A new year is upon us, which also means another one is in the can. Looking back at 2010, I think the best word to describe the world of superhero comics is epic. We got to witness great storylines, exciting events, captivating moments, milestones reached, and new eras being ushered in for the future. I thought it would be fun to retrospect one last time before we turn our attention to what 2011 has in store for us.
This past year hit the ground running as certain events from as far back as 2004 were reaching their breaking points. Both comic book giants, Marvel and DC, were working on concluding long-term stories involving all of their big guns. Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, the X-Men, Green Lantern, and the Avengers were all in stories that were set in motion years ago with the intention of all of them culminating in 2010.
Marvel brought to a close a story that began in 2004 with the disbanding of the Avengers in Avengers: Disassembled. The architect behind breaking the legendary group up several years ago, Brian Michaels Bendis, revealed that his intention was to always bring the team back together. He got the chance to do just that in Marvel’s 2010 big crossover event Siege. Norman Osborn took it upon himself to invade Asgard, Thor’s home. This attack brought nearly every superhero in America together, with Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor leading the charge.
After foiling Norman’s scheme and defeating the invaders, the superheroes realize that the people need a group like the Avengers. Since dissolving, the world had fallen on dark times, which explains how a known madman like Osborn (formerly the psychotic Green Goblin) would become America’s top superhero, albeit through lies and deceit. The return of the Avengers brought about a new era in the Marvel Comics Universe, one that is dubbed The Heroic Age. Many books changed their status quo in concurrence with this new direction. Whereas in the last few years, the lines between good and evil were blurred, now we had a more clear idea of who were the good guys and who weren’t.
In true competitive fashion, DC Comics would not be outdone by their rivals. Back in 2005, critically acclaimed writer Geoff Johns took on the revival of Green Lantern. He set in motion a storyline that began with Green Lantern: Rebirth, followed a few years later by The Sinestro Corps War, and the final piece of the trilogy began in 2009 and carried well over into 2010, Blackest Night. This major crossover event is arguably the storyline of the year in most fans’ eyes.
The Black Lantern Corps, led by Nekron, begin to revive the dead in order to bring chaos in an attempt to fill the universe in darkness. The entire superhero community stands together against these embodiments of death. Enemies stood side by side as they battled this common threat. The war ended when Hal Jordan became a White Lantern, containing the ring-power of life, the only counter to death, defeats Nekron and bringing an end to Blackest Night.
Directly following this event is Brightest Day. After being victorious, the DC Universe is headed into a brighter future, or as bright as a superhero’s life can be. While everyone is affected by this change, Brightest Day is mainly focused on twelve deceased characters that were brought back as a result of Blackest Night. This dozen is offered an opportunity at fully returning to life if they succeed in personal missions they are set on. Brightest Day is still going on and carries things over into 2011 for DC Comics.
Aside from the big company crossovers, these heroes were faced with personal perils as well as worldwide dangers. Peter Parker’s life is definitely no picnic. To make matters worse, many of his classic enemies returned to his life once again. He clashed with the likes of Electro, Sandman, Rhino, Mysterio, and Lizard among others in The Gauntlet. All of these battles led him straight into The Grim Hunt, where Spider-Man goes against the resurrection of his long dead foe/friend, Kraven the Hunter and his family.
A common theme in superhero comics these days is the return of the dead, as you have obviously gathered from some of the stories I already touched on. Batman was no exception to this. But we must credit writer Grant Morrison for doing it in unique fashion. In 2008’s event Final Crisis, Bruce Wayne was apparently killed. The truth is he was sent back in time with no memory of who he is.
In The Return of Bruce Wayne, the original Batman traveled through various periods of history. This was a six-issue mini-series, with each issue placing Bruce in a different era like the Late-Paleolithic, the pilgrimage of Gotham Village, and the Wild West. In these adventures, Bruce proves that he is truly the World’s Greatest Detective as he places clues to help him find himself throughout history. In the end, he successfully returns to present day Gotham City where he launches an organization he calls Batman Incorporated. Instead of exclusively helping the citizens of Gotham, Bruce plans to expand internationally where a different Batman is stationed in various cities across the world. This new direction is surely a contrast to what we are used to with the Dark Knight, who always preferred to work alone in the shadows.
Meanwhile, Superman was busy trying to keep both his worlds from destroying each other in The Last Stand of New Krypton and War of the Supermen. He battled his greatest foes in Brainiac, General Zod, and of course Lex Luthor in hopes of keeping the humans and the Kryptonians from annihilating each other.
The X-Men were preparing for the return of Hope Summers. She is the first mutant born since 2005’s House of M. This leads many to believe that she is the mutant race’s salvation. After time-travelling with Cable, she returns to the present day in Second Coming, which launches a new era in the mutant world.
The Hulk, along with the various versions of the jolly-green giant, was fighting to survive in Fall of the Hulks and World War Hulks. By the end of these stories, Bruce Banner once again becomes the Hulk after being unable to for a long while. We also learned the identities of the mysterious Red Hulk and Red She-Hulk, who were Banner’s arch-rival General Ross and Banner’s former wife Betty Ross, respectively.
Daredevil went from The Man Without Fear to the man to fear in Shadowland. This event focused on the more street-level heroes like Luke Cage, Iron First, Moon Knight, and Spider-Man. This event saw the blind superhero slowly evolve into a villain, causing some of his best friends to unite and fight against him.
Aside from the countless stories and events, 2010 also saw some of the more iconic superheroes reach milestones. Both Marvel and DC were celebrating landmark issues. Titles like Batman and Superman both reached #700 this past year. Wonder Woman, highlighting the adventures of the Amazon Princess, made it to #600, joining the likes of The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America, who all reached that plateau the previous year. These accomplishments are a testament to the everlasting and timeless impact these characters have had over the decades and continue to have to this day. This new year has some milestones on the horizon as well.
It was a very hectic year for superheroes. Readers were bombarded with stories and events during 2010. It might have been a little overwhelming, but there is no doubt that it was the most important year in the last decade. It brought concepts years in the making to a close while launching new ones that will lead us into the years to follow. There aren’t any signs of slowing down. Frankly, I don’t see a reason why they would. We might be sitting here a year from now looking back at 2011 and saying how monumental it was. But no matter what, when I think of 2010 in the world of superhero comics, I will immediately think EPIC.