Every week, a secret cabal of Marvel staffers gathers to discuss the best of the best when it comes to the House of Ideas.
2009: Not an easy year to be a hero in the Marvel Universe.
With Norman Osborn seizing control and letting his Dark Reign run wild, the world turned on its head, with villains being hailed as the good guys and true heroes being forced underground. Yet in spite of it all, champions for right still managed to fight for their just causes.
In some cases we had to look to more ambiguous sorts than usual to find our top heroes for 2009, but here's who the Secret Cabal chose to honor.
For each fight you get the quick rundown as well as a special spotlight comic courtesy of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.
As always, these picks reflect the personal choices of the Secret Cabal, not the official opinion of Marvel or Marvel.com, and can be considered subjective at best. Enjoy!
First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #107 (1977)
Why He Makes the List: He started the War of Kings on the side of the mad Shi'Ar ruler Vulcan, loyal as always to the throne, but when Gladiator finally rebelled against the tyrant giving orders, his actions shook the stars. Though his efforts to save his beloved Lilandra proved for naught, Kallark did shift the advantage away from the mad Emperor. Now in the fragile aftermath of war, Gladiator has assumed the Shi'Ar thrown and given the Imperium's people a ruler they can believe in for the first time in years, sacrificing the life of action he longs to return to.
Spotlight Comic: WAR OF KINGS: WARRIORS - GLADIATOR #1-Find out what shaped Kallark into Gladiator!
First Appearance: THOR #129 (1966)
Why He Makes the List: Yes, Ares stood alongside Norman Osborn as he committed some unspeakable atrocities this past year, but when you're the God of War, that type of thing does tend to be par for the course. Despite his poor choice of alliances, this Dark Avenger somehow maintained his nobility in the face of it, doing his best to train and honor agents of H.A.M.M.E.R. entrusted to his care and looking out for the well-being of his son, Phobos of the Secret Warriors. We don't condone all his actions, but we still hold out hope for this guy to do the right thing.
Spotlight Comic: DARK AVENGERS #9-The God of War against Nick Fury!
First Appearance: NEW MUTANTS #98 (1990)
Why He Makes the List: In dark times like these, we look for our heroes wherever we can find them, and that means, yes, even Deadpool deserves props for his attempts to do good. Sure, he still has a nasty habit of killing people for money, but Wade Wilson made an honest-or as honest as he gets-go at genuine heroism this year, tangling with the likes of Norman Osborn and Bullseye, liberating an island from pirates, and helping the X-Men protect their good name. He certainly tries, you have to give him that.
Spotlight Comic: DEADPOOL: SUICIDE KINGS #1-The Merc With a Mouth gets framed!
First Appearance: THOR ANNUAL #1
Why He Makes the List: The maturation of Hercules continued this year, as the Lion of Olympus joined his fellow Mighty Avengers against the awesomely powerful Unspoken, stormed the gates of Hades to save his father Zeus, filled in for Thor against the Dark Elves, and finally assaulted New Olympus to foil the nefarious schemes of his mother, Hera. Whether with or without Amadeus Cho at his side, Herc maintained a busier schedule than half the Marvel Universe but was never at a loss for wit, women, wine and the other finer things in life.
Spotlight Comic: INCREDIBLE HERCULES #126-The awesome origin of Hercules!
First Appearance: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83 (1962)
Why He Makes the List: While his former compatriots struggled with the machinations of Norman Osborn and his allies, Thor continued to grapple with more godly challenges, suffering trials but continuing to prove his valor. Though the Thunder God managed to at last reunite with his lost love, Sif, he also experienced exile from Asgard after being forced to slay his own grandfather, Bor, as a result of Loki's devious handiwork. Nonetheless, Thor still came to his people's aid when they needed him against Doctor Doom, proving stripping one's crown does not rob them of their nobility.
Spotlight Comic: THOR GOD-SIZE SPECIAL #1-The God of Thunder fights to honor the memory of his fallen comrade, The Executioner!
5. EMMA FROST
First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #129 (1979)
Why She Makes the List: When the year began, it seemed as if Emma Frost sat at Norman Osborn's side as a trusted member of his Cabal, having betrayed the X-Men and resumed her villainous roots. However, as time wore on, the erstwhile White Queen more than proved both her loyalty and her worth, insinuating herself into Osborn's good graces only to help her lover, Cyclops, and their team deal him a crushing and humiliating defeat. Emma not only sewed the seeds of discord within the Cabal by her own about-face, she also persuaded the powerful Sub-Mariner to join her rebellion, brining Namor over to the side of angels, dark though it may seem these days.
Spotlight Comic: UNCANNY X-MEN #506-Emma offers Colossus some back-up!
First Appearance: TALES OF SUSPENSE #57 (1964)
Why He Makes the List: Many chipped away at the Dark Reign of Norman Osborn over the course of 2009, achieving little victories here and there, but only Clint Barton-the former Hawkeye who saw his one-time identity usurped by the psychotic Bullseye-was brassy enough to take on the one-time Green Goblin head-on. Ronin went on television and publicly decried a criminal taking charge of the Avengers, forcing Osborn to the defensive, then later assaulted Avengers Tower solo in hopes of bringing the would-be tyrant down. Though Clint ultimately did not succeed in all his goals and may have let his brashness get the better of him, give the guy points for intent and sheer guts.
Spotlight Comic: DARK REIGN: THE LIST - AVENGERS-Clint Barton storms Avengers Tower intent on taking Norman Osborn down!
First Appearance: X-MEN #1 (1963)
Why He Makes the List: For the first half of 2009, Norman Osborn ran roughshod over the Avengers, Iron Man and everybody else in his path to seemingly ultimate power. However, when The Iron
Spotlight Comic: UNCANNY X-MEN #505-A journey into the mind of Scott Summers!
2. IRON MAN
First Appearance: TALES OF SUSPENSE #39 (1963)
Why He Makes the List: Going into 2009, Tony Stark had many sins to atone for: his decisions during Civil War possibly cost Captain America his life; he failed to prevent the Skrull invasion and Norman Osborn's rise to power; he alienated the bulk of his friends and allies save for his inner circle. However, when it came time to step up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Iron Man knocked it out of the park-or made the ultimate sacrifice out, if you prefer. To prevent Osborn from gaining access to super human secret identities gathered during Registration, Tony went on the run as an international fugitive and fried his own brain bit-by-bit in order to conceal the data. Iron Man proved that human beings may make mistakes, but heroes always come through in the end.
Spotlight Comic: INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8-Tony Stark becomes the World's Most Wanted!
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA (Bucky Barnes)
First Appearance: CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 (1941)
Why He Makes the List: We've spoken before of the incredible challenge Bucky Barnes has faced in recent times as far as living up to the incredible legacy of Captain America, but this year he encountered perhaps an even greater obstacle: surrendering that mantel upon learning Steve Rogers still lived. A lesser man may have hesitated to save his predecessor, preferring to bask in the glow of reverence after years of torment as an outcast, but Bucky isn't most folks, choosing to put his own ambitions aside and risk everything-including his life-to save his friend and mentor. Unselfish and relentless when it came to protecting those he cares about and the values his country was founded upon, Bucky Barnes not only measured up to Steve Rogers this year, he taught the old man a thing or two about being a hero.
Spotlight Comic: CAPTAIN AMERICA #50 (2004)-Bucky reminisces about birthdays past alongside the Invaders and more!
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