Marvel’s Annual Crossover, 1990: The Terminus Factor!

There are few things I loved growing up more than Marvel’s annual crossovers. They were perfect.

The stories didn’t strictly matter because they took place in annuals and those were always a mixed bag. But the crossovers made them feel important.

These weren’t event books, though, which meant they were limited to just a handful of comics, comics that were longer than a regular book and always included crazy, unexpected additional stories.

The artists were always different from the ones on the monthly comics which meant getting to see a new version of your favorite characters.

The annual crossovers also seemed to thrive on digging up less popular characters for their stories.

In this case that’s Terminus, the creation of a race of aliens called the Terminex (one has to assume they went planet to planet taking care of bugs) who were destroyed by the Celestials.

The Terminus has five stages of development and each issue in this event was a single stage.

Captain America Annual v1 #9

The main story (as with every chapter in this crossover) is written by Roy and Dann Thomas. It features pencils by Jim Valentino who would go on to do much, much bigger things. It’s inked by Sam de la Rosa with colors by

As a favor to Iron Man, Cap is guarding a group of scientists from any shenanigans they might run into as they delve deep into the earth. Unfortunately, they accidentally release the Terminus, which appears as a sentient cloud of energy. It flies off and infects the first animal it sees as Cap and the scientist go about their business.

Iron Man shows up and everyone joins into the local town’s fish fry. But — you guessed — the fish were infected and everyone who eats it goes hog wild crazy. It’s up to Captain America to save the day…

…but an infected fish gets eaten by a bear, who lumbers off, carrying the Terminus with him.

Iron Man Annual v1 #11

This might be an Iron Man annual, but the star of the issue is Machine Man, which is awesome because I love Machine Man.

The infected Terminus bear crashes into the cabin in the woods where Machine Man is hanging his hat and a fight ensues. Machine Man loses, but is rescued by Iron Man, who whisks him away to one of his tech companies to fix him up.

The Terminus animals aren’t just mindlessly attacking things, though, they’re looking for the raw materials that will help them get bigger and stronger. So of course they soon come after the Men Machine and Iron.

This issue is notable for the great art by Tom Morgan and Randy Emberlin. Morgan changed his style right around the turn of the decade and it’s fantastic — not hat his previous style wasn’t great as well. He seems to be channeling Walt Simonson at this point, although down the line he’d add in some of the Image artists’ influence with less stellar success.

Here, though, it looks fantastic.

At the end of the issue, the Terminus creatures are attacking any place that has the materials they need to get bigger.

Thor Annual v1 #15

Guest starring Hercules! Featuring art by Herb Trimpe before he started drawing like Rob Liefeld!

The more learned of Marvel readers might remember something about Terminus: there was another one and he’s in floating in space. If I’m not mistaken, this was the X-Men’s doing.

Thor spends most of this issue dealing with OG Terminus while Hercules tries to deal with Terminus animals as they consume more materials and start evolving.

Neither one does a very good job. Thor gets absorbed into OG and Hercules fails to stop the animals from turning into tiny Termini and eventually merging into a new Terminus!

But original Terminus has something to say about this new version…

Avengers West Coast Annual v1 #5

This was actually the first issue in this crossover I bought because a) I’d always been a fan of the West Coast Avengers and b) it was penciled by James Fry (credited here as Jim) an artist whose work I’ve always really liked, but who doesn’t get nearly enough credit.

On top of that, the cast in this issue is great: Wasp, Hank Pym, Hawkeye, Wonder Man, US Agent, Iron Man, Quicksilver, and Iron Man who all join up with Hercules and Machine Man to face not one, but two Termuni (Termunises?).

They’re unable to stop the fight and the OG Terminus basically eats the younger version and BOOM! It’s Ultimate Terminus!

This is the best annual of the batch for another reason: two wonderful back-up stories!

The first is written by Dwayne McDuffie with art by Grant Miehm. It’s the story of US Agent, Hawkeye, the Vision, and Iron Man going to a Monster Truck Show. That’s really all you need to know. It’s hilarious.

Just as funny is the story by Carrie Barre, James Fry, and Chris Ivy. Explaining would be hard to do without making it sound silly, but it’s great and, of course, looks great, too.

Avengers Annual v1 #19

The big finale!

It’s kind of a let down, honestly. I mean, yeah, the East Coast team joins in, everyone fights the Ultimate Terminus, the heroes win.

But I suppose that makes sense given that the crossover itself isn’t exactly thrilling. Yes, two of the five issues feature some really nice art, and the Avengers West Coast annual supplied some serious bang for the buck.

In the end, though, it’s just a standard comic book story from the Big Two but, man, nostalgia just makes everything more awesome, right?

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