The Omega Men by Tom King (2015)
The latter half of 2015 could be considered the Tom King period for me. I’ve consistently enjoyed almost everything he’s put out, even the stuff that seems to have a significant fan backlash. This 12 issue series for DC Comics takes the Omega Men concept (aliens united as the result of an oppressive force) and revamped it thirty years after its original conception. The Omega Men fight against The Citadel, an interplanetary corporation that uses the destruction of Krypton as a means to sell their services, stabilizing the cores of worlds. The rare metal needed to fix these planetary cores is only found in planets within the Vega System; thus, the inhabitants of those worlds have been enslaved, and in some circumstances, wiped out by genocide to ensure the resources can be harvested. The Omega Men kidnaps former Green Lantern Kyle Rayner so that they might have a witness to the atrocities done to their people and to see their retribution.
Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman (2015)
There was a lot of build-up to this line-wide event, the culmination of the seeds Hickman had planted way back when he was writing Secret Warriors and Fantastic Four. Many skeptical readers felt like they had seen it all, and this was just another crossover. I found Hickman’s Secret Wars and the spinoffs that surrounded it to be a lot of fun. I’m always a sucker for alternate reality stuff, and that was all Secret Wars was. Battleworld was divided into kingdoms inspired by various alt-reality storylines or exciting combinations of characters. There was a wasteland populated by Marvel Zombies and Ultrons. The Thors were the police force of the entire planet. A floating Manhattan was the last refuge of the Ultimate Universe characters. There was a realm where the X-Men’s Inferno was still ongoing. In yet another, the Hulk ruled as the tyrannical Maestro. Doctor Doom reigned over it all, having harnessed god-like powers in the process. The whole mini-series was very satisfying from its epic opening issue to the beautiful send-off of the finale.
DC Rebirth by Geoff Johns & a whole lot more (2016)
This is one of the few comics in a long time to bring a tear to my eye. This is probably because when it came out, I was in a really rough spot in my life, mainly because of work. I was coming to the realization that the city I lived in the school district I worked in was just never going to a place that would make me happy and were just broken. Rebirth and its central story of the return of Wally West hit those childhood nostalgia buttons I needed at the time. Seeing Wally and Barry embrace started it. The same day the Last Days of Superman story came to a conclusion, witnessing the death of one Superman and emergence of an old forgotten version of the Man of Steel who was married with a son. There are always things to critique about a comic that is so obviously a move by editorial to “fix” things, but the sentiment of the book and the event are significant to me.
The Vision by Tom King (2016)
The next Tom King entry in this post is my second-favorite of his work. In the wake of Secret Wars, Marvel had a clean slate to work from. King worked up a brilliant idea for The Avengers’ resident synthezoid The Vision. He had the construct build his own nuclear family: a wife, two kids, and even a dog. They set up residence in a suburb of Washington, D.C., and that’s when the tragedy began. King wrote this series less like a superhero beat ’em up and more like a fantastic HBO series. An accidental murder occurs, and this acts as a domino toppling over everything The Vision has tried to make for himself. By issue 12, the story is wrapped up, but The Vision and what remains of his family are shaken forever.
Superman by Peter Tomasi (2016)
I absolutely love Peter Tomasi’s take on Superman in the Rebirth-era. This is the Superman introduced in 1986, now married to Lois Lane and with a son, Jonathan. I think making Superman a dad is a pretty natural and perfect move for the character. His archetype has always been fatherly, so the stories that come out of this feel like they should have happened a long time ago. A lot of the series has the Kents living in Smallville, back on the farm, with Jon coming of age and learning how to be a hero in this new world. There are classic Superman villains that show up along the way and some new strange threats, like the creepy farm next door. Everything about this feels like a comic that isn’t afraid to be a comic. Tomasi followed this run-up with an equally enjoyable sixteen issue Super-Sons ongoing, followed by the Adventures of the Super-Sons mini-series. These two books are all about the team of Jonathan Kent and Damien Wayne.
The Flintstones by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh (2016-17)
At the start of the 2010s, I never would have guessed a Flintstones comic book would end up on my favorites list, but here we are. At the same DC was doing its Rebirth revamp with its hero comics, they were always rebooting some classic Hanna-Barbara cartoon comics. The Flintstones were handed over to Mark Russell, a writer with interest in social critique. Russell transformed The Flintstones into a commentary on modern America, spotlighting stories about Fred and Barney in a war and the PTSD they suffered afterward. There were stories about Pebbles and Bam Bam, now teenagers, becoming politically aware. Russell even cheekily wrote an issue debating evolution and creationism by scholars in the Flintstone universe. This unlike any comic adaptation of a cartoon show you have ever read and is one of the best things written this decade.
Secret Empire by Nick Spencer (2017)
There was so much controversy around this story, and it’s weird how it’s just faded away. At the time, revealing Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, was a sleeper agent of SHIELD made people apoplectic. Having read comics since I was a kid, I knew this was merely a continuity tweak (explained by the use of a Cosmic Cube) and could be a window into some interesting stories about reality. The story kicked off during the 2016 presidential election and felt extremely timely. Secret Empire is not a comfortable read, it’s truly horrific, especially the Las Vegas sequence and what happens to poor Rick Jones. If any character should be a cipher to talk about the nation and critique it, that should be Captain America, not just in words he says but the way he is used and shaped by writers. What’s interesting is how writers post-Secret Empire have addressed the events of this story. Mark Waid was next up on the book and chose to largely ignore what happened while Ta-Nehisi Coates has taken it head-on and used what went down to tell a fantastic story with Steve as a fugitive.
Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerards (2018)
The last entry from Tom King on this list is my favorite of all his work. Mister Miracle was a character who I was drawn to on his costume alone. I can’t recall precisely where I first saw him, probably part of the Super Power toyline in the 1980s. King tells the story of a depressed and suicidal Miracle, real name Scott Free. He’s forced into the heart of a war between New Genesis and Apokalips, both worlds that qualify as home for him. Instead of going for huge cosmic notes with the story, King opts, to tell a more humanized one. The war is in the background, butting into Scott’s private live from time-to-time. It’s his relationship with Barda and the family ties he has with those in the war that plays a more critical role. Here’s my full review of the series.
Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett (2018 – present)
This is quite possibly my favorite ongoing comic of the moment. I had grown tired of the Hulk. He was a stale character, and every writer that came on board tried some new direction that just never hooked me. That is until Al Ewing got his hands on Bruce Banner. Ewing cleverly remade Hulk as a horror comic, focusing on the bodily grotesquerie that is inherent with the character. The Hulk persona is intelligent but evil in a way we’ve never seen before, Banner has to deal with the horrors Hulk has committed when he wakes up. But this isn’t merely a new take on Jekyll & Hyde. Ewing has lots of twists and turns along the way, using the tortured history of the character and his supporting cast to really show the horror of what it means to be the Hulk. No comic coming out right now will make you squirm as uncomfortably as this one.
Justice League by Scott Snyder (2018 – present)
Scott Snyder is now writing the Justice League and laid the foundations of a huge story, the sort of tale that is perfect for a group of the planet’s greatest heroes. He introduced the Legion of Doom into DC Comics continuity but not just as a name for a group of villains. Instead, Doom is set up as a counter cosmic philosophy to Justice, and Lex Luthor is working towards a form of evil enlightenment. The stories Snyder is telling are gigantic in scope, and he definitely has his way with DC continuity in a manner that will most likely be ignored by the next creative team. Luthor is revealed to have known Martian Manhunter since they were both children, and this relationship, more so than Luthor’s with Superman, proves to be the most crucial one in this story. I have no idea how this will end, but I know it’ll be spectacular.
Uncanny X-Men by Matthew Rosenberg (2019)
This was sort of a twilight X-Men run, the last bit before Jonathan Hickman’s radical reinvention (see below). Often when a series is coming to its end with a brighter future on the horizon, we get very phoned in final storylines. They are just fulfilling an agreement and pumping out issues that have to be published. Not so with Matthew Rosenberg’s strange X-Men story. Here the newly resurrected Wolverine and Cyclops find all their friends missing (they are in the somewhat subpar Age of X storyline). These two remaining X-Men put together a team of leftovers, former New Mutants, and even an undead Banshee. They are up against the final strike against mutantkind, humans who see their numbers are depleted. This is a robust character-forward arc that has one of the most spectacular endings that reminds us why we love the X-Men.
House of X/Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman (2019)
From the opening pages, I was completely thrown for a loop. This is a more revolutionary take on X-Men then past revamps have been. Hickman jumps forward in time and shows us a mutant utopia existing on the island of Krakatoa. Professor Xavier and Magneto are working side by side to create a place where mutants can escape from persecution. Sounds vaguely familiar but then we see the original X-Men emerging from strange cocoons, we jump a thousand years into the future and meet hybrid clones of our favorite X-people, we see a war between mutants and machines where humanity is a non-factor. And then we have the spotlight on Moira MacTaggert that elevates a C-tier supporting player into the person who might be the most crucial part of the X-Men franchise. This is a wild ride that has just started, and I cannot wait to see where Hickman goes with his X-Men.