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Earth X
Cover of the hardcover collected edition
art by Alex Ross
Created byAlex Ross
Jim Krueger
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
ScheduleMonthly
Title(s)Earth X
Universe X
Paradise X
Marvels X
FormatsOriginal material for the series has been published as a set of limited series.
Genre
Publication dateEarth X
March 1999 – June 2000
Universe X
September 2000 – November 2001
Paradise X
April 2002 – November 2003
Marvels X
January 2020–October 2020
Number of issuesEarth X
14
Universe X
14
Paradise X
14
Marvels X
6
Creative team
Writer(s)Jim Krueger
Alex Ross
Artist(s)John Paul Leon
Inker(s)Bill Reinhold
Letterer(s)Todd Klein
Colorist(s)Matt Hollingsworth
Melissa Edwards
Linda Lessmann
Reprints
Collected editions
Earth X HardcoverISBN 0-7851-1875-6
Universe X Volume 1ISBN 0-7851-2413-6
Universe X Volume 2ISBN 0-7851-2414-4
Paradise X Volume 1ISBN 0-7851-2415-2
Paradise X Volume 2ISBN 0-7851-2416-0

Earth X is a 1999 comic book limited series published by American company Marvel Comics. Earth X was written by Jim Krueger with art by John Paul Leon. Based on Alex Ross' notes, the series features a dystopian version of the Marvel Universe.

The series was followed by two sequels, Universe X and Paradise X, and a prequel, Marvels X. The universe of Earth X is designated Earth-9997.[1][2]

The Earth X incarnation of Spider-Man made his cinematic debut in the 2023 feature film Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, depicted as a member of Miguel O'Hara's Spider-Forces.[3]

History

Earth X began in 1997 when Wizard magazine asked Alex Ross to create a possible dystopian future for Marvel. Ross designed a future where all ordinary humans had gained superpowers, and he examined how some of the most well-known Marvel characters (including Spider-Man, Captain America and the Incredible Hulk) would manage a world where their superhero powers had now become commonplace. The issue of Wizard that contained the Ross article sold out rapidly. Demand was so extensive that in 1999 (in affiliation with Marvel), they republished the article as the Earth X Sketchbook, which also sold out. Based on this indicator of fan interest, Marvel commissioned Ross to create a full series based on his notes.

Plot summary

Earth X

Earth X is one of a number of planets implanted with a gestating Celestial egg. About ten years after the end of the heroic age, Black Bolt releases the mutagenic Terrigen Mists into Earth's atmosphere, seeking to transform humanity into Inhumans so that his people would not suffer persecution.

He blinded Uatu the Watcher to prevent him from witnessing his actions, and Black Bolt and the Inhumans leave Earth. Unable to operate his observation equipment, Uatu transports X-51 (Machine Man)—who has long since given up super-heroics to imitate the life of his human creator—to the Moon to act as Earth's new Watcher. X-51 gets increasingly annoyed at Uatu's assurance of the heroes' defeat.

After killing Red Skull, Captain America quits the Avengers, considering himself unfit for the team. Shortly afterward, Reed Richards constructs a worldwide network of vibranium power centers to solve the looming energy crisis, but the experiment fails when one of Reed's scientists falls into the reactor, causing a worldwide explosive chain reaction. The scientist that fell into the reactor became encased within vibranium and discovered that she can manipulate the rare metal, becoming the Iron Maiden.

The Terrigen Mists begin mutating Earth's human population, though much of the world blames "Plague X" on Richards' failed experiment. Benny Beckley, the young son of Comet Man, gains the ability to control the actions of others and becomes known as Skull. Nearly all of the world's telepaths are killed by the backlash caused by Beckley's power manifestation. Meanwhile, Doctor Doom and Namor the Sub-Mariner fight the Fantastic Four. Doom is killed in an explosion along with Susan Richards. Namor kills Johnny Storm. Franklin Richards responds by cursing Namor, causing one side of his body to burst into flame upon contact with air, forcing Namor back into the ocean. A distraught Reed Richards dons Doom's armor and exiles himself to Castle Doom in Latveria.

Soon after, the Absorbing Man absorbs Ultron. The Vision defeats the Absorbing Man with a computer virus. Attempting to isolate the virus by turning to stone, the Absorbing Man is shattered by the Vision after murdering the Avengers. Absorbing Man's pieces are scattered amongst the world's leaders so that he can never be reassembled.

Norman Osborn manipulates America into electing him President by using alien DNA to create the Hydra—a parasite collective that mind-controls its host bodies. Osborn grants Tony Stark (one of the last unmutated humans) political asylum in exchange for constructing robotic replicas of the fallen Avengers to battle the Hydra menace.

Writer Jim Krueger signing a copy of the book at Midtown Comics Grand Central in Manhattan

Loki tricked Odin into changing Thor into a female and discovers an elaborate Celestial manipulation on a cosmic scale: ancient humans were modified by the Celestials, given the ability to develop powers in order to act as a type of anti-bodies, to stop radical elements such as Deviants and alien species from harming the Earth and the Celestial embryo growing within it. Along with Earth, the Celestials modified the native species of many planets harboring Celestial embryos. Species affected by Celestial modification gradually undergo an evolution process where they develop powers either through natural means such as mutants, or unnatural means, as with meta-humans like Spider-Man. Species with Celestial modifications in theory hold enough power to rival the Celestials, but are inhibited by a psychological safeguard put in place by the Celestials. The safeguard relates to constructivist philosophy, that essentially states that people are shaped by their environment. The deities and devils within the Marvel universe are species that were modified by Celestials and unwittingly inhibit their own abilities due to the fact that they self-identify as a Marvel deity or devil. These evolved beings hold their sense of identity being reinforced by those that interact with them. Loki realizes that he was only the evil son of Odin and a Norse God because when he evolved beyond his mortal form his psyche became a tabula rasa. The first interaction that he had with another in that form were Nordic humans who thought that he was an evil god and thus he became one.

Captain America and his partner Redwing learn that the Skull is gathering a mind-controlled army. After Redwing is overcome by the Skull's powers, Captain America retreats and recruits allies to fight the Skull.

The Inhuman Royal Family return from space and contact Reed Richards, hoping to reunite with their people. While trying to find the lost Inhuman nation with Cerebro, Richards discovers Bolt's actions. The Skull's army reaches New York, overtaking it, and Captain America and his allies fall to the Skull's powers. While the Skull is distracted, Captain America kills the child dictator and liberates his followers.

Before the heroes can celebrate, the Celestials arrive on Earth to germinate the embryo. As the Celestials prepare to attack New York, Loki arrives with a host of Asgardians found in the afterlife and announces he's not bad because he formed the Avengers. Stark sacrifices himself while trying to hold off the arriving Celestials. Black Bolt is killed after using his voice to travel across the universe and call for Galactus, who is revealed to be devouring worlds in order to destroy Celestial embryos growing within them. Galactus kills several Celestials and forces the others to flee. Afterwards, Galactus consumes Earth's Celestial embryo. Galactus prepares to leave, and Reed requests that he remove his helmet. Galactus reluctantly agrees, revealing that he is actually Franklin Richards. Franklin Richards previously convinced himself that he was Galactus, willingly sacrificing his own identity to turn into the destroyer of worlds after realizing that Galactus needed to exist in order to keep the Celestial population in check. This needed to be done after the Fantastic Four killed the original Galactus with the ultimate nullifier. Reed Richards also realizes this fact and makes the heartbreaking decision to not remind Franklin of who he originally was for the sake of the universe.

X-51 realizes the Watchers' true purpose is to watch over Celestial eggs because one of their numbers failed to stop the birth of Galactus millions of years ago. X-51 destroys Uatu's ears and decides to destroy all Celestial eggs gestating inside the various planets within the universe. Reed converts his vibranium power network into "Human Torches", hoping to burn off the Terrigen Mists and restore Earth's human population.

Universe X

With the Celestial embryo gone, the Earth's mass is reduced, causing a shift in orbit and polarity as well as drastic worldwide climate changes. One-fourth of New York's population dies as temperatures plummet. The Tong of Creel, a cult dedicated to reassembling the Absorbing Man, begins killing those who hold his fragments. Under Mephisto's influence, Pope Immortus founds a church advocating mutant dominance of the galaxy and the destruction of Reed's Human Torches. Meanwhile, Mar-Vell is reincarnated as the child of the synthetic Him and Her, though his soul remains in the Realm of the Dead. Captain America becomes the Mar-Vell child's guardian and embarks on a worldwide quest with his new ward to obtain various items in order to deal with Earth's restless mutant population and prepare for an impending war in the Realm of the Dead. Arriving at Zero Street, the duo is attacked by the Night People, and Captain America sacrifices his life to save the Mar-Vell child.

Mar-Vell reveals that other than creating constructivist safeguards to stop species that they modified from being able to challenge their supremacy, the Celestials also schemed to manipulate causality and fatalism by helping to create beings such as death and Mephisto to distort truth and reality. Mar-Vell also discovered that beings that travel through time actually create new universes in the process of doing so and Celestials, acting through others such as Mephisto, encouraged time travel as it created entirely new universes for the Celestial to inhabit and grow in number.

When the Tong of Creel finally reassembles the Absorbing Man in New York, he attacks the city's Human Torch. Battling New York's heroes, the Absorbing Man absorbs Manhattan itself, adding its buildings and streets to his being, but Loki and Iron Maiden convince the villain to transform himself into vibranium and use his mass to stabilize the planet's fluctuating orbit and polarity. Meanwhile, in the Realm of the Dead, Mar-Vell leads an army of deceased heroes and villains against Thanos and Death. With the artifacts collected by himself and Captain America in his possession, Mar-Vell shows Thanos how Death has manipulated him and convinces Thanos to use the Ultimate Nullifier on the entity.

Paradise X

Krueger signing an issue of the sequel series Paradise X

With Death destroyed, Mar-Vell constructs a Paradise in the center of the Negative Zone for the dead to inhabit. However, those among the living find themselves unable to die.

Meanwhile, X-51 decides that the inhabitants of alternate Earths should be warned about the Celestial embryos he believes are growing within their planets. He spreads the alarm across the multiverse by recruiting and dispatching Heralds from alternate timelines such as Bloodstorm (Ororo Munroe, Earth-1298), Deathlok (Luther Manning, Earth-7484), Hyperion (Earth-1121), Killraven (Earth-691), Iron Man 2020 (Earth-8410), Spider-Girl (Earth-1122), and Wolverine (Days of Future Past Earth-811).

After banishing the Watchers of Earth-9997 to alternate worlds with the hope that their presence will lead to the discovery and destruction of each Celestial embryo, X-51 takes his Heralds to his Earth, where he will aid each in achieving his or her wishes. In Mar-Vell's Paradise, the High Evolutionary's equipment transforms the souls of Black Bolt, Captain America, Daredevil (Matt Murdock), Dr. Doom, Giant-Man, Phoenix, and Tony Stark into the Avenging Host, charged with ushering souls from the Realm of the Dead to Paradise. Those who enter Paradise consume a piece of the Cosmic Cube, enabling them to create their own, seemingly perfect pocket reality. But as more souls enter Paradise, it begins to expand and consume entire worlds within the Negative Zone, causing Blastaar and Annihilus to attack the Baxter Building in New York.

Reed Richards, Bruce Banner, the Beast, and several other brilliant scientists convene to discuss a solution to Death's absence. They decide to access the imprisoned Jude the Entropic Man, who can turn others to dust on contact, and synthesize his essence into a chemical to end the suffering of those unable to die. With the chemical complete, Reed, growing suspicious of Mar-Vell's motives, plans to use Pym Particles to slow Paradise's rapid growth within the Negative Zone. Mephisto frees Jude from captivity, convincing him to go on a killing spree. Mephisto then steers Jude to Britain, where Mephisto hopes to find the Siege Perilous, which will allow him to traverse the multiverse. With the help of Merlin, Doctor Strange, Psylocke and the sacrifice of a recently resurrected Meggan, King Britain is able to slay Mephisto with Excalibur. Meanwhile, in Paradise, Reed and a legion of heroes confront Mar-Vell. After Paradise is nearly conquered in the name of the Supreme Intelligence by the arriving souls of the Kree military, Mar-Vell explains to Reed that he (Reed) is to become the new Eternity.

Using his new role as Eternity, Reed is able to end the conflict and free the remaining heroes from their Cosmic Cube-induced dream-worlds. Once this is accomplished, Mar-Vell explains to Reed that his plan is to build a wall around their universe, preventing any further influence from the Celestials. Feeling that his work is not yet complete, Mar-Vell tells the people of Paradise that he is going to the source of Excalibur, which is strongly implied to be the original universe.

Marvels X

In 2020 Marvel published Marvels X, a prequel to Earth X written by Krueger. It focuses on the last normal human being on Earth named David as he deals with the aftermath of the terrigen mist that turns most of the individuals of Earth into super powered beings and freaks.[4][5][6][7]

Characters (Earth X and Universe X)

Avengers

Avenging Host

After Mar-Vell killed Death, he reshapes part of the Realm of the Dead into a paradise and selected a group of dead heroes to be its guardians called the Avenging Host where most of its members have angel-like forms.[volume & issue needed]

Fantastic Four

The Fantastic Four no longer exist with the exception of Invisible Woman.

X-Men

New X-Men

This is the new incarnation of the X-Men that is led by Cyclops. They were former members of the second Daredevil's circus:

Other heroes

be kept of what will become of history.

Villains

Other characters

Clarifications

Initially, the Earth X storyline was purported as being the future of Earth-616, but the series often substantially retconned the origins and workings of characters to better suit the story, to the point where they were no longer reconcilable with their counterparts in the mainstream Marvel Universe. One example is the revelation in Paradise X that Wolverine is not a mutant, but instead one of the few remaining "pure strain humans", free from the genetic manipulations of the Celestials (as well as a descendant of Moon-Boy). Marvel editors solved these discrepancies by officially declaring that anything stated in Earth X would not be considered canonical. It is later revealed in issue #11 of Paradise X that the events shown in the series are not set in an alternative future, but rather an alternative present (the issue reveals that Paradise X is set in 2003, the year of publication).

The Paradise X series was never properly concluded, due to editorial interference midway through its publication. Due to dwindling sales, the X and A specials, which were intended to be double-sized issues, were both reduced to 22 pages and the intended ending was never used. Writer Jim Krueger expressed dismay at the loss of pages and not being able to use the original ending. In the intended ending, Captain America, suspecting Captain Marvel's treachery, would have killed Marvel just as Marvel put the energy wall around the universe to keep out the Celestials and Elders. At this final moment, having ascended to the throne of Paradise, Captain America would have realized that Marvel's intentions were good: "Cap would have sat on the throne, completely unworthy of it. And this, this would have been the final testing necessary to make Cap worthy of it".[8]

Additionally, a planned limited series, Tales of Earth X, was proposed but never greenlighted. The series, set before the events of Earth X, would have revealed the final days of characters like Professor X before the mutation that turned the world into mutants and killed all of Earth's psychics.[citation needed]

A one-shot called The Earth X Companion was released in 2008, containing production notes and sketches by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross as well as a short story drawn by artist Bill Reinhold detailing the fate of one of Nick Fury's Life Model Decoys.[citation needed]

Collected editions

In September 2005, Marvel released a 592-page hardcover deluxe edition of Earth X. This new edition includes 12 issues of the Earth X regular series, the #0 and #X bookends, the #1/2 issue (drawn by artist Bill Reinhold) and the Epilogue. It also contains extras pulled from the Graphitti hardcover, Marvel's trade paperback and the sketchbooks.

The various volumes include:

Accompanying volumes include:

In other media

The Earth X incarnation of Spider-Man made his cinematic debut in the 2023 feature film Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, depicted as a member of Miguel O'Hara's Spider-Forces.[3]

See also

References