Marvel has finally revealed what the heavily teased “Vanishing Point” is, and the truth is somehow both enlightening and anti-climactic.
WARNING: Spoilers for Secret Empire #10 follow.
Marvel has been teasing that the “Vanishing Point” would be a major factor in the conclusion of Secret Empire, the summer event that brought Nick Spencer’s more than a year-long Captain America-as-Hydra-sleeper-agent story to its end.
While the Vanishing Point is explained in Secret Empire #10, the final numbered issue of the series (there’s still an
The Vanishing Point has more to do with Marvel’s series of Generations one-shots than it does with Secret Empire. Following Hydra Captain America’s defeat, Kobik (the sentient cosmic cube in the form of a child) rewards 10 of the assembled Marvel heroes who fought in the final battle in Washington DC with a trip “through the Vanishing Point.” Kobik’s energy envelops the heroes as they disappear and then return in the next panel.
The narrator describes the process in a monologue that will seem somewhat familiar to anyone who has been following Generations:
“And for some of us—the ones who stood for what was to come, our future—she gave a gift...a journey of discovery...through the Vanishing Point.”
The key phrase there is “she gave a gift,” which is echoed in the introduction to each of the Generations one-shots with a description of the Vanishing point itself:
“An instant apart! A moment beyond! Loosed from the shackles of past, present, future-A place where time has no meaning! But where true insight can be gained! Make your choice! Select your destination! The journey is a gift...”
It seems then that all ten of the Generations one-shots take place between these two panels of Secret Empire #10, as Marvel’s heroes become unstuck in time to visit their mentors and return refreshed in renewed, continuing a superhero story cycle that has been going on for a decade at least.
Marvel's Heroic Age
The last time that Marvel Comics attempting to restore its heroes to a more inspiring place was in 2010.
The publishing initiative was called "The Heroic Age," and it following a series of events including Avengers Disassembled, Secret War, Civil War, World War Hulk, and Dark Reign which saw "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" turn against each other or otherwise have their reputations damaged through their own acts or the acts of others.
After years of tension between Marvel's most popular heroes thanks to the events of Civil War and the enactment of the Superhuman Registration Act, the Siege event ended the era by uniting the heroes once again and abolishing the Superhuman Registration Act. As the Heroic Age began, Steve Rogers took over as commander of a new and expansive Avengers roster.
Throughout Secret Empire, Nick Spencer has hit on very similar themes, noting how the exposure of the original Kobik program and the Pleasant Hill prison in the Avengers: Standoff event and the Second Superhero Civil War in Civil War II had again eroded the credibility of Marvel's Heroes and along with their ability to inspire. Each heroes' trip through the Vanishing Point is apparently meant to remind them of the hero they are meant to be.
DC's Rebirth And One Year Later
In 2016, after five years of stories under the “New 52” banner, DC Comics launched DC Rebirth, a publishing initiative meant to restore the DC Comics heroes to their former glory in a way so similar to how Marvel is promoting Marvel Legacy that some fans have accused Marvel of simply copying DC Comics.
After years of updated takes on classic characters, and years of fans asking for the characters they knew and loved back, DC Rebirth was put in place. The promise of DC Rebirth, much like the promise of Marvel Legacy, was that DC Comics would get back to telling the kinds of stories that made fans fall in love with these characters in the first place. In the case of Superman, this even meant literally bringing back a version of the character from an older, abandoned version of the DC Universe.
And that's not the first time that DC has brought its heroes back to a more heroic status after pushing them to the breaking point. In 2006, the “One Year Later” initiative used a time jump to push the universe past the events of Infinite Crisis, promising fans a take on Superman that would be more inspirational, a take on Batman that would be less paranoid, and a take on Wonder Woman that would be less quick to snap a guy’s neck.
Its a cycle superhero fans have seen before, and they will probably see it again.