“No matter what it takes, I shall not stop until man reigns supreme in all the universe!”
- High Evolutionary, Avengers Annual #17
In the summer of 1988, Marvel took its successful crossover formula one step further (and likely one step too far). The Evolutionary War ran through each of that year’s annuals: 11 issue in total dedicating 30 pages or more to this event. The idea itself was a simple variation of the crossover formula: To get the whole story, readers had to pick up the annuals of series they didn’t usually collect and Marvel hoped that the exposure might prompt the reader to start buying that series. Using the annuals was a great idea as the Evolutionary War didn’t interrupt the regular story line or the regular creative team.
Writer and editor Mark Gruenwald tried to pull together a summary of the High Evolutionary’s origin and history into an 11-part story that ran through each annual.
The main story surrounded the being known as the High Evolutionary. He was once a brilliant geneticist who evolved himself into a godlike being. He took it upon himself to shape humanity’s destiny and attempted to push it beyond its genetic potential.
While a general plot was established, the Evolutionary War annuals themselves represented a vague, diluted view of it. Also, keep in mind that the series was written by at least nine different writers each of whom had their own perspective on the High Evolutionary and of the plot.
Unfortunately, the story roams across the board as the High Evolutionary’s purifiers attempt to sterilize mutants to prevent them from disrupting humanity’s genetic destiny. He assembles a wealth of genetic information from the Silver Surfer’s DNA to the properties of the Inhumans’ mutating gas called the Terrigen Mists. Then near the end of the story, the High Evolutionary created a genetic bomb that would forcibly push humanity onto a higher genetic plateau. Fortunately, the Avengers got in his way and prevented him from bringing his scheme to fruition.
The majority of these annuals actually had no impact on the overall story. For example, the Web of Spider-Man and Punisher annuals had the High Evolutionary’s purifiers attacking drug dealer. And just how did that advance the story in terms of genetics or evolution? But, it did let the Punisher, who was at the height of his popularity, into this event
The series overall though was a disappointment. I’ve always had a soft spot for this benevolent, albeit mad, godlike being. To see him resurrected from the dead and put through this fate was almost painful. They should have left him dead.
The series’ main weakness was the High Evolutionary’s illogical reliance on his human underlings despite his godlike powers. For such an intellectual and powerful being, it seemed out of character that he only got personally involved at the end. Unless of course, that was the only out that you had left yourself in an unimaginative plot.
The Evolutionary War ran through:
Amazing Spider-Man #22
Avengers Annual #17
Avengers West Coast Annual #3
Fantastic Four Annual #21
New Mutants Annual #4
Punisher Annual #1
Silver Surfer Annual #1
Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #6
Uncanny X-Men Annual #12
Web of Spider-Man Annual #4
X-Factor Annual #3