But don’t get me wrong, I still like comic books. Just not enough to buy into them willingly forgoing some of their most profitable franchises in order to stay true to a promise. And while the very format of the comic book tends to favor the notion that status quo is king, here are 8 of the most egregious examples of comic book events that were supposed to be game-changers, but in the end, did pretty much nothing.
Obviously, there will be spoilers.
Synopsis: After the tragedy in Stamford, the American government enacts a law that forces all superhumans to register and by extension, become part of the government’s law enforcement arm. Iron Man likes this idea. Captain America doesn’t like this idea. They fight, along with every other hero on both sides of the divide.
Biggest Changes: Spider-Man reveals his secret identity, Speedball turns into Penance, Iron Man is a dick, and in the aftermath, Captain America dies.
Present Day: Spider-Man’s secret identity is magically secret again thanks to a deal with the devil in exchange for his marriage (don’t ask), Speedball is still Speedball but with Penance powers on standby, and Captain America is alive, but currently aged because the Super Soldier serum was extracted from him. Now, he’s just plain ol’ Steve Rogers, while the Falcon becomes Captain America. How long do you expect this to stay the same before “Avengers: Age of Ultron” comes out in the cinemas?
And, oh. Iron Man is still a dick. No surprise there, seeing as he’s been one since 1963, after all.
Synopsis: Bane, the newest and biggest threat to Batman ever, breaks the Bat’s back.
Biggest Changes: Bane is introduced and elevated to top tier villain status, Batman’s back is broken, and Azrael takes over for the Batman, with cooler gadgets and a ridiculously colorful costume that defeats the purpose of being Batman.
Present Day: Well, not only did the New 52 possibly eliminate key parts of this whole story altogether, it’s also pretty clear that Batman’s back is just fine, Azrael is nowhere to be found, and Bane as the anti-Batman got shoved aside in favor of Hush, who is the newest and biggest threat to Batman ever, unless the Joker has something to say about it.
Synopsis: DC heroes meet Marvel heroes. They fight. They team up. Y’know, as superheroes are wont to do.
Biggest Changes: The creation of a new character called Access, who acts as a conduit between the DC and Marvel multiverses. It’s not like the event promised any huge earth-shaking changes, after all.
Present Day: Access has only ever been used sparingly, and only once by DC outside of a crossover setting. Nowadays, with the two companies clearly in fiercer competition with each other than ever and no Image or Valiant comics to remotely threaten them into working together, Access is just another wacky part of the insane world we’ve come to known as the ’90s era for comics.
Synopsis: Superman dies.
Biggest Changes: Superman dies, Doomsday, the monster responsible for Superman’s death, also dies, and a bunch of new guys show up to replace Superman: a kid, a cyborg, a lookalike, and an African-American.
Present Day: Superman is clearly alive. So is Doomsday. Steel may be the only thing that stuck around from the four Supermen who tried to replace him because Cyborg is gone, Eradicator is gone, and Superboy is flat-out nothing like how he was introduced in the original storyline.
Synopsis: A superhero’s wife is murdered. Because of this, the superheroes realize their families aren’t safe, thanks to their secret identities having been compromised in the past. Mindwipes are involved somehow, a bunch of people die, and the murdered turns out to be someone nobody ever expected. Also features the reintroduction of Dr. Light as Rapey McRapepants, which is the worst idea ever.
Biggest Changes: Dr. Light turns into a rapist from a bumbling Teen Titans villain, Batman becomes a dick, Sue Dibny dies, Jean Loring goes insane, Tim Drake’s dad dies, the Boomerang dies, Firestorm dies. DC gets even grimmer and grittier than it already did.
Present Day: New 52 happened, and in New 52, Dr. Light is actually a hero, and no mention of his pre-Flashpoint atrocities are made. Thankfully. And since it’s new 52, who knows which of these changes even stuck? Hopefully none, because despite everything, New 52 is a lot less darker and grittier than the post-Identity Crisis era for DC.
Synopsis: Joker torments Commissioner Gordon by shooting his daughter, Barbara, then kidnapping him and torturing him. Batman saves the day, but Joker tries to prove that even the best of us could break if they have just one bad enough day. Gordon proves him wrong.
Biggest Changes: Barbara becomes paralyzed and eventually becomes the Oracle.
Present Day: Barbara is not only Batgirl again, but thanks to the New 52, her entire history as the Oracle has been apparently erased. So much for character development.
Synopsis: Spider-Man’s aunt May is shot and dying. To save her, he strikes a deal with Mephisto, in exchange for his marriage to Mary Jane Watson. It works, and it even brings Spider-Man’s secret identity back, as improbable as that seems.
Biggest Changes: Spider-Man is single again. All those weird new powers he got from the Spider-Totem storylines, including the organic web-shooters, also seems to have been washed away. Aunt May is still alive.
Present Day: This is perhaps the most glaring example of a comic book event restoring the status quo. While Mary Jane and Spider-Man were married for well over two decades by the time they undid the marriage, making Spidey a single, swinging (heh) bachelor who lives with his frail aunt seems to be the default comic writers prefer, rather than accounting for a hot supermodel wife who stands out on her own apart from her marriage to Spider-Man.
Synopsis: A great threat to the DC multiverse appears in the form of the Anti-Monitor. To save the world, it has to be turned from a multiverse back into a universe. After numerous battles, the heroes save the day, but at what cost?
Biggest Changes: Barry Allen and Supergirl die, Powergirl becomes a refugee from a universe that no longer exists, the multiverse is gone, and most key superheroes have had their origins changed drastically, such as Batman no longer knowing who killed his parents.
Present Day: Barry Allen and Supergirl are alive, Powergirl has her own universe because the multiverse is back, and most key superheroes have had their origins changed or restored, and thanks to the New 52, we’re not sure which is which anymore. But it doesn’t matter, because hey, status quo! It’s like Crisis of Infinite Earths never happened at all, despite being the event that really changed everything at the time!