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Marvel Comics 10 Most Frustrating Deus Ex Machina

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Getting the ending of a story right can be tricky. Readers will expect a satisfying conclusion to everything that has been built up throughout the story, or else a very good reason why a happy ending can’t happen. The reason deus ex machina becomes such a frustrating plot device is that it robs audiences of a conclusion that feels authentic, breaking the level of immersion.

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Plenty of Marvel Comics stories have ended with a deus ex machina. While it’s somewhat understandable, given the number of comics that have been printed over the years, rushed conclusions aren’t any less frustrating to fans who feel they’ve been cheated of a believable ending.

10/10 Bullseye Is Suddenly Immune To Psychic Powers

Earlier in the “Caged Angels” Thunderbolts story, Bullseye got injured and had to leave for a few issues to receive nano-mechanical surgery. He returns in the final issue of the arc and easily dispatches the telepathic villains at the end of the story in issue #121 by Warren Ellis, Mike Deodato Jr., Rain Beredo, Richard Starkings, and Albert Deschesne.

When one villain asks why she can’t use her mind control powers on him, Bullseye says “no idea,” before theorizing that it might have something to do with the nano-machines. If this was set up earlier instead of being hand-waved away with a throwaway line, it might have been less frustrating.

9/10 Doc Ock’s Tentacles Save Spider-Man From The Sinner Six

Spider-Man Reign #2 by Kaare Andrews, Jose Villarrubia, and Rus Wooton gives readers not one, but two frustrating literary devices to end a fight between Spider-Man and the Sinner Six. Just when it looks like Spider-Man has lost, the tentacles of the deceased Doctor Octopus arrive to carry him to safety. Spider-Man himself lampshades the disappointing moment by giving the readers a definition of deus ex machina.

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Lampshading can often be just as frustrating as a deus ex machina itself. Writers think that because they point out what a flaw with their writing, it somehow makes it better, but it doesn’t. All it does is tell the audience that they know they used a lazy trope.

8/10 Namor Dies And Comes Right Back

Deus ex machina translates literally to “god out of the machine,” however, the “machine” part isn’t exactly necessary when stories include literal gods. In Namor, The Submariner #37 by Bob Harras, Jae Lee, Dana Moreshead, and Michael Higgins, plot convenience comes in the form of the sea god, Neptune.

When fighting the villain Suma-Ket, Namor gets impaled with a massive sword. Namor’s companions are only forced to mourn him for two full pages before Neptune shows up out of nowhere and brings Namor back to life, giving him some fancy new armor. Nobody wants the hero of a story to die, but it feels somewhat cheap that Namor comes back to life after only being dead for a few panels.

7/10 The Fantastic Four Meet Their Creator

Mark Waid’s run on Fantastic Four got pretty wild at times. One of the strangest things to happen was when Dr. Doom created a machine that would allow him to travel to Hell. Later, Reed reconfigures the device to travel to Heaven, leading to a literal deus ex machina.

When the Four travel to heaven in Fantastic Four #511 by Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo, Karl Kesel, and Paul Mounts, they meet God, who appears to them as Jack Kirby. Kirby/God sketches up a happy ending before sending them back to Earth fully healed, conveniently wrapping up any conflicts.

6/10 Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Calls Out The Trope

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #50 by Ryan North, Derek Charm, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi, and Travis Lanham, both uses a deus ex machina and subsequently lampshades it in dialogue. Just as it looks like Squirrel Girl is about to be blasted by all of her enemies at once, her unlikely friend Galactus steps in to save the day.

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In what writers clearly meant to be a comedic line, Galactus points out that he acted as a deus ex machina when he saved Doreen/Squirrel Girl. Moments like this turn lampshading into a trope as cliché as deus ex machina’s.

5/10 The Avengers Save Spider-Man From The Sinister Twelve

Since he isn’t a big bruiser like the Hulk and he has a very specific power set, Spider-Man’s battles can be some of the more creative fights in comics. Some of the greatest Spider-Man moments come from seeing the clever ways Peter Parker can defeat his enemies. That makes it really disappointing when writers can’t think of a good way out for Spider-Man besides a deus ex machina.

In Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #9 by Mark Millar, and Terry and Rachel Dodson, Spider-Man is in a bad place while fighting the Sinister Twelve. Instead of finding a way to escape, or something that could help him win the fight, Spider-Man is randomly saved by the Avengers and The Fantastic Four. Worse, neither group mentions how they knew Spidey needed help.

4/10 A Long X-Men Arc Gets A Rushed Conclusion

“The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” was an X-Men story arc that spanned 8 issues. Fans were getting fed up with the prolonged story, especially since it had been going on throughout several massive events. This included the Death of Wolverine, who simply disappears partway through this story.

With a long story like this one, readers expect a good conclusion for the arc, but that’s not what they got. In Uncanny X-Men #31 by Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Bachalo, and Tim Townsend, this long story was conveniently wrapped up when Eva Bell traveled back in time to ensure the main antagonist Matthew Malloy was never born.

3/10 Barf Throws Up A Cosmic Cube

Marvel’s Secret Empire crossover event gained a lot of attention when it revealed Steve Rogers was working for Hydra. Fans were instantly intrigued about where this event was going to go and what had happened to Captain America. With so much attention on the event, it’s a shame it relied on a deus ex machina for the turning point.

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In Captain America #25 by Nick Spencer, Jesus Saiz, Joe Bennett, Joe Pimental, and Rachel Rosenberg, the main heroes of the story just happen upon an Inhuman nicknamed “Barf” who throws up a perfect replica of a Cosmic Cube shard. Sam Wilson later uses the shard to turn the tides of the conflict in the favor of the heroes. It was far too convenient a way to solve a big event story.

2/10 Doc Ock Appears Out Of Nowhere

A character heroically arriving to save someone at the last minute can be a very effective scene. However, if it isn’t set up properly, it can just be confusing and frustrating. In Chapter One of Amazing Spider-Man #800 by Dan Slott, Nick Bradshaw, and Edgar Delgado, fans were left scratching their head when Aunt May was unexpectedly saved from Goblin Childe by Doctor Octopus.

Doc Ock’s motivations for saving May are made clear. In fact, he shouts them as he saves her. What isn’t clear is how Otto knew May was in danger. Octavius hadn’t been involved in the story up until this point, and there was no explanation of how he arrived so quickly. What was meant to be a cool payoff to Otto’s recent growth ended up being a frustrating deus ex machina.

1/10 L.R. “Skip” Collins Saves The Earth

Fans might be wondering who L.R. “Skip” Collins is, seeing as he only ever appeared in one issue. In Fantastic Four #234 by John Byrne, Bob Sharen, Jean Simek, this random stranger gained extremely powerful reality-warping powers as the result of a nuclear blast.

Collins is going about his business, using his new powers to make his life a bit more convenient, when he sees The Fantastic Four off to fight Ego, the Living Planet. Collins spends up the rest of his power by getting rid of Ego and undoing all the harm he did with a simple wish before he walks off and never reappears in Marvel Comics again.

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