Dark Reign is a slightly unusual event for Marvel Comics, in the sense that it doesn’t have a ‘main run.’ Instead, it sprawled across the Marvel universe, affecting nearly every comic run and nearly every character.
Basically, it means that it’s a slightly confusing run with a lot of tie-ins and no core event run.
But, that’s why reading orders were invented, so let’s get started.
The shape-shifting alien race known as the Skrulls has secretly infiltrated every super-powered organization on Earth with one goal – full-scale invasion! Filled with shocking revelations and powerful action, this adventure will keep you on the edge of your seat as Marvel’s greatest heroes and villains ask – Who do you trust?
Without doubt, Secret Invasion is the main kicking off point for this series – it explains why Norman Osborne is doing what he’s doing. I’ll be doing a full reading order for this event when the TV show comes out, but for now, reading Brian Michael Bendis’ Secret Invasion should give you a good enough understanding of events.
The Main Event
Like I said, there is no core book for Dark Reign, so this is a more ‘what’s available’ type thing. That being said, I’ll start with what makes the first sense.
There they are, a new team of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the sunlight gleaming off their smiling faces and an adoring crowd on hand to cheer them as they take the stage! Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye…You know them, you love them! They’re your Avengers, and they are here to protect you! Except…things are not how they appear. With the real Avengers underground, who are these Avengers that look like them, and why have they been assembled? The Dark Reign has begun, and Dark Avengers are at the epicenter of Norman Osborn’s insane plans for the Marvel Universe!
This is where the ‘main action’ happens in terms of Norman Osborne and his Dark Avengers.
The Invasion is over, and the shape of the world has changed, with new and returning players now center stage. Get the lowdown on what’s going on across the Marvel Universe as we enter Dark Reign! In Dark Reign: New Nation, we meet the Secret Warriors, the Skrull Kill Krew, and other Marvel players as they embark on their own adventures in the wake of Secret Invasion. Then, Dark Avengers #1 kicks off an explosive new era in the Avengers mythos. Who are the Dark Avengers? A simple question with a shocking answer!
Another option as a ‘kicking off’ point for Dark Reign.
Norman Osborn plans on making a list, checking it twice, and delivering an unhealthy amount of Dark Reign madness directly into the lives of super heroes both naughty and nice in Dark Reign: The List, a series of eight interconnected stories heralding the next major chapter in the Marvel Universe’s current saga. Collects Dark Reign: The List – Daredevil, Dark Avengers, X-Men, Hulk, Secret Warriors, Wolverine, Punisher, Amazing Spider-Man, and Black Panther.
This is a good one to prioritise reading, as it sets up a lot of other books in this event.
Dark Reign strikes Marvel’s first family – in an explosive way! Prepare to be blown away as: H.A.M.M.E.R. agents attack the Baxter Building, Reed changes everything, The Human Torch suffers a horrible loss, and Franklin and Val go shopping! There’s Time Travel, Alternate Realities, Celestials, Eternals, Deviants, and Doombots… and more important than all of that, we find out the answer to the question: What is the Bridge?
Not entirely essential to Dark Reign itself, but essential if you want to go on and read Secret Wars, or any other Fantastic Four comics by Hickman.
Nick Fury, former director of the now-defunct S.H.I.E.L.D, has gathered a special handpicked team. Young and untested, the Secret Warriors are the offspring of the most powerful forces on Earth…and with Fury’s guidance, they might just have what it takes to save the world. But their mission is upended when Fury uncovers a bombshell Hydra conspiracy that reaches back for decades, to the very beginnings of S.H.I.E.L.D.!
Quick note – this complete collection also includes The List, so if you plan on buying this, you won’t need The List as well.
Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia Matt Fraction
WHO ARE THE DARK X-MEN?
He has his own Avengers team and now Norman Osborn has his own X-Men team.
The other shoe has finally dropped and Emma Frost has betrayed Cyclops and the rest of the X-Men. And that’s just one of the huge surprises in “UTOPIA.” Is that Namor? Cloak and Dagger? Professor X?!
The thing that you aren’t ready for is that Osborn is right.
A huge collection which focuses on Norman recruting X-Men and their battle with the Avengers.
From the dust of UTOPIA comes DARK X-MEN! Never one to say “die,” Norman Osborn is keeping what’s left of HIS X-Men alive. MYSTIQUE! DARK BEAST! WEAPON OMEGA! MIMIC! They are the public face of mutants in an Osborn world. And what a face they are! But what does Nate Grey, a.k.a. X-MAN, have to do with it?
The Melter, The Executioner, The Enchantress, Egghead, Big Zero, and Coat of Arms: they call themselves the Young Avengers, teenage rebels, on the run from the authorities, hated and feared by a world they’ve sworn to protect. Their interests include interspecies romance, modern art, and bloody murder. Everything is permitted, and so are they. Until they meet the original Young Avengers. And then their grey areas will come home to roost.
Ares – the God of War! His relentless brutality and his bloodthirsty drive to attain victory at any cost earned him only scorn from his fellow gods in the Greek pantheon, and exile from Olympus. After thousands of years living as a man and fighting in man’s bloody, petty conflicts, Ares joined the ranks of Earth’s mightiest heroes – the Avengers. Now Norman Osborn – the new head of the corrupted Dark Avengers and director of the paramilitary intelligence agency H.A.M.M.E.R. – wants the finest fighting force the God of War can provide. He charges Ares with hand-picking an elite squad of soldiers and beating them into the hardest, sharpest warriors ever to wield an M-60 in each hand. And that’s exactly what Ares will need, when the goddess Hera provides him with a fighting chance to regain his standing in the pantheon’s eyes. And Ares is taking his men with him into the battle of their lives!
She’s the deadliest woman in the world… and she’s never been in worse shape. Broken, beaten, and tortured by alien scientists, Elektra stumbles to freedom in the aftermath of the Skrull invasion. Now she struggles and fights to stay barely alive, and to clear her name for atrocities committed by an impostor. A lot of people want Elektra killed… and in her state, that shouldn’t be too difficult! By Zeb Wells (Amazing Spider-Man) and Clay Mann (Daredevil)!
Bullseye cuts loose! Reporter Ben Urich investigates a brutal massacre that has all the hallmarks of the notorious assassin Bullseye. But can Urich connect the murders to the Dark Avenger known as Hawkeye? Norman Osborn must bring H.A.M.M.E.R. down to hide the awful truth before it tears the team apart – and poisons the Avengers’ noble legacy forever!
Go deep into the cutthroat world of The Hood! You may know him as the tough-talking crime boss who’s organising the villains of NYC while wheeling and dealing with the likes of Loki and Dr. Doom. But what about his pregnant girlfriend, addict cousin and institutionalised mother that we met back in his debut mini? And what price is he paying for his rapid climb up the ranks of crime and power? Spend a week in the life of Parker Robinson, one of the key characters in Dark Reign, as he struggles to keep his professional and personal lives from destroying each other!
When Norman Osborn takes over, what happens to the villains who don’t make his short list of acceptable allies? Grim Reaper, Mr. Hyde, Absorbing Man, Nekra, and Man-Ape are about to find out when their cooperative of crime lands on the wrong side of Norman’s law – but they’re not going down without a fight!
Spider-Man’s most mysterious new enemy takes center stage in this story by Official Amazing Spider-Man Web-Head Fred Van Lente and newcomer Gianluca Gigliotta. One-half benevolent philanthropist/One-half underworld mastermind, Mr. Negative has carved out a substantial slice of the big apple for himself over the past year. But when the super-villain mastermind The Hood strikes at the heart of Mr. Negative’s criminal operations with a whole horde of classic Arachno-Foes (including The Scorcher, Speed Demon, The Squid, and the long-awaited return of the White Rabbit), Spider-Man is left to clean up the mess between these two violent nemeses.
He ain’t friendly and this ain’t your neighborhood! Yes, Mac Gargan, America’s favorite sociopath-turned-symbiote-host-turned-hero-hunter now takes the spotlight as Norman Osborn’s sinister Spider-Man. Now, Mac’s a beloved hero, but nobody wants to run into him after midnight because the symbiote is still pretty darn hungry…
Norman Osborn may be running the show, but not every super-villain is going to accept the new world order. But who – or what – is ZODIAC? In this dark, brooding tale that snakes through the underbelly of the modern Marvel Universe, the new breed of super-villain has finally arrived The order of the day is “mischief for mischief’s sake,” and no one – neither hero nor villain – is safe.
Wolverine’s son, Daken, has finally emerged from the shadows, stepping out onto the main stage of the Marvel Universe. As one of Norman Osborne’s Avengers, he has power, access, and an identity that he hates – his father’s. This new Wolverine doesn’t know how long this will last, but one thing’s for sure: He’s going to have some fun while it does.
And that’s everything that is listed under the Dark Reign title! There are other tie-ins as well, but I’ll save that for tomorrow, because there is a lot to be dealing with here!
My advice though, is that you can follow the characters you want to follow, and skip any you’re not interested in. This event may have affected everyone, but you can focus on the people you care about and not feel like you’re missing out on a chunk of story.
I hope this helps, and I’ll see you tomorrow for part two! If you have any questions in the mean time though, please feel free to ask!