2019 was an eventful year for superheroes. The X-Men made their own country on a sentient island, villains reigned supreme over the DC Universe, Venom duked it out with Carnage, and the Doomsday Clock finally counted down. 2020 is shaping up to be just as big.
From Batman to Superman, from the X-Men to the Fantastic Four, here are the biggest comic book questions we look forward to getting answers to in the next year.
Is the Joker really about to reveal Batman’s secret identity?
If you’ve been following recent activity in Batman, you know that the Caped Crusader’s main title is in a transitory phase, as Tom King leaves the book for a new 12-issue miniseries (more on that later), and writer James Tynion IV and artists Guillem March and Tony S. Daniel take up the reins.
Tynion hasn’t said much about what he has in store for the future of Batman, only that the book will have a horror tone and consist of three major arcs. However, the final issue of Tom King’s run did offer a bloody three page tease of one major upcoming event. The Joker knows Batman’s secret identity, and — inspired by Superman’s reveal of his secret identity — he’s finally going to do something with that knowledge.
The idea that the Joker knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne is a dangling plot thread from all the way back in 2013, at the close of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Death of the Family arc. That story revealed that the Joker has known the true identity of Batman from very early in his criminal career, but simply didn’t care about it.
“He was incapable of even broaching the subject of Bruce Wayne,” Bruce tells Alfred at the story’s conclusion, “It would ruin his fun.”
It seems like that’s changed, but why and what happens next remain very much to be seen.
Batman #86 hits shelves on Jan. 8.
Is Franklin Richards coming to Krakoa?
Look, there’s a lot about the future of the X-Men that we want to know. What is Apocalypse’s mysterious history with the sentient island all mutants now call home? What happens when Mystique gets fed up with waiting for Destiny to be resurrected? Whence will come Mister Sinister’s inevitable betrayal?
But the one we’re most likely to see answered in the near future is about Franklin Richards.
The Fantastic Four have always represented “family,” and in one of the very first scenes in House of X/Powers of X, Cyclops made a precisely targeted strike on that notion, when he told the Four: “Please, greet your son for me, and tell him that when he’s ready … he has family on Krakoa waiting for him.”
There are many mutants who have yet to make the pilgrimage to Krakoa, but there’s only one whose choice lies at such a nexus of superhero politics. The oldest child of superheroes Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, Franklin isn’t just a mutant — he’s a reality warper with no upper limit on his power. (He’s also destined to be the last living sentient being in the universe, but that’s just to say: His potential is a big deal in the Marvel Comics Universe.)
And we’ll be finding out just exactly how Franklin fits into the new mutant utopia in the four-issue miniseries X-Men/Fantastic Four, written by Chip Zdarsky and drawn by Terry Dodson. “It’s time for Franklin Richards to come home,” says the official tease for the issue, but it’s clear that it won’t happen without some conflict.
X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 hits shelves on Feb. 5.
What’s the fallout from Superman revealing his secret identity?
Superman may have revealed his secret identity to the world in December, and we haven’t had a chance to see how that reveal impacts the world until this year. But it seems certain that we will, in upcoming issues of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and a special one-shot anthology issue, Superman: Heroes.
Written by Superman architect Brian Michael Bendis, Greg Rucka, Matt Fraction, and Jody Houser, with art from Kevin Maguire, Steve Lieber, Mike Perkins, and more, the book promises to explore “what the identity of Clark Kent meant to those close to him-and what their relationship to Superman will be in the future.”
I hope it explores what happens to a Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s careers when it is revealed that the beat that made them famous was secretly “me” and “my husband,” respectively. And while most of the Justice League seemed pretty supportive of Superman’s decision, Wonder Woman seemed to take the news quite icily. What objection could the wielder of the Lasso of Truth have to Superman deciding to live without secrets?
And will all of this endanger Ma and Pa Kent, recently returned to continuity by the events of Doomsday Clock?
The fallout from Superman’s reveal will happen throughout January and beyond.
What happens to Marvel’s teen heroes when they’re Outlawed?
Marvel’s first big world shaking event of 2020 is Outlawed, a story in which the American government puts an age minimum on superpowered vigilantes. In other words: No more teenage superheroes.
This has drawn many comparisons to Marvel’s famous Civil War event, which revolved around a governmental ban on unregistered superheroes and a divide in the superhero community on whether to embrace it or defy it. But if Outlawed is a similar idea, it’s got a twist that makes a lot of editorial sense — the past decade has been a great one for the popularity of the company’s teen heroes — and has strong topical resonance.
“There’s been a lot of debate lately about the role of the youth in our society — whether they should partake in activism, how much their voices should be valued, whether they’re old and learned enough to have a say in their future, and what responsibility the older generations have to keep them safe,” Marvel editor Alanna Smith told the AV Club when Outlawed was announced. “When you boil it down, Outlawed is about the conflict that arises when widespread decisions that affect an entire generation are made by people outside that generation, while ignoring the input of people who will have to live with those decisions.”
Outlawed #1 hits shelves on March 18, and the event is expected to tie into some relevant books — like Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Magnificent Ms. Marvel, and Ironheart.
What does the future look like for Batman and Catwoman?
As you may have read earlier in this article, it’s going to be a year of new beginnings for Batman — but it’s also going to be a year with an extended ending. Tom King’s run on the main Batman title was originally intended to run for a solid 100 issues, before the writer announced that he would step away after issue #85.
We’re still getting the ending King wanted to put on the page, just in the form of a 12-issue miniseries called Batman/Catwoman, about the eponymous lovebirds.In Batman #85, Bruce and Selina agreed to stick together forever, but not make it more formal. (A failed attempt at a wedding in 2018 brought on the epiphany.)
King and his Heroes in Crisis collaborator Clay Mann have a storm brewing for them though, in the form of Andrea Beaumont, aka The Phantasm. Beaumont has never appeared in main DC Universe continuity before, despite her starring role in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, one of the best regarded Batman movies ever made.
If her comics origin mirrors her movie one, she’ll be an old flame of Bruce Wayne’s turned deadly vigilante, which could spell all kinds of messy complications for the Bat and the Cat.
Batman/Catwoman #1 will hit shelves sometime in 2020.
What is the threat that has united the Kree and the Skrulls? And why do they think it’s on Earth?
One of the more intriguing revelations to come out of Marvel’s Incoming special was that a war with the Kree and the Skrulls is coming. Marvel’s heroes have fought many battles against both space empires over the years, but this one is different.
The two races have finally found peace between themselves, under the rule of King Dorrek VIII, the secret son of Princess Anelle of the Skrulls, and Mar-Vell, the Kree war hero. But you might know him better as Teddy Altman, aka Hulkling, member of the Young Avengers and fiancee of Billy Kaplan, aka Wiccan.
And Teddy’s first action as king was to rally the combined Skrull and Kree armies against a new enemy, which is apparently the Earth itself. Why would he do that, when his fiancee and all his friends live on Earth? Why does the threat seem to be… deadly trees?
We’ll get our answers in Marvel’s second crossover event of 2020, Empyre, in which the Avengers and the Fantastic Four will face off against the Kree and the Skrulls.
A4: Empyre #1 will hit shelves sometime in April.