DC Comics endured yet another year filled with recalibration and revelations. The publisher underwent a “Rebirth” to restore some semblance of sense between the pre-“Flashpoint” era and the New 52, while still keeping the new continuity intact. The product? A year of mind-games, clues and hints as to what actually caused all this fragmentation within the DC universe and just how cohesive it could be if put back together.
Fans also saw the beloved Trinity being pushed to the limits, mentally and physically, with character deaths and returns sprinkled all over their precious pages. With the Justice League and Suicide Squad embedded in an even bigger spotlight due to the burgeoning DC cineverse, creators churned out some pretty monumental moments that truly defined and dealt with DC’s legacy and evolution. Without further adieu, CBR brings to you the biggest DC Comics jaw-droppers from 2016!
SPOILER WARNING: The below contains spoilers for multiple DC Comics titles.
15. THREE JOKERS
“Justice League” #50 from Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok was one of DC’s most action-packed comics. It wrapped “Darkseid War,” which saw the Justice League barely overcome a resurrected Darkseid, under the control of his daughter, Grail. In the aftermath, a recovering Batman revealed crucial information on the Joker, which he found out before this fiery finale.
In Issue #42, while imbued with the universal knowledge of the Mobius chair, Batman inquired into Joker’s true identity and finally revealed to Hal Jordan that there wasn’t one, but three Jokers. Theories are that the three correspond to different phases in Joker’s career: one resembling the Golden Age Joker, the other resembling the ’70s and ’80s-era Joker, and lastly, the modern one from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Multiple Jokers would explain why he’s always cheating death, why his past is so vague and why his personality shifts so much from silly prankster to psychopath. Fans are eager to see more of this mystery unveiled in 2017 because of the impact it will surely have on the Batman mythos.
14. DARKSEID DIES (AGAIN)
“Justice League” #50 delivered another emphatic Darkseid death. This was his second demise after the Anti-Monitor and Flash/Black Racer infusion killed him last year in Issue #44. This time, Johns and Fabok scripted Grail as her father’s murderer. With the Anti-Life Equation extracted from the Anti-Monitor, leaving Mobius behind, Grail used it to weaponize Steve Trevor to kill the powerhouse. Eventually, she took back the Equation and merged it with the Omega Sanction (taken from Lex Luthor) into the son of Superwoman and Mazahs (both of the Crime Syndicate), reviving another iteration of her father.
She held full control over this Darkseid and used him to pummel the League. However, her Amazonian mother, Myrina Black, realizing her daughter was becoming a tyrant like her father, urged her to cease her lust for war. With Wonder Woman restraining and calming Grail via her lasso, Myrina beckoned her daughter to rid her slave of the Equation. An emotional, repentant Grail obliged, with her Omega Beams piercing through both her parents, removing the Equation from Darkseid. It was all part of a stormy finale that revealed Superman’s ill-health, Jessica Cruz as a Green Lantern, Lex ruling Apokolips and Wonder Woman’s twin brother.
13. SUPER SONS BRAWL
“Superman” #10 offset all the dark and gritty clouds that covered the Rebirth era with something a bit more fun in the shape of a pint-sized super-brawl featuring the sons of the World’s Finest. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason constructed a lighthearted story of Batman’s son, Damian, kidnapping Jon Kent, Superman’s (pre-New 52) son, after becoming concerned that the latter couldn’t control his evolving powers. Batman immediately chastised Damian upon finding out, only for a peeved Superman to come crashing through the Batcave, angry that Jon was whisked away without permission.
As both fathers worked out their differences and began testing Jon’s DNA for abnormalities, the kids apparently reached a truce through Alfred and their love of animals. However, Damian’s constant antagonizing brought a truly hilarious moment that saw a fed-up Jon punch the volatile Robin in the gut for his insults about the youth’s emerging powers. They ended up scrapping only for their fathers to break it up with looks of disapproval. Jon’s punch was certainly a laugh-out-loud moment that sets the stage for their “Super Sons” book, slated for a February 2017 release.
12. THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN BOOMERANG
“Suicide Squad” #2 threw us for a loop when it took Captain Boomerang (Digger Harkness) off the table at the hands of General Zod. Fans were shocked that Rob Williams and Jim Lee scripted his death, especially after the Rogue’s breakout role in David Ayer’s film. On a mission with the team under Rick Flag’s watch, Squad members Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, Katana and Enchantress infiltrated an underwater facility housing a cosmic artifact.
After locating their prize and picking up a new teammate, Hack, they found out that it was a portal to the Phantom Zone. Stunned, Flag urged his team to get away as they were in over their heads. However, before a prying Boomerang could escape, Zod promptly dispatched him via heat vision before revealing himself to the Squad. It ended up being a temporary removal as the character returned in Issue #8, thanks to Hack, who revived him from digital entrapment during a prison breakout and riot at Belle Reeve. It was a sigh of relief for his cult following who thought his newfound popularity fell on deaf ears.
11. THE DEATH OF LOIS AND CLARK
DC swung for the fences when they killed off the New 52 versions of Lois and Clark, making way for the classic versions to take center stage again. The New 52 Superman exited in Tomasi’s “The Final Days of Superman” arc in “Superman” #52, when the icon died from kryptonite poisoning, surrounded by friends and the pre-“Flashpoint” Superman. He exploded and turned to ash, simultaneously emitting energy bolts that powered up both the New 52 Lois and Lana Lang, making way for “Superwoman” #1.
However, Lois’ stint would be short-lived as artist/writer Phil Jimenez killed her off in the same inexplicable manner. She also turned to ash instantly while fighting off a Bizzaro-Superwoman clone belonging to Lex’s sister, Lena; aka, Ultrawoman. On perishing, she hinted that she saw the dead Clark and that she finally understood why he died, leaving Lana alone to carry the mantle. With this Lois dying, the pre-“Flashpoint” Lois decided to take up her identity. It was a bold move to take two big players off the chessboard in this way, but with another Lois and Clark present, fans were already looking to the next chapter (and honestly quite happy to have the return of more familiar faces).
10. THE “DEATH” OF TIM DRAKE
James Tynion IV and Eddy Barrows delivered quite a stunner to Tim Drake fans, without even following through on killing him. In “Detective Comics” #940, the Bat-family took down Batwoman’s father, Jacob Kane, and his rogue military operation, The Colony. Tim, aka Red Robin, stops Kane’s fleet of weaponized drones by reprogramming them to target himself instead of innocent Gotham citizens. A wounded Tim survived the first strike, only to discover a second unstoppable wave that seemingly destroys him, leaving his staff alone behind.
However, the issue’s big twist is that while he is injured, he is alive, transported to a cell at an unknown location. There, he’s confronted by the same hooded stranger we saw in the “Rebirth” one-shot who’s also been keeping tabs on Superman in “Action Comics.” The mysterious entity, Mr. Oz, cryptically says that because Tim had been “reconnecting threads that could not be reconnected,” he needed to be taken off the playing field. It was a painstaking moment to see Tim expressing hope that his allies will find him, with his fate appearing very bleak as everyone is grieving. It’s hard to come back when no one’s searching for you, though we suspect we’ll see him back in action soon enough.
9. MAX LORD RETURNS
In terms of being the ruthless megalomaniac we’re accustomed to, Max Lord has remained relatively low-key post-“Flashpoint.” Leading Checkmate, he did battle Brother Eye and the new O.M.A.C., but it’s “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad” that sees him return to his despotic ways in grand fashion. The former League benefactor assembled a third team, filled with villains, and all sharing the objective of taking out the stalwart chief of the Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller… by any means necessary.
It’s exciting to see this conniving attitude once more from the man who once put a bullet through the head of Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle. He rounded up Lobo, Emerald Empress, Doctor Polaris, Johnny Sorrow, Rustam and Eclipso, to get to Waller, even if it means going through her Task Force X unit or the League themselves. The cold, cruel and bloodthirsty manner in which he broke his team out from The Catacombs prison, using his mind control to turn the guards on themselves, showed that he means business. We can’t wait to see how Joshua Williamson and Jason Fabok craft Lord’s new mission, which, ironically enough perhaps, involves “saving the world.” We’ll believe it when we see it…
8. I AM SUICIDE
“Batman” #12 by Tom King and Mikel Janin shockingly elaborated on what the arc “I Am Suicide” truly meant. It wasn’t in reference to Batman’s makeshift Suicide Squad that attacked Bane’s Santa Prisca base to extract Psycho Pirate, but rather, a confession to his teammate, Selina Kyle (Catwoman), who was being transferred to Arkham Asylum for allegedly murdering 237 people. In a letter, he told her of a childhood trauma, confiding that he resolved to dedicate his life to crimefighting, only after attempting suicide via razor blade.
It was his way of showing her that there was hope to be reborn, with the admission painted against a backdrop of Batman overcoming an army of attackers. It was a daring revelation by King that spoke volumes of the eternal struggle raging within Bruce Wayne, overcoming despair to find a real purpose. It also showed that he was just as invested as Selina was, in fighting for her life and her very soul, adding another dimension to their complicated love story. The breathtaking visuals made the experience all the richer and continued to show the caped crusader in an inspirational, if decidedly more human light.
In “Darkseid War,” every issue raised the stakes, with Issue #50 being the most provocative. It’s not often we see Darkseid killed, let alone twice, and then used as a pawn, but Grail managed to play her father like a fiddle. She manipulated the Anti-Monitor, Crime Syndicate, Steve Trevor and to some extent, the Justice League, in aid of achieving her goals. That comes as no surprise, given how focused she was since Myrina escaped Themyscira with her and raised her as an instrument of war.
In a twist-filled finale, Grail finally grew compassion and understood that she didn’t have to inherit her father’s destructive ways, releasing him from the grasp of the Anti-Life Equation, seemingly at the cost of both her parents. However, she escaped with Darkseid, who was reduced to an infant, and in the closing scenes, was seen soothing him. She told the child how she intended to raise him so that he has a second chance, away from his destiny to conquer and rule with an iron fist. While Grail promised to love him, the cutaway showing the child’s glowing-red eyes was ominous to say the least, hinting at just how much of Darkseid’s power — and demeanor — the child retained.
6. THE THEMYSCIRA LIE
Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp delivered a game-changer in “Wonder Woman” #11, wrapping “The Lies” arc. Diana’s journey to self-discovery came to a screeching halt as she found out what had been haunting her recently. It was revealed that the Themyscira trips she’d been making in the past were to a fake one and upon discovering the real island, it turned out to be abandoned and derelict, leaving her clueless as to who put up this facade that kept her in the dark all this time.
She and Steve Trevor were left baffled at the run-down, low-tech state of the real island. It was a heartbreaking moment that dealt her a huge blow because of how important it was to her heritage and eventual destiny. In reality, Wonder Woman’s never had a homecoming until now and it’ll be intriguing to see how she traverses across dimensions to try to find the fake Themyscira she’s familiar with and the Amazonians she calls family. With the mirage revealed, fans can’t wait to see what is actually going on, and just who has been messing with the routes whenever she tries to go back.
5. BRUCE WAYNE RETURNS
Following the Joker’s “Endgame,” Batman was taken off the table, with Bruce being reborn without his memories or crime-fighting skills. James Gordon was then installed as a police-sanctioned Batman, with a high-tech armored suit. However, Scott Snyder brought Bruce back as Batman, reinvigorated like never before. His body was fully-healed and it was indeed a rebirth as he even boasted a cocky sense of humor.
In the issue before, Bruce broke the hearts of his girlfriend, Julia, and Alfred, by stating he wanted to download a copy of his brain back into his body: a contingency plan he always kept in case he died. Alfred didn’t want him erasing his life of happiness, finally, just to go back to the cowl. Jules, on the other hand, eventually got the process started, as she knew the city needed their guardian. Issue #50 saw his return, in a quippy exchange with Bat-Gordon, as he began his retaliation for Bloom’s assault on the city. Bruce stemmed the threat and a hospitalized Gordon would go back to his old job, inspired after realizing just why vigilantes needed to operate outside the law.
4. GREEN LANTERN HEAVEN
“Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps” #10 told some of the most stellar stories Robert Venditti’s written since dabbling with the mythos. His current “Rebirth” arc saw Hal return as a Green Lantern, forging a new ring from his own will. He was also literally changing into energy, becoming willpower itself after going on the run with the Krona Gauntlet to take the blame for all the Corps’ misdeeds. Re-powered, he ended up fighting a rejuvenated Sinestro in a battle that seemingly cost both their lives, which led Hal to the Emerald Space, aka Green Lantern heaven.
Rafa Sandoval beautifully illustrated Hal’s inspirational meeting with his predecessor, Abin Sur, as well as emotional moments with deceased Lanterns. It featured heartfelt messages from Katma Tui to John Stewart, and from Tomar-Re to his son, Tomar-Tu, reinvigorating Hal just before he was plucked back to the land of the living by the White Lantern, Kyle Rayner. This issue also offered immense fan service to any Corps fan, setting the stage for Hal to lead an assault on Larfleeze, who had imprisoned the Corps that disappeared and whom Hal was searching for at the end of “The Lost Army.”
3. SUPERMAN RETURNS
When the New 52 Superman died, he had help in his final mission from the pre-“Flashpoint” Superman, who was living in hiding with his wife, Lois, and their son, Jon. In passing, he made it clear the world needed a Superman and the old-school version decided to take up the mantle once more. In Tomasi and Gleason’s “Superman” #2, he found himself in full, public swing; clean-shaven and back in uniform, just like the good old days, helping out a uranium-powered submarine and its crew.
After he realized that there was no regeneration matrix in the Fortress of Solitude to bring the New 52 Superman back in this universe, vintage Clark knew that it was up to him to replace the hero, not just in Metropolis, but with the Justice League, too. Seeing him take flight and assist like a true boy-scout was both nostalgic and endearing in a way the character hadn’t been in some time, enhanced by how he used the task as a lesson to teach Jon about being a superhero. It was an incredible moment not just for the character, but for DC Comics, as the old Supes triumphantly donned the cape and emerged out of the shadows for truth, justice and the American way once more.
2. THE WATCHMEN COMETH
Speculation has been rampant that it’s Doctor Manhattan who’s been tinkering with the DC universe all this time, taking a valuable 10 years away from it to create the New 52. While that’s yet to be confirmed in the comics, the “Rebirth” one-shot planted a lot of seeds and colossal moments indicating that the “Watchmen” universe did indeed have an integral hand in shaping things. Johns wrote off Pandora, who many believed was responsible for the era after “Flashpoint” in a manner similar to how Manhattan killed Rorschach, more than suggesting it was his semi-divine hand that had something to do with the soft reboot.
Also, the issue showed Batman finding the blood-tainted smiley face button associated with the Comedian, as well as an ending that depicted what appeared to be Manhattan conversing with Ozymandias while fixing a watch on Mars: all signature stamps of Alan Moore’s epic. Other hints include Manhattan (allegedly) obliterating Owlman and Metron in “Justice League” #50 in what seems to be his distinctive style of dispatching enemies, as well as Mr. Oz’s monitoring and potential manipulation of Superman, not to mention his kidnapping of Tim Drake. With Johns teasing at writing some “Watchmen”-related stuff in 2017, prepare yourselves for even bigger shockwaves when the truth comes out.
1. WALLY WEST RETURNS
Wally West’s return was one that made grown geeks cry. Taken out the equation after “Flashpoint,” the “Rebirth” one-shot saw him trying to find a tether back to the present reality and away from the Speed Force. He first haunted the Batcave before journeying to the love of his life, Linda Park, but she too had no memory of him. Unsuccessful in finding that anchor point back, he had an emotional last-ditch interaction with Barry Allen. Barry finally remembered Wally and pulled him back into current continuity, with Wally revealing that some omnipotent being — believed to be Doctor Manhattan — warped their reality into the New 52.
Both embraced in a tearjerker moment that had fans rejoicing at the sight of seeing the Flash duo united once more. Wally was younger and wearing the Kid Flash costume, but was clearly relieved to be back to try to fix things. Later, given an upgrade in costume, he’d continue to find clues in “Titans” as to who’s been toying with everyone’s lives. What his return really represented, however, wasn’t just someone to help solve a lingering DC mystery; it offered promise that DC’s universe can be fixed, reshaped into what it should rightfully be.
What do you think was DC’s biggest moment in 2016? Sound off in the comments!
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