With many of Marvel’s most prominent heroes making questionable decisions or butting up against one another over the course of 2012, the task of saving the world—or in some cases all reality—fell to some unlikely suspects.
Thankfully, the Marvel Universe found champions across the board ready to do the right thing.
The greatest good guys of 2012 represent a cross section of proven A-listers along with up and comers making their mark. Regardless of their experience or power level, all these characters proved worthy to be called heroes.
Here’s who we thought did the most for the Marvel Universe over past 12 months.
This list reflects a vote conducted by members of the Marvel.com editorial staff and should by no means be considered official ranking or representative of anything but their specific tastes
2012 in Review: Cap led the Avengers charge in their collision with the X-Men, refusing to yield the Phoenix power even when it seemed the mutants could transform Earth into a paradise, holding fast to his belief it would corrupt them. He rallied his team to come from behind and win the day, indirectly helping Hope Summers to repower mutantkind. On his own, Steve Rogers won a tainted battle against the new Scourge and finally managed to shut down the Codename Bravo and Baron Zemo-led Hydra—for now.
Why He Makes the List: All around him, the world seemed perfect, but Captain America had his doubts; in his heart, Steve Rogers knew Cyclops and the Phoenix Five couldn’t handle the power forced upon them, and despite their intentions, would lose control. Sadly, this prognosis proved correct, but fortunately, Cap positioned the Avengers to stem the damage and save the world; he made the hard choice, but the right one as well.
Digital Highlight: CAPTAIN AMERICA (2011) #19—Steve Rogers helps an old foe find peace!
2012 in Review: After meeting Spider-Woman and the Ultimates, Miles Morales returned to his life with a newfound sense of purpose, taking on the Scorpion and establishing himself in New York City. The new Spider-Man faced familial conflict and ultimately tragedy resolving his relationship with his uncle, the Prowler, but rose above the fallout to prove himself to Captain America and earn Peter Parker’s web shooters from Gwen Stacy and Aunt May.
Why He Makes the List: He may have become Spider-Man on a fluke, but the more he learned of Peter Parker’s heroic legacy, the more determined Miles Morales became to live up to the ideals left behind. The new Spidey swung into huge stakes in his second year on the job, fighting alongside the Ultimates and making the tough decision to go against his uncle in the name of doing the right thing.
Digital Highlight: ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN (2011) #14—Miles meets Captain America!
2012 in Review: Accompanying a group of Avengers into Kree space to confront the Phoenix Force, Carol Danvers also faced the demons of her own past and emerged with a new boldness, leading her to take up the mantel of Captain Marvel. Since the identity update, she’s traveled through time to help out against alien technology, saved Boston from a rampaging giantess alongside Spider-Man, helped Monica Rambeau salvage the New Orleans harbor and continued her duties as an Avenger along the way.
Why She Makes the List: Change can be scary, even for super heroes, but there comes a time when necessity demands growth and evolution. After years serving the greater good as Ms. Marvel, Binary and Warbird, Carol Danvers finally seized the legacy meant for her, becoming Captain Marvel. She grew into her new role in a manner that would make her predecessor proud, assuming a command role among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and fighting battles that raged decades in the past as well as at the bottom of the ocean; where needed, Captain Marvel fought for good.
Digital Highlight: CAPTAIN MARVEL (2012) #2—Trapped in the past, Carol Danvers helps a group of extraordinary women take a stand!
2012 in Review: As an Avenger, Clint Barton stood on the front lines of conflicts with Norman Osborn, Thanos and the X-Men, even seemingly sacrificing his life during the last one only to be resurrected by an empowered Emma Frost. Meanwhile, on his off days, he protected the denizens of his apartment complex from thugs, took down a new Circus of Crime, engaged in international espionage, mentored young Kate Bishop, and aided any damsels in distress he found, innocent or not so much.
Why He Makes the List: Plenty of heroes across the Marvel Universe look out for the continued survival of humanity and the galaxy beyond—as well they should—but even street level dudes like Spider-Man and Daredevil can lose track of the average Joe when they get busy busting super villains. Fortunately citizens of Earth and dwellers of Brooklyn alike, Hawkeye manages to balance his priorities, saving the world one day and throwing a holiday party for the downtrodden the next. His protégé Kate Bishop may give him grief, but Clint Barton’s one of the best guys we know.
Digital Highlight: HAWKEYE (2012) #1—A day in the life of Clint Barton!
2012 in Review: Kitty Pryde began her year in New York City, caring for a group of displaced mutants and leading her friends into battle against the horde of Sentinels empowered by William Stryker. Though Kitty killed Stryker’s body, his spirit lived on in his mechanical army, leading the young activist and her allies cross country to fight another war in the American southwest. Through Kitty’s leadership, mutants won the day, defeating their robotic adversaries and acquiring their own tenuous sovereign nation from new President Captain America.
Why She Makes the List: For the last several years in the Ultimate Universe, mutants have been living their worst nightmare, persecuted like never before, their champions and leaders broken or killed. In the absence of a Professor X, Cyclops or Wolverine, Kitty Pryde became the unlikely voice and fist of her people, both protecting and standing up for those who couldn’t be their own advocates and defenders. With the stakes higher than any dream can solve, Kitty Pryde fought for freedom—and won.
Digital Highlight: ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN #18—It’s Kitty’s army against the legacy of Stryker!
2012 in Review: Tony Stark began the year having to face down the consequences of his actions during Fear Itself, and thanks to the Mandarin’s machinations, that struggle played out over a lengthy stretch of time. Battling his way through a powered-up army of his foes, the Armored Avenger still found himself under his archenemy’s yolk, but battled his way free to lead Ezekiel Stane and others in preventing Mandarin from grasping malevolent power. Iron Man would also play a key role in developing technology to oppose the Phoenix and restore mutantkind to prominence.
Why He Makes the List: A word that has always described Tony Stark well would be “ingenuity,” and he demonstrated it once more this past year. Under the Mandarin’s mental thumb, Stark found a loophole as he always does, willingly playing a bit dirty and forming unholy alliances for the greater good. When his technology proved unequal to the task of thwarting the Phoenix, the notorious skeptic embraced the spiritual and found a way to not only stem the conflict, but restore an entire race in the process.
Digital Highlight: INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #526—The final battle between the Mandarin and Tony Stark!
2012 in Review: Leading his X-Men Extinction Team, Scott Summers made an unmistakable mark by turning back the threats of Mister Sinister, the Phalanx, various extraterrestrials criminals and even the Celestials. Though many of his allies opposed his actions during the Avengers Vs. X-Men crisis, Cyclops stuck to his principals, seizing control of the Phoenix Force and temporarily granting utopia on Earth. Though he lost himself in the power and killed his mentor Professor X, Scott would still accomplish his ultimate goal: repowering an entire race.
Why He Makes the List: Nobody ever said playing the hero would be easy. Many would call Scott Summers an unquestionable villain for his recent actions, but examining the ends he fought for and accomplished—the safety of his race and even spreading peace and prosperity beyond it—do his means deserve further consideration? Cyclops has made it clear he regrets the collateral damage of his path, the death of Charles Xavier most of all, but he also refuses to admit there could have been another way. Disagree with what Cyclops did if you will, but it’s hard not to admire his achievements and his resolve.
Digital Highlight: UNCANNY X-MEN (2011) #19—In the aftermath of AvX, Scott Summers takes stock of his actions!
2012 in Review: Alongside Leah and his assortment of allies—more frequently coerced than not—Loki braved the realm of dreaming to stop an invasion by Nightmare, saved the Disir from their exile and brokered peace with Otherworld. When Surtur struck against Asgardia, the Trickster wove a web of lies and deceit to help his brother, Thor, save the day. In the end, however, Loki’s path to redemption reached its conclusion when, in order to stop Mephisto from assuming great power, he sacrificed his consciousness, allowing his former villainous persona to reassert.
Why He Makes the List: Given how many lies he’s told—albeit with good intentions—and powerful figures he’s manipulated—for the best of reasons—it seemed only a matter of time before Loki’s myriad plots caught up with him, and when they did, all of reality became threatened. Once upon a time, a more sinister Loki would have opted for self-preservation and figured out how to live with the consequences, but echoing the hero he became through battles with Nightmare, Surtur and the like, the Trickster instead opted to give up all he held dear so that countless beings he’s never met would remain safe. Will his new incarnation carry the lessons of this sacrifice forward? Time will tell…
Digital Highlight: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #645—To ensure his schemes don’t lead to destruction, Loki must pay the ultimate price!
2012 in Review: When Doctor Octopus reorganized the Sinister Six and held the world hostage, Spider-Man led first the Avengers and later a stripped down team of himself, Black Widow and Silver Sable to thwart the master plan. An emotional battle to save the Lizard from himself and a civil war of Hobgoblins followed before Peter Parker became trapped in another Ock scheme that involved switching their minds and bodies, ultimately leading to Spidey as we know him meeting his demise.
Why He Makes the List: Since he’s joined the Avengers, Spider-Man has regularly combatted global and universal threats alongside his teammates, but on his own, your friendly neighborhood webslinger has mostly stayed in his comfort zone of said neighborhood. When the Sinister Six launched a campaign of terror with potentially apocalyptic consequences, Spidey responsibly sought out Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for back-up, but when the likes of Iron Man and Thor went down, Peter Parker kept his wits about him and regrouped, using his knowhow and whatever allies he could muster along with a refusal to quit; this proved enough to beat back Doc Ock and his allies. Later on, Peter would pay for his efforts in an unimaginable way, but from what we’ve come to know of Spider-Man, he’d do it all over again.
Digital Highlight: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #682—Spidey leads the Avengers into battle against Doctor Octopus and the Sinister Six!
2012 in Review: Serving simultaneously as the leader of her own “Generation Hope” squad and the Extinction Team within the X-Men, Hope faced threats from Mister Sinister to the Phalanx, not to mention her own often distrustful teammates. When the Phoenix Force returned to Earth, the Avengers and X-Men went to war over her connection to the cosmic entity, with Cyclops and four other mutants ultimately usurping the power. Along with the Scarlet Witch, Hope proved pivotal in stopping the Phoenix Five run amok, then once possessed herself, the teenager willingly surrendered omnipotence to undo the disasters wrought upon Earth and jumpstart the mutant race’s stagnant evolution.
Why She Makes the List: For as long as she has been alive, other people have been telling Hope Summers her destiny. She spent years in a terrifying future with her surrogate father training in the worst conditions to be the mutant messiah, then returned to the present only to lose her beloved mentor and be thrust into the thick of the X-Men’s world in one fell swoop. With the entire AvX conflict centering and weighing on this teenage girl, she carried the—no pun intended—hope of not only her race, but indeed the entire world in her hands. Making the bold choice to break away from her teammates and back the Avengers, Hope took on her nigh-omnipotent former leader, Cyclops, wrestled the Phoenix Force from his grasp, but then, most importantly, divested herself of ultimate power, instead using it to rekindle mutantkind’s withering flame. Showing a resolve, resourcefulness and unselfishness most heroes twice her age seemed to lacked this year, Hope Summers more than lived up to her destiny.
Acceptance Speech: “When the redheaded mutant messiah with the mysterious Phoenix connection entered the Marvel Universe, there were people who asked ‘what's the difference between her and Jean Grey?’ ‘Well,’ I told them while ruffling their hair affectionately, ‘Jean Grey rarely chose a head-butt as her first call of action when disagreeing with someone.’
“She's saved the Earth, cleaned up the mess of her former-mentor Cyclops and never once sacrificed her first instinct to problem solving of butting it. If Galactus turned up now the only problem would be Reed Richards working out how to make a ladder long enough to get her up to his enormous nose.” – UNCANNY X-MEN and GENERATION HOPE writer Kieron Gillen
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