2014 in Review: The Marvel Comics Universe

From secrets revealed to in-app perfection: the last 12 months as seen by worried Marvel New York citizens
Mike Deodato Jr./Marvel Entertainment

There is absolutely no escape from disaster if you live in the New York City of the Marvel Universe. In 2014 alone, its recovery from last year’s alien invasion has been hampered by multiple invasions, large-scale fights and/or incursions from beyond this year.

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Given the amount of destruction and disruption the city faces on a regular basis as home for 95 percent of the superhero population of the Marvel Earth, it’s a wonder anyone still chooses to live there. Here’s what they’ve had to deal with over the last 12 months.

Dateline: Earth

It’s been an odd year for the emotional health of the Marvel Universe. The summer’s Original Sin miniseries meant that people suddenly became aware of secrets relating to them that they hadn’t known about — which meant, sure, Bruce Banner realized how implicit Tony Stark was in the creation of the Hulk, but also Mavis down the street suddenly knew that her husband was cheating on her. While the after-effects of that particular whammy were still wearing off, the Red Skull showed up with telepathic powers, making the world into a hate-filled place before everything went weird and superheroes and supervillains changed places thanks to their personalities being flipped (the last two events courtesy of the current Axis event series).

In addition to the above, New York City was taken over by the forces of the Green Goblin in the Superior Spider-Man “Goblin Nation” storyline, overrun by refugees of a parallel universe in the Fantastic Four storyline “The Fall of the Fantastic Four,” and invaded by evil Avengers in the Avengers storyline “The Mirror.” There was also a quiet invasion by the aliens known as the Kree (All-New Invaders), and all over the world, people were still getting used to the fact that a lot of humanity were actually Inhumans (Inhuman). That’s to say nothing of mythical elves causing trouble and sentient rings suddenly giving random people superpowers (both Iron Man storylines throughout the year), or the fact that Tony Stark managed to turn physical perfection into an in-app purchase for the super-wealthy (the current Superior Iron Man series). Suffice to say, it’s been a very busy year for Marvel Earth.

Dateline: Space

Space turned out to be the place for traditionally Earth-bound heroes this year — in addition to the X-Men chasing after a kidnapped member in “The Trial of Jean Grey,” which ran in both All-New X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy, both Cyclops (a younger, time-traveling version; the “regular” Cyclops is elsewhere) and the Avengers’ Captain Marvel relocated quasi-permanently to the stars in series this year, both running into the newly popular Guardians of the Galaxy. Elsewhere, the Silver Surfer got a Doctor Who-esque makeover in a new solo series exploring a more whimsical side of Marvel’s cosmic universe.

The Revolving Door at the Pearly Gates

After much hype, Wolverine finally met his maker at the end of the appropriately titled Death of Wolverine series, the second of two high-profile demises in 2014. The other was the Watcher, murdered as Macguffin for the Original Sin series. In theory, the entire world was destroyed as part of a plot in Uncanny Avengers, but that turned out to be a time-travel problem that was later solved, so it doesn’t count. Two Marvel heroes returned to life in 2014: Nightcrawler, who returned from the afterlife at the end of the first storyline of Amazing X-Men, and Peter Parker, who got control of his own body again in the final storyline of Superior Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, in the Real World…

In a year that saw Ms. Marvel become a surprise hit, diversity proved to be the name of Marvel’s game in 2014. It wasn’t just the new female Thor, or Sam Wilson becoming Captain America — the publisher finally upped the number of female-led books from two to nine, with more planned for 2015 launches.

The year also continued a recent trend in Marvel’s publishing plan, with popular franchises being aggressively expanded (Guardians of the Galaxy went from one series to an announced six) even while more series came and went in a surprisingly short time (She-Hulk and All-New Ghost Rider, for example, were critically acclaimed but not enough of a sales draw to stick around). The company found overall success in 2014 by offering a wide variety of books in terms of tone, if not subject matter, and additionally just offering a lot of them — but with every series reportedly tying into next year’s Secret Wars storyline, the question might be whether or not readers are willing to stick around and watch their favorites mix and match with everyone else.

What to Expect in 2015

Secret Wars is going to dominate Marvel’s next year, for better or worse. With some speculating that it’ll lead to a reboot of the Marvel line — certainly, Diamond Comic Distributors have made official mention to retailers of something called “All New Marvel” in September 2015 — it’s potentially a big risk for the publisher, but one that could end up paying off dramatically, offering a non-comic-reading audience a perfect jumping-on point for its entire line now that they’ve been primed by the movies, cartoons and Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter TV shows. Already the most successful comic book company in the western comic book industry, is Marvel somehow going to manage to level up over the next 12 months?

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