence, Logan succeeds in getting paid, returning home to find his family murdered by the nefarious Hulk Gang.
#4: Age of Ultron
Brian Michael Bendis’ Age of Ultron had surprisingly little influence on the Avengers film beyond bearing the same title. This storyline focused on what happens when Ultron travels from an alternate future where he is ruler to take over the original world. Ultron’s assault with Sentinels is fast and brutal, taking the lives of both heroes and regular citizens alike. After some time travel shenanigans, the heroes are able to prevent the events of Ultron’s timeline from coming to pass, but seeing Ultron’s terrifying version of the world under his rule isn’t something we’ll soon forget.
#3: Days of Future Past
When it comes to bleak alternate timelines, it’s hard to outdo the X-Men. Way back in the early 80s, as a part of Chris Claremont’s lengthy and highly-acclaimed saga that spanned several series over a decade, X-Men explored a potential future that saw the world dominated by Sentinels, and mutants housed in brutal internment camps. It’s a chilling sight, especially considering what mutants represented to many readers. The masterfully written story sees the present-day X-Men attempt to stop the timeline from coming to pass, but the story ends with them uncertain of their success. The dystopian future seen in this series has been revisited in television, film, and in sequel comics since its initial debut.
#2: Age of Apocalypse
Even darker than a Sentinel-run future hellscape for mutants is this alternate universe that saw mutant god Apocalypse rise unopposed to take over the entire world. This timeline is no good for anyone. After a time-travel mishap causes the death of Professor Xavier, which Apocalypse witnesses. This springs him to enact his plan earlier than in the original timeline, leading to his success and eventual world conquest. "Age of Apocalypse" was a sprawling story told in the mid-90s that became bloated and overdone before limping to its finish, but the timeline where Apocalypse ruled remains the most terrifying of all Marvel alternate timelines nonetheless.
This notoriously bleak miniseries written by comic legend Warren Ellis features gorgeous painted art throughout its two issues that depict a bleak alternate possibility of what could have been. Ruins tells the story of an Earth in which “everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” It’s a surprisingly adult story coming from Marvel, featuring elements like The Avengers as a ragtag secessionist group, Jean Grey as a prostitute who’s murdered by a cannibalistic Nick Fury, and several horrific accidents that caused the deaths of a number of heroes. The two issues are almost unbelievably dark from beginning to end, and it’s unlikely we’ll get anything quite like this from the company again.