2010 was a big year for comic books. The acceptance into the mainstream thanks to big budget comic book movies made reading these funny books cool for some reason. People were asking about Green Lantern and wearing colorful plastic rings. Captain America was making political waves and Thor became a buzz word online. In print, it was business as usual with characters dying, coming back to life, turning evil or good or changing color. It was all about changes or returns to greatness. Here’s my attempt to summarize a few of the stand out moments that seemed to make the most impact on readers.
Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four
I’m biased, but ever since I read a John Byrne FF book, I have loved this team. I’ve read several runs on the book and they never really had the same effect on me as the issues I read as a child… until Hickman and Eaglesham took over this year. Marvel had tried to re-brand the Fantastic Four with Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch on board, but largely it was a failure. In contrast, Hickman has a perfect grasp of the family dynamic and the science fiction mystique that makes a series like Fantastic Four what it is.
In his first year we have seen a new race of Atlanteans emerge, mutated moloids, a multi-dimensional league of Reed Richards and more. This book was HUGE. It’s not as sexy as X-Men or as tied into other books as the Avengers, which may be why some people missed the boat on this but I guarantee you that the book hasn’t been this good since you were in short pants. I also think that the Millar/Hitch run burned a lot of readers who felt disappointed at the lackluster work of such a heavily hyped creative team. An absolute delight, this is without a doubt my favorite comic to read at the moment and I hope that doesn’t change. I could say the same of Secret Warriors and S.H.I.E.L.D. but I’d largely be repeating myself.
Batman and Robin
After killing off the caped crusader, Grant Morrison debuted a new take on the classic character with the ongoing series Batman and Robin. He had already shown an adoration for the Silver Age with All Star Superman and in the case of Batman and Robin, a kind of blending of the old and new can be seen. The strongest story of the run for my taste was the opening take with artist Frank Quitely, a creator that has worked with Morrison on X-Men, Superman and many other projects. The two seemed to be on the same page in their crafting of a post-modern Silver Age Batman series, complete with a flying Batmobile, outlandish gadgets and a bizarre villain.
The addition of a new Robin, this time Bruce Wayne’s son, Damian, was the real innovation here. As Dick Grayson struggled to live up to the profile of his mentor and father figure, he must also tangle with his assistant, the snotty teen trained to be the heir of the leader of the League of Assassins, R’as Al Ghul. It made for an unusual take on Batman, a return to the kind of imaginative wildness that Morrison no doubt remembered fondly from his childhood.
A fan favorite, this series lost me after the first artist shift, but it is still receiving strong support from readers.
Captain America Reborn
Another case of a character being killed then brought back to life a short time later occurred with Marvel’s Captain America. Shot in the stomach and left for dead, Steve Rogers’ death left a sizable gap in the soul of the comic book universe. In Ed Brubaker and Bryan Hitch’s series Captain America Reborn, the shield-slinger had to relive his entire career all over again. Part Slaughter House Five, part Marvel Comics history, the comic was a great mixture of drama and action. As is usually the case, the conclusion left me a bit cold, but otherwise this series was a real winner for me.
I have been a great fan of the Silver Age DC Comics heroes; Hawkman, Green Lantern, the Atom and the Flash. The Flash was killed off in the conclusion of 1985′s Crisis on Infinite Earths, a death that served a narrative purpose in closing the door on one era in order to start a new one. After Wally West replaced his mentor as the Flash and served on the Justice League in comic and animated format, fans were convinced that Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash, was dead and gone. That condition was reversed during Final Crisis in the most poetic and explosive manner as Barry Allen rejoined the world of the living in lighting form.
DC had enjoyed rave success in bringing back Hal Jordan with Green Lantern: Rebirth and Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver tried to capture lightning in a bottle for a second time (of you’ll pardon the phrase) in their Flash Rebirth series with mixed results. That said, the new ongoing series is lots of fun and beautifully drawn by Francis Manapul.
Event comics have become a love/hate affair with comic book collectors, especially over the past few years as they have become more expensive and larger in their issue count. Whereas DC’s previous Green Lantern event comic Sinestro Corps War was a wild success, the decision to bring in the rest of the DCU with Blackest Night was mainly a misfire. Bloated and full of so many stories that had no real impact on the characters they spotlit, it turned many off of the even entirely, but not so with the tie-in promotional rings that garnered a healthy price online.
Nowhere near as destructive as the Final Crisis event, Blackest Night was nevertheless not the major hit that readers had hoped for. The Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps issues were still strong, but the tie-ins were too numerous and varied in quality to list. In my opinion DC just git too greedy with this one. The follow-up Brightest Day has been a decent read so far, however. As Geoff Johns readies another event comic centered on the Flash, we can but cross our fingers that it will be better than Blackest Night was.
The Avengers re-uinted
When Brian Michael Bendis started writing the Avengers, he tore the team apart only to rebuild the series in a new format. The New and Mighty Avengers comics had strong sales figures, making the Avengers franchise a major success, eclipsing the former hot title X-Men. The only way that Bendis could top himself was to ‘get the band back together’ as it were with Thor, Iron Man and Captain America working together again for the first time since 2004.
The journey lasted several storylines, included many deaths and rebirths, the destruction, resurrection and siege of Asgard and the rise of the Green Goblin to a position of power that made him the most powerful man in the Western World. It was EPIC. Rather than just throw the team back together and be done with it, Bendis has worked with comic book legend Alan Davis on Avengers: Prime which expertly places the three founding fathers of the Marvel Universe in stellar form. It’s a clever, wonderfully drawn and exciting series that should serve to erase any lingering bitterness to the man responsible for the Avengers’ demise in the first place.
Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk again
It has been implied or stated by better men than myself, but the Hulk had had a new lease on life thanks to Greg Pak. The jade giant was once the flagship hero of the Marvel Comics only to lag in sales to many inferior characters (how many Deadpool books can you count that were released recently?). Pak changed all that with Planet Hulk, a story that was so big that it brought back many readers to the series that had fond memories of the Hulk from childhood as well as attracting new followers. The follow-up story World War Hulk was no small affair and saw the monstrous beast face off against the very men who shot him into space and anyone who got in the way. Defeated by the Sentry and a clever collective satellite attack, the Hulk was finally reduced to puny Bruce Banner again and remanded to government custody.
When as new mysterious Red Hulk appeared, only Banner was capable of stopping him. It became apparent that this Red Hulk was just a small part of the Hulk’s most dreaded nemesis the Leader, working with a collaborative team of evil masterminds called the Intelligencia. Banner proved that he was every bit as dangerous without the Hulk’s strength, of not more so, as he battled his enemies using his brilliant mind and unlikely ‘Banner-tech.’ As cool as this was, readers were waiting for the Hulk’s return and when it came…. it was a doozy. By far one of the most satisfying conclusions to an incredibly long story told by many creators over the course of over two years, the final moment when Banner was once again bathed in gamma rays and hulked out was a big one worth punching the sky for no matter where you read the issue.
I’m just one man and even though I have read many books, I may still have missed a few moments that my readers regard as iconic, important or just great to read. So feel free to comment below on the best comic book moments of 2010 and have a happy new year!