The true test of any serialized medium is its ability to maintain interest. There has to be something that keeps readers coming back in comics, and one of the most tried and true methods is to shock the readers into buying the next issue or storyline. These revelations often come in the form of last page cliffhangers, and are so bombastic that they are revealed before the book even becomes available. Sometimes the reveals lead to another story with a bigger reveal and a more intriguing mystery, while others are resolved quickly.
One of the real challenges for writers is to truly disturb the reader. In this case, to disturb would be to send the readers into a frenzy, fearing for the characters involved and wondering if something drastic is truly going to happen to their beloved characters. For DC Comics, this happens fairly often in the form of universe-changing “Crises” that make sweeping changes to the entire line of books being published. There are also a few threads mentioned on this list that still have some room to play out. In fact, for a revelation to really have maximum impact, it should be something that shapes future stories for years to come.
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers for recent issues of multiple DC Comics titles.
15 REVERSE FLASH’S NEW ORIGIN
Joshua Williamson’s run on The Flash has been spectacular, and he managed to add a simple but perfect element to the greatest Flash villain’s motivation. The classic Rebirth line that “every second is a gift” is shown to be not just something Wally West’s grandfather inscribed on a watch, but a motto that Barry Allen lives by. Barry spends time working with Eobard Thawne in the future, trying to mentor him and they become close, at least in Thawne’s eyes.
It is not until later when Thawne witnesses Barry using the same line with Wally that he erupts in rage. Thawne thought his relationship with Barry was so special that only he could share a moment with him and that wonderful saying. The petty nature of this jealousy fits the character like a glove. This kind of detail is what makes Williamson’s Rebirth run on Flash a delight to read.
14 THE JOKER IS THE VICTIM OF BATMAN?
In the recent Dark Days: The Forge, there were a multitude of stunning revelations. But the most disturbing of these was that one of many secrets Batman was keeping was that he had the Joker locked away in a secret level of the Batcave. The likely reasoning was just as shocking in that it seemed that Joker had a more logical sense of the mystery Batman was trying to solve involving Nth Metal than Batman had himself.
Batman is known for taking the law into his own hands, but he usually lets the authorities handle the villains. Not only that, but his fellow Bat-family members were unaware of this as well. Just how scared is Batman of what Nth Metal means to the DCU and to his own history? A desperate Batman is a disturbing thought on a whole lot of levels.
13 NIGHTWING FAKING HIS OWN DEATH
Rumors abounded in the time leading up to Forever Evil. There were hints that something big was going to happen to Dick Grayson. Guesses ranged from Dick dying, as he was originally planned to in Infinite Crisis, to Dick losing a limb or being paralyzed. What actually happened was pretty disturbing but in a shockingly different way.
The Crime Syndicate captured Dick and revealed his identity to the world. Simply put, this made Dick no longer able to be Nightwing without endangering everybody he cared about. By the time the story concluded, Dick made a deal with Batman that he would become a secret agent and everybody else in the bat-family would believe him to have been killed by the Crime Syndicate. Emotions ran high for fans throughout the process, and it took some great stories in Grayson to get fans back on board.
12 WONDER WOMAN LIVING “THE LIES”
Wonder Woman has had a pretty epic run recently. The Brian Azzarello New 52 run on Wonder Woman was critically very well received, and the movie has exceeded every expectation. Having Greg Rucka return to the character for Rebirth was just icing on the cake. But Rucka led his return to the character off with a bombshell.
Diana learned that since her initial time on Themyscira, she had never actually been there again. This meant that much of what had occurred in stories of the past few years had all been one elaborate illusion. Wonder Woman, the holder of the well-known Lasso of Truth, was living a lie. This shook Diana to her core and literally sent to her to the mental hospital. Wonder Woman will be recovering from the ramifications of this revelation for years to come.
11 TWO-FACE KNOWS YOUR DARKEST SECRETS
Harvey Dent is a classic Batman foe who represents the same duality that exists in Batman. This concept was executed in brilliant new way by Scott Snyder in All-Star Batman when Rebirth launched. Batman had to protect Two-Face from a litany of villains all trying to make sure that he didn’t do something they all feared. Harvey was looking to show that we all have a side of us that are monsters, just like him, and he wanted to bring out the worst in everyone by revealing their darkest secrets.
This concept of ideology from Two-Face is frightening to consider because it is difficult to argue, and within the story you even see it affect beloved moral centers like Alfred. It made for a defining Two-Face story that stuck the core of the character in way that could keep you awake at night if you dwelled on it too much.
10 SUPERBOY PRIME IS THE TIME TRAPPER
Superboy Prime is a character that became the starring villain in many stories after his dark turn in Infinite Crisis. His insipid angst at the Earth Two Superman and Lois boiled over into the ultimate childish brat. But beneath all the immaturity and his warped mind was a kid with the power of Superman. There was a lot of damage to be done.
Superboy Prime would be imprisoned, but return to not only the Sinestro Corps but also to face the Legion of Superheroes in the Geoff Johns and George Perez pairing Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. Essentially he made himself a paradox that could not be eliminated from time. He wanted to be the last remaining living thing. While his own arrogance became his undoing when the Legion forced him to face his younger self, the fact remained that an insane Superman had nearly become unstoppable.
9 THE DARKSEID WAR
When it comes to universe-threatening villains in the DCU, the two that jump to mind for most fans would be Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips and the Anti-Monitor, the absorber of worlds from the Anti-Matter universe. So imagine when the Anti-Monitor reappeared at the end of Forever Evil and said his next target was Darkseid. Just the concept of a war between these two is a scary proposition.
The story would come a bit later in the incredible Justice League arc, “The Darkseid War.” Two god-level characters going at it with the Justice League having to deal with Parademons and other Darkseid cronies seems like overwhelming odds. When multiple Justice League members were endowed with god powers themselves, things became even crazier, including a Black Racer-inspired Flash seemingly killing Darkseid. On every level, this story lived up to its seemingly unreachable hype.
8 THE “OG” SINESTRO CORPS
Speaking of the Anti-Monitor, he also was a surprise guest in another now classic DC story from the last decade. The “Sinestro Corps War” has become a mainstay on many people’s list of the greatest Green Lantern epics ever. In the story, we see the formation of the first of the new corps, the Yellow Lanterns led by Sinestro.
There are multiple disturbing elements about the Sinestro Corps in general, but their initial members included perhaps the most fearsome group of villains ever assembled. Along with Sinestro were a Parallax-possessed Kyle Rayner, Superboy Prime and Cyborg Superman; a killer crew all bowed down to the Anti-Monitor! At the end of part one of the story, fans had to be thinking that there was a legit chance the good guys were not going to win this time.
7 “DEATH” OF BATMAN AND JOKER, JIM GORDON BATMAN
The last arc of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run to star Bruce Wayne in the cape and cowl had a truly shocking and disturbing ending. A brutally violent battle under Gotham ended in a heart shaped pool of blood with a seemingly dead Batman and Joker. While comic fans know characters of this stature don’t stay dead for long, fans became even more frenzied when they learned who would take over as Batman.
Long time Batman supporting character, Jim Gordon, somewhat reluctantly donned a giant robot suit with something resembling bunny ears and became the Batman for Gotham. The whole story garnered mixed reactions, but its catalyst was rooted in the end of a long-running battle between Batman and the Joker that had many disturbing moments and an incredibly disturbing conclusion.
6 FLASHPOINT REMAKES THE DCU
The concept of the Flashpoint miniseries was relatively simple. Barry Allen finally gave in to his ability to time-travel and went back and saved his mother’s life from Reverse Flash. However, there were consequences in the whole “butterfly effect” manner. This gave DC a chance to tell a whole bunch of stories with their characters in an alternate reality. But the story’s conclusion brought more than most readers had bargained for.
DC wanted to rejuvenate their entire line with a relaunch and they used this story as the catalyst for that to happen. Barry’s actions had major permanent consequences for every character in the DC Universe. What followed in the New 52 was of mixed quality for readers, and the reason for all those changes has since been retconned, but this was a huge shock when it occurred.
5 BATMAN FACING THE OMEGA SANCTION
When DC announced a story called “Batman R.I.P.” in the regular Batman title back in 2008, many started speculating on what Batman’s fate would be. Grant Morrison’s Batman epic spanned multiple titles and had many incredible moments, but it was actually in the bigger event following “Batman R.I.P.” called Final Crisis when the most disturbing revelation occurred. During a battle with Darkseid, Batman was hit with Omega Beams that gave Batman what Morrison would describe as “a fate worse than death.”
When a character is hit with Darkseid’s beams they are sent back through time, forced to live a life that is followed by a more difficult life in perpetuity. Only the always-prepared Bruce Wayne could overcome such a punishment, and while it was disturbing to imagine a Gotham with no Batman, Dick Grayson stepped in admirably.
4 DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF DAMIAN WAYNE
Damian Wayne’s initial few years as a character were filled with revelations that many would classify as disturbing. His existence as an artificially aged son of Bruce Wayne and Talia was the first step in a process that would see him take over the role of Robin while angering anybody he could along the way. But when he partnered with Dick Grayson as Batman, he began to come into his own as a character.
Grant Morrison created him with the intention of him dying rather quickly, but the character just kept inspiring new ideas and when his death did occur, it actually made fans sad not just because this was a kid, but because they had come to enjoy the character. Seeing Bruce’s reaction was heartbreaking and seeing the lengths Bruce would go to bring him back was simultaneously inspiring and a little disturbing as well.
3 COURT OF OWLS
In terms of new additions to the world of Batman in the past 10 years, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Court of Owls have had a pretty major impact. They have appeared in animated movies and on Gotham, and will likely continue to play a role in stories for years to come. A secret organization that has members of the elite manipulating members of the working class to pull the strings of Gotham for many years is something that just makes sense.
They are downright creepy in their masks and suits, and their initial leader had a potentially horrifying connection to Bruce Wayne himself. Lincoln March insinuated that he was Bruce Wayne’s long lost brother, a character that had been hinted at in some long forgotten tales. This unresolved story was part of a much bigger conspiracy in Gotham that even Batman couldn’t believe was real.
2 THE WATCHMEN ARE MANIPULATING THE DCU
“DC Universe Rebirth” had enough huge revelations that it could populate a list all its own. But when readers saw the smiley face button in the Batcave and pondered the ramifications of what was hinted at in the placement of a conversation between Ozymandias and Dr. Manhatten from the original Watchmen story at the end of the issue, the level of attention was at an all-time high.
Some fans were disturbed because of the choice by DC to even mix a seminal work like Watchmen with their larger superhero universe, while others were letting their imaginations run wild about the myriad of options for match-ups such as the upcoming Superman versus Dr. Manhatten in Doomsday Clock. Nobody knows what this will lead to and if it will reach a true conclusion or open the door to a bunch of new toys for DC writers to play with in their books.
1 BLACK LANTERN CORPS
The Green Lantern mythos was forever changed when Geoff Johns started introducing the emotional spectrum to readers. But it wasn’t until the revelation that there was actually another corps entirely that consisted of the dead heroes of the DC Universe when fans experienced horror in their superhero comics in spectacular fashion.
The words of the Green Lantern oath mention a “Blackest Night,” and it came to pass in a story of the same name. When readers were finally given their first glimpse of these Black Lanterns, it was incredibly disturbing to see so many characters, heroes and villains alike in a zombie-like form for the first time. When they start ripping out characters' hearts while speaking to their old friends in a chilling manner, you come away feeling like you need a shower.
Did these revelations stand out as you look back on the decade? Or did something else disturb you much more? Let us know in the comments.