Dark Reign was the name attributed to an era which represented the downfall of the modern super-hero and the ascendancy of known super-villains into positions of power.
Following the events of the 2008 storyline "Secret Invasion", Norman Osborn resigned as Director of Thunderbolts and disbanded the team. Immediately afterward Osborn met with the President and was given complete control of a new world peace-keeping organization called "H.A.M.M.E.R." (as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s viability had been deemed compromised by the massive Skrull infiltration). Tony Stark was removed as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., due to his inability to stop the Skrulls and his unwillingness to give up the list of secret identities of every registered SHRA member. The Avengers and Fifty State Initiative became the Thunderbolts Initiative. Norman later met in secret with Namor, Emma Frost, Doctor Doom, Loki's female form, and the Hood about his plans for the new world order. Osborn offered the Cabal solidarity and the resources to accomplish their own agendas (mirroring those of the Illuminati). In return Osborn asked for their public support/registration, as well as cooperation fulfilling any request he may have of them. He also introduced them to a shadowy figure (later identified to be the Sentry) who would keep them in line if they plotted to overthrow him. At the end of the meeting, Namor and Doctor Doom had a discussion of their own plans that had already been set in motion. Shortly afterward, Norman returned to Thunderbolts Mountain to oversee its shutdown. When confronted by an irate Andreas von Strucker about his action, Norman seized his sword and murdered him in a psychotic tantrum. Norman Osborn then threw Strucker out of a window, watching as the body tumbled down the mountainside. Norman realized his psyche was not in a stable state.
Meanwhile, the New Avengers (Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Ronin, and Wolverine) reunited having lost Echo and Iron Fist but had gained the original Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, Mockingbird and the current Captain America. Luke Cage told the team that they needed to find his baby. With the aid of the Fantastic Four, the team began tracking down anyone who might have had a lead on the Skrull-Edwin Jarvis. They finally found a Skrull posing as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in a bar and interrogated her. Before she could reveal the location of the baby, a drunk S.H.I.E.L.D. agent shot and killed her. Later on, it was revealed that Luke had gone to Norman Osborn for help and agreed to sign on with him in return for help in finding his baby. Norman Osborn managed to locate the Skrull-Jarvis and had Bullseye kill it. Luke Cage went back on his deal with Norman Osborn and gave his child to Jessica Jones. The New Avengers later watch on television about Norman Osborn unveiling his Dark Avengers. Ronin refused to stand for it and said that the true Avengers were going to get back at them for this.
Tony Stark was now seen as a coward and was hated by the public. His Extremis powers began to fade and he became weaker. His company was handed over to Osborn, as well as his suits of armor. However, in order to protect his fellow superheroes from Osborn, he infected the Superhuman Registration Act database with a computer virus while keeping the only copy within his brain.
Chthon resurfaced and killed off the New Men at Mt. Wundagore, with no Doctor Strange to counter this new threat. Knowing about Chthon's activities and how they had taken down most superheroes, the Scarlet Witch resurfaced and helped Henry Pym to reform the Mighty Avengers to combat him. However, Mordred successfully summoned Chthon into the body of Quicksilver and Chthon arrived, claiming that this reality shall "fall before him" in a blink of an eye.
The heroes and civilians that had been replaced by Skrulls (namely Dum Dum Dugan, Edwin Jarvis, Frog-Man, Mockingbird, Razorback, She-Thing, and Thor Girl) alongside Alicia Masters met with Doc Samson at Camp Hammond as part of a support group. While noting the hostilities of Red Nine, Annex, Geiger, Batwing, and Prodigy II over the supposed death of Crusader II, Delroy Garrett stated that he was leaving the Initiative and joining up with Ryder to hunt down any Skrulls still hiding out on Earth.
Norman Osborn's next order of business was setting up his new team of Avengers. He was able to recruit Ares, The Sentry, and Marvel Boy (now calling himself Captain Marvel under the suggestion of Khn'nr), as well as giving his former Thunderbolts new identities (Moonstone became Ms. Marvel, Venom III became Spider-Man, Bullseye became Hawkeye, and the addition of Daken who took the identity of his father Wolverine). Norman Osborn hired the Ghost to break into Tony Stark's armor vault and steal one of the suits, which Norman used to become the Iron Patriot. Morgan le Fay showed up to fight Doctor Doom. As Doctor Doom began to lose, a HAMMER soldier called Osborn, and the Dark Avengers arrived to rescue Doctor Doom. The Sentry tore off her head, but she subsequently violently reappeared in his place, and took control over the new Spider-Man, who attacked Ares.
Norman was called to ride aboard Air Force One by President Barack Obama. On board, Doc Samson revealed that he had footage of Norman as the Green Goblin murdering security forces inside Thunderbolts Mountain. Norman Osborn tried to frame Samson by suggesting that he was actually involved. Before Samson could play this evidence, the new Thunderbolts (Yelena Belova, Ghost and Ant-Man) took control of Air Force One and someone dressed as the Green Goblin attacked. At the same time, a Gamma Radiation emitter planted on Samson by Ant-Man caused Samson to "Hulk out", becoming stronger and less rational, even threatening the President. Norman used a device to knock everyone on the plane (except himself, Samson, and the Goblin) and had Ghost phase Samson out of the plane. When the President awakened, Norman started fighting the Goblin, their dialogue suggesting that the Goblin had tried to kill Norman at Thunderbolts mountain. Norman threw the Goblin out of the plane. At this point, it was revealed (to the reader) that the Green Goblin was actually Headsman, one of Norman's new Thunderbolts, who was saved from the fall by his teammates. In the aftermath, the President placed Norman in charge of the country's security. Norman also persuaded the President to put out a global warrant for Doc Samson's arrest.Thunderbolts #129
Shutting Down Camp Hammond
When some of the graduates at Camp Hammond were assigned to different teams, Baron Von Blitzschlag encountered the cyborg Thor-clone which was reactivated by a fail-safe programmed by Criti Noll (which required his access code to keep him contained). The Thor clone seemingly killed the Baron within a couple of minutes and was then attacked by Thor Girl, whom he defeated after a long and heavy fight above Camp Hammond. Trauma then posed as the real Thor to catch him of guard, which failed. Reserve member Gorilla Girl then took on the clone. Just as she was about to lose, Counter Force (the former New Warriors) appeared to fight.
In Santa Marco, War Machine took down a Sentinel retrofitted by mercenaries of Eaglestar International, a corrupt paramilitary defense contracting firm based out of the nation of Aqiria, and used by them in an attempt to exterminate people who are of the same tribe as the rebel leaders that opposed President Luis Augustine, the corrupt dictator of Santo Marco. After the battle, Rhodes found Parnell Jacobs, who was believed to be killed by Stuart Clarke, among the group of people and forcibly recruited him to be his "one-man pit crew" in the satellite and to help reconfigure Rhodes' bionics to reduce the stress on his system. When Jacobs found out from Bethany Cabe, who was the director of the secret War Machine R&D facilities in the Colorado mountains, that Dr. Glenda Sandoval (who is now a medic with Eaglestar) had been captured by Eaglestar and was raped and tortured, he accepted. Cabe's team developed a clone body, labeled "J. Rhodes, Repro Bod 2.0", for him to take over because the cybernetics in Rhodes were not meant to be a permanent fix. The facility was attacked and the clone body was discovered by Norman Osborn. Rhodes, along with communication support from Jacobs and Cabe, invaded the Eaglestar base in Aqiria. Rhodes integrated some daisy cutter missiles into his armor and sent the missiles back to the Eaglestar mercenaries, but decided not to kill the live infantry there. With help from former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, he managed to find Sandoval. Rhodes decided to go after Eaglestar CEO Davis Harmon for his role in what happened. But before he could reach him, Norman Osborn intervened by sending the Avenger Ares to fight him. Rhodes managed to hold his own against the god of war and he captured Harmon. Harmon released Sandoval, but Rhodes found out that Harmon ordered the rape of Sandoval along with the order to experiment on her with something unknown. Harmon led Rhodes, Ares, Sandoval, and the agents to a quarantine room. Before opening the door, he told Rhodes since he was a government contract agency, he couldn't be prosecuted. But Sandoval showed Harmon that she was an employee for the same agency and killed him. When they were about to leave, Ares decided to open the door to find out what was behind it. The experiments conducted at Eaglestar turned out to be test subjects who were infected by an "Ultimo virus". When Jacobs told Rhodes to get Sandoval out of there, she was revealed to also have been infected with the same virus.
Following the Skrull defeat and the rise of Norman Osborn to power, the Agents of Atlas decided to oppose Osborn's agenda by taking on the role of "super villains". Their first act was to attack Fort Knox and steal the gold reserve, which Osborn planned on using to finance a secret weapons system.
Dealing with the Avengers
Black Panther was secretly approached by Namor in an attempt to recruit him into the Cabal, the secret council of super-villains masterminding the events of the Dark Reign. After refusing, Black Panther was attacked by Namor's fellow Cabal-member Doctor Doom and an army of his Doombots, who critically wounded him (though the Panther managed to make it back to Wakanda). The council of Wakanda were forced to find a temporary replacement. T'Challa was in critical condition and in a coma.
After fighting off Tiger Shark (who alongside Bob, Agent of HYDRA was hired by Norman Osborn to kill him and retrieve his head), Deadpool and Bob (after a little squabble and a bullet to Bob's hand) discussed the current events Deadpool missed while being hunted by Tiger Shark. When Deadpool heard that Norman was the one who killed the Skrull Queen, he put two and two together about who stole the data Deadpool got from the Skrulls during the Invasion. Knowing it was supposed to be Nick Fury who got the information to kill the Skrull Queen, Deadpool sent a letter to Norman asking for 100 million dollars in hush money to keep Deadpool from ruining Osborn's heroic outlook. Norman then sent the new Thunderbolts to attack Deadpool.
Quake was leading the team in shutting down a covert base in Texas when HYDRA appeared and attacked the team. As the Secret Warriors attempted to evacuate, H.A.M.M.E.R. surrounded the area, but they were able to escape. Nick Fury confronted the team on their failures, but specifically talked to Daisy about information he uncovered. A month before, Fury infiltrated a covert Chicago base and downloaded all information about the previous and current command structures of S.H.I.E.L.D. A few weeks later, he confronted the new U.S. President about the deactivation of S.H.I.E.L.D. and gave him the location of two of the organization's covert bases. He revealed to Daisy that HYDRA was on a recovery mission at the Texas base and that S.H.I.E.L.D. was a branch of HYDRA while various agencies of the United States Government (NSA, Department of Treasury, FBI Science and Technology Branch), as well as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate and Foreign Intelligence Service were all under HYDRA control.
After Loki resurrected Odin's father Bor, brainwashed him, and set him loose on New York City, Thor flew to intervene and tried to reason with Bor. This failed and the two marked up in battle, which Thor barely survived. He let out a call for the Avengers, but the Dark Avengers arrived and attacked both gods. After a long fight, Thor decided to end it permanently and the two gods attacked each other in a last attack. But in the end, Thor was the one who came out the victor and then both Loki and Balder arrived telling Thor exactly who it was he had just killed. When Thor learned of this he was overcome with horror and grief, but it was too late and Bor died. Because of this, Loki had Thor exiled from Asgard forever due to him killing another member of the Royal Family in which Balder was forced to agree with Loki. Should he ever return, he would be killed along with any who tried to aid him. Balder asked him if he had any last words. Thor told him that he did, but they were for another time and another place, and for someone else. But when he finally did speak those words, thunder, fire, and darkness should follow after. Later in a tavern, Loki was telling some of the other Asgardians that she knew of a new place they could go, since they were uncomfortable in such a hot and flat climate. She had already spoken to their king and he had invited all Asgardians to live there, where there was snow-capped mountains, where they could hunt to their hearts content which happened to be Latveria.
Norman Osborn had Mainframe obtain Quasimodo and had it give him the data on every known bad guy when he became Norman's analysist.
Scarlet Witch was angrily attacked by Stature, who was stopped by Vision's revelation that the image before them was but an astral projection from elsewhere. The Hulk, in anger and confusion as to how he vanished from Arizona Desert and appeared at Wundagore, threatened to "smash". The U.S. Agent demanded Pym tell him what was happening, and a giant-sized Stature assailed Wanda in fury. The other Avengers, including Jocasta and Hercules, struggled to restrain the Hulk while Amadeus Cho tried to remind the Hulk of their past relationship. The shocked U.S. Agent called out to Amadeus Cho and Hercules. Iron Man arrived on the scene, surprised greatly, and battled the enraged Banner, this time managing to triumph. The united forces of the Avengers, aided by Wanda, quashed the threat of Chthon, and released Quicksilver from his demonic control. Pietro demanded answers from his sister. The Mighty Avengers then discovered that Scarlet Witch was actually Loki in disguise. The Avengers were fooled by Loki's trick, and followed this false "Wanda's" instructions, which evidently was Loki's dirty work. Now both the Dark and Mighty Avengers were, essentially, under the control of the Cabal.
After realizing who the Dark Avengers really were, the New Avengers sent Spider-Woman to trick Osborn into leading his team into a trap, at the abandoned Hellfire Club Mansion, where they could de-power and fight them more fairly. However, Osborn realized their plot and sent the Hood and his criminals to eliminate them. They managed to barely escape by Spider-Woman focusing her power through Ms. Marvel. After this, Ronin went on live television, addressing the country that they seemed to have forgotten that Osborn was a murderer, and that he was in league with the Hood and he and his "New Avengers" couldn't be trusted.
Recently, Maria Hill found the Controller holed up in the basement of Futurepharm, hooked into a large machine holding many people in containers. Also, a new-armored Iron Man battled an enraged Namor in Stark's underwater base.
In a flashback during the fight with Morgan le Fay, it was revealed that Osborn visited the Sentry shortly after the Invasion. Osborn confided in Bob his own mental health problems, and convinced him that there was no Void, that he had created it by denying his own humanity. Osborn offered to help Bob, on the condition that he join his Avengers.
The fight between Counter Force and Ragnarok (the adopted name of the cyborg Thor clone) raged on as Justice told Ragnarok that he had worked with the REAL Thor before and that Ragnarok was unworthy of that name. After Ragnarok knocked out Rage and Slapstick, Debrii had the Scarlet Spiders hack into Ragnarok. However, Ragnarok killed Michael the Scarlet Spider. Ragnarok was about to vanquish Von Blitzschlag with pure physical force, when the crafty Baron dismissed the notion as futile. He stated that while he could have easily killed everyone here and everyone in the world, he would not change the fact he was, in fact, a android-clone based on the real Thor. Unconvinced, Ragnarok was shown proof that such methods were possible when one of the Scarlet Spiders revealed he and his "brothers" were all clones as well. Blitzschlag told Ragnarok that the real Thor was living in Asgard, which was now physically in the realm of Earth (or Midgard) where it was floating above Oklahoma. Ragnarok resolved that it mattered not whether he was or wasn't a clone, but rather that his warrior's resolve was true. He flew off to presumably confront Thor and his fellow Asgardians.
Later, there was a meeting of the New Avengers, and it was decided that Ronin was the new leader, and Ms. Marvel was second in command. The team also forced Spider-Man to reveal his identity to the team, and Jessica Jones became extremely excited saying that she had a crush on him in high school. Spider-Man admitted that he actually didn't even know who she was, and that he had just called her "coma girl". He then admitted that if she had said something then he would have definitely gone out with her, but she was already too upset and left. At the same time, Doctor Strange contacted Wiccan, attempting to find out if he was the one destined to be the next Sorcerer Supreme, mentioning that he had previously met with Jennifer Kale only to find that she was not the one. Shortly after speaking with Wiccan, Doctor Strange was attacked by the Hood and ended up outside the New Avengers' doorstep magically wounded.
Osborn's reign ended after he attempted to conquer Asgard against the express orders of the President. In the resulting Siege Asgard was destroyed by an unleashed Void, who was killed by Thor. Afterwards Osborn and his villainous associates were taken into custody and the former Captain America Steve Rogers was given Osborn's post, starting the Heroic Age.