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Ultimates #11, Marvel Comics (2016).

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We found 16 Marvel Comics called ‘Endgame’ — here’s what we learned

A historical look at a silly criteria

Al Ewing, Kenneth Rocafort, Djibril Morissette-Phan/Marvel Comics

For two years, ever since Marvel quietly rolled back the fourth Avengers movie’s original title, fans wondered what the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War would be called. This December, less than five months out from the film’s theatrical release, we found out: Avengers: Endgame.

But what does Endgame mean? To try and decipher the ominous subtitle, we took a look back through Marvel history, and it turns out there are a lot of Marvel comics stories called “Endgame.” Was there any significance to them? Any tidbits we could glean about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Let’s take a look at 16 of the stories we found, in chronological order.

Avengers #71 (1968)

Avengers #71, Marvel Comics (1968). Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema/Marvel Comics

This “Endgame” opens with the Black Knight, a relatively unknown British Marvel hero, but the bulk of this arc is about the Avengers — it’s their book, after all. The Earth’s Mightiest heroes find themselves mere pawns in a cosmic game being waged between the Grandmaster (the nigh-omnipotent entity you’d know from Thor: Ragnarok), and Kang the Conqueror, the time-traveling menace.

And so, this “Endgame” is the “end” of a story about a “game,” making it probably the most apt use of the word as a title in this entire list.

Invaders Annual #1 (1977)

Invaders Annual #1, Marvel Comics (1977). Roy Thomas, Frank Robbins/Marvel Comics

Fast forward nearly 10 years, and the Avengers are in an “Endgame” once again. The ’70s-era Avengers meet the biggest Marvel heroes of the Golden Age of comics:, Captain America, Namor the Sub-Mariner, and the original incarnation of the Human Torch (he was an android). This time, “Endgame” is the final story in a giant-sized anthology issue.

Iron Man #165 (1982)

Iron Man #165, Marvel Comics (1982). Dennis O’Neil, Luke McDonnel/Marvel Comics

A severe lack of revelations in this version: To save Rhodey’s life, Iron Man has to escape the a series of traps laid by this Scottish highlander guy who isn’t even notable enough to have his own Marvel Comics wikia entry. The significance of “Endgame” as the title is unclear, but this bad guy’s next line is “Of course, in aboot an hour’s time ye might naw be alive yoursel’!”

That’s not a clue. I’m just trying to wrap my head around it.

Alpha Flight #72 (1989)

Alpha Flight #72, Marvel Comics (1989). James Hudnall, Gerry Talaoc/Marvel Comics

1989 was a double year for “Endgame” comics at Marvel, first as a backup story in an issue of Alpha Flight. If you didn’t know, Alpha Flight is essentially Canada’s Avengers. The significance of “Endgame” as a title here isn’t particularly clear to us, but we were also unable to legally locate a copy of the issue to skim, so.

Put more Alpha Flight on Marvel Unlimited, Marvel.

Havok & Wolverine Meltdown #4 (1989)

Havok and Wolverine Meltdown #4, Marvel Comics (1989). Walter Simonson, Louise Simonson, Jon J. Muth, Kent Williams/Marvel Comics

Havok & Wolverine Meltdown is a Havok/Wolverine team-up miniseries, in which the two X-Men try to take a nice Mexican vacation and wind up in India, fighting to keep a guy called Meltdown from absorbing the power of a runaway nuclear reactor. This “Endgame” is the final issue of a miniseries. Makes sense.

X-Factor #65-68 (1991)

X-Factor #65, Marvel Comics (1991). Whilce Portacio, Art Thibert/Marvel Comics

X-Factor #65-68 represents the only “Endgame” on this list that is the title of a full story arc, and, interestingly enough, it’s a pretty significant one. It’s the story in which baby Nathan Christopher Charles Summers (aka, Cable) is infected with the techno-organic virus and given to the Askani Sisterhood to be taken to the future where his condition can be managed.

But “Endgame” also roughly marked the finale of Chris Claremont’s multi-decade tenure as the “showrunner” of the X-Men. Under Claremont’s pen, the X-Men had gained real popularity for the first time, becoming a sales juggernaut. “Endgame” tied up some plot threads from his tenure — the goals of the villain Apocalypse; Scott Summers’ son, Nathan; the sentient ship, Ship — and the final Claremont-penned X-Men book of that era was published one month after the arc concluded.

Whether or not that was intentional, it makes “Endgame” a bittersweet and apt title for the arc. But don’t get too excited for stories that use their title to mean something deep, because...

Guardians of the Galaxy #62 (1995)

Guardians of the Galaxy, #62, Marvel Comics (1995). Michael Gallagher, Kevin West/Marvel Comics

This “Endgame” was the final issue in its series.

Thunderbolts #12 (1998)

Thunderbolts #12, Marvel Comics (1998). Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley/Marvel Comics

This “Endgame” was the final issue in a story arc.

Warlock #4 (1999)

Warlock #4, Marvel Comics (1999). Tom Lyle/Marvel Comics

This “Endgame” was the final issue in its miniseries.

Iron Fist/Wolverine #4 (2001)

Iron First/Wolverine #4, Marvel Comics (2001). Jay Faerber, Jamal Igle/Marvel Comics

This “Endgame” was the final issue in its miniseries.

Thanos #6 (2004)

Thanos #6, Marvel Comics (2004). Jim Starlin/Marvel Comics

This “Endgame” was the final issue in its story arc.

Irredeemable Ant-Man #6 (2007)

Irredeemable Ant-Man #6, Marvel Comics (2007). Robert Kirkman, Phil Hester/Marvel Comics

This “Endgame” was the final issue in the first story arc of its series.

Black Panther #34 (2008)

Black Panther #34, Marvel Comics (2008). Reginald Hudlin, CAFU/Marvel Comics

This “Endgame” was the final issue in its story arc.

Incredible Hulk #608 (2010)

Incredible Hulk #608, Marvel Comics (2010). Greg Pak, Paul Pelletier/Marvel Comics

This “Endgame” was the final issue in its story arc.

Captain America Featuring Road Force #1 (2015)

Captain America Featuring Road Force in Endgame, Marvel Comics (2015). Marvel Comics

In 2015 Marvel teamed up with Harley Davidson (the motorcycle people) for this advert-ainment comic with a very long name in which a lot of Marvel heroes ride motorcycles. This “Endgame” is the conclusion of the series.

Ultimates #11 (2016)

Ultimates #11, Marvel Comics (2016). Al Ewing, Kenneth Rocafort, Djibril Morissette-Phan/Marvel Comics

Ultimates #11 was the penultimate issue in the series’ Civil War II tie in story, and it proclaimed its title on the final page: “Endgame.”

So what have we learned, over these sixteen stories? Well, it’s not anything new, but it is just confirmation that Marvel is recalling company history with the subtitle.

Writers like to use “endgame” to mean the end of a story, and the beginning of a new one. And that’s exactly what Avengers: Endgame looks like it’s going to be.