<i>By <a href=http://www.twitter.com/albertxii>Albert Ching, Newsarama Staff Writer</a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/LucasSiegel>Lucas Siegel, Newsarama Editor</a></i> <p>It's been apparent for a while, but it might not ever go away: The '90s are back en vogue in the comic book industry. <p>There are two <i>X-Force</i> titles, DC released an unprecedented 52 variant covers to <i>Justice League of America #1</i>, and Onslaught just returned in <b>Uncanny Avengers #4</b>. (Though, as series writer <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/uncanny-avengers-4-return.html>Rick Remender told us</a>, "It's going to be an entirely different thing than what we saw in the '90s, an entirely different character with an entirely different set of motives.") <p>Despite somewhat of a negative reputation for prioritizing style over substance, it makes sense many of today's fans (and creators) discovered comics during the speculator boom of the early '90s, and comic books tend to be a nostalgic medium by nature. And it's not just Marvel getting in on the action; the trend is clear throughout the industry we live in a world where Bane was the featured villain of last year's <i>The Dark Knight Rises</i>, after all. Long-gone companies are resurfacing. DC's New 52 is full of creators known for high-profile '90s work. And it doesn't stop there. <p>So with that in mind, here's a look at 10 of the clearest signs that the '90s have made a comic book comeback. Click "start here" to begin. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
In the early '90s, the New Mutants finally graduated with a little help from their new mentor Cable (more on him later), and at the hands of Rob Liefeld (more on him later, too) moved into the spotlight of the X-Verse as the new harder hitting team, <b>X-Force</b>. <p>Now, the X-Force franchise is simply the largest it has ever been, with two ongoing series bearing the name, <i>Cable and the X-Force</i> and <i>Uncanny X-Force</i>. Add to that founding member Shatterstar on <i>X-Factor</i>, founding member Cannonball on the freaking <i>Avengers</i>, and longtime associated act Deadpool starring in multiple series. Yup, <i>X-Force</i> is now a franchise all on its own.
After founding the Awesome Comics label, the shared world of many of Rob Lifefeld's creator-owned characters, run by his own Extreme Studios, went defunct, leaving the characters (and the books they starred in) in limbo. With the help of a diverse team of writers and artists, Liefeld <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/rob-liefeld-extreme-revival-111123.html>brought back</a> the line, including <b>Youngblood, Prophet, Glory, Supreme</b>, and <b>Bloodstrike</b>. <p>The fun twist is that the books picked up right where they left off. <b>Bloodstrike</b> kicked off with #26, <b>Youngblood #71</b> was the first return issue, and so on. <p>Now Liefeld is taking it one step further, running a contest for writers where he'll actually draw <i>their</i> story set in his universe!
Valiant was first formed in 1989, but had its heyday in the 1990s, selling lots of copies of comics like <i>Harbinger</i>, <i>X-O Manowar</i> and <i>Shadowman</i>. The company boosted its profile by licensing Gold Key properties like <i>Solar</i>, <I>Turok</i> and <i>Magnus, Robot Fighter</i>, incorporating them into their larger universe. <p>Like many things from the '90s, it eventually disappeared, even after a second life of being owned by now-defunct video game company Acclaim Entertainment. But, like many things from the '90s, it's poised for a comeback. <p>With just under a year of publishing once more, <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/comics-retailers-name-dc-top-publisher.html>Valiant Entertainment was recently named Publisher of the Year (Under 4% Share) by Diamond Distributors and comic shop retailers worldwide</a>. Their resurgence has been a critical and sales success, and there's no denying they're now an indie force to reckon with.
Venom was already phenomenally popular as a Spider-Man villain by the late '80s (and the actual alien symbiote debuted back in <i>Secret Wars</i>), but the '90s is when the character exploded as a solo character, in a seemingly endless stream of miniseries with subtitles like "The Madness" and "Funeral Pyre." <p>Subsequent attempts to once again make Venom a lead character have mostly floundered, until 2011, when writer Rick Remender was able to use his <i>Uncanny X-Force</i> magic to once again imbue new life into a concept many considered to be stuck in the '90s. <p>Now, after being a member of the Secret Avengers, Flash Thompson and the Venom suit is a <i>Thunderbolts</i> cast member and patrolling Philadelphia in his own series, and awaiting a visit from someone else who knows that symbiote pretty well - Eddie Brock.
If you were to travel in a time machine to 15, 10, 5, 2 or so years ago and told yourself that Kaine, Spider-Man's disfigured clone from the '90s, would be starring in his own Marvel ongoing series, would you believe yourself? <p>But it's reality (and has been for more than a year), and the odder thing is that it actually makes sense. Rejuvenated after his role in "Spider-Island," Kaine cleaned up and was ready to at least try and make amends for his past, which included murdering several Spidey villains in cold blood. <p>The series has established Kaine as his own hero in its first year, giving him a new home, his own supporting cast, and a life away from Peter Parker. However, that looks to change as he deals with the mysterious "Other" in the current storyline.
Another Liefeld creation (Hey, the guy pretty much embodies '90s comics, folks. We'll leave it up to you whether we're talking about the character or the artist), the winner of the most twisty backstory (Son of Scott Summers & a Jean Grey clone, raised by their disembodied spirits in other bodies thousands of years in the future alongside his genetic sister from another timeline, who then played father to a girl who may in fact also be another Jean Grey clone of some sort) came back a mere year after his apparent death during the <i>Second Coming</i> crossover. <p>Now, after the events of <i>Avengers vs. X-Men</i> changed the status quo for mutants and his daughter Hope once more, Cable is the leader of an all-new X-Force squad with an eclectic (to say the least) line-up.
Back in the 90s, there was this dominant force. It was called <i>X-Men</i>, and it was a sales leader, a juggernaut in toys, cartoons; this was the hot property. Especially, as it turns out, when it was drawn by Jim Lee. This was <i>the</i> team book that everyone was reading. <p>If you take a peek at the sales figures for the first year and a half of the title, Jim Lee was once again the artist on not just the #1 team book, but the #1 book in overall sales in the direct market for many of those months, though this time for DC Comics, not Marvel. Paired with writer Geoff Johns, Lee has proven that his artwork is still a major draw for fans, and his sales domination (with a strong "team" behind him) isn't a relic of the past. Lee has only just recently left the series behind, but isn't fading away into the sunset. Instead, he's kicking off an all-new Superman series with writer Scott Snyder.
The original "Age of Apocalypse" was a revolutionary event when it first began more than 15 years ago. For four months, it took the insanely high-selling X-Men comics off the shelves, and replaced them with significantly altered versions, set in a parallel universe where Professor Xavier never formed his school and Apocalypse ruled the Earth. <p>Given the inherent cool factor of that premise (and the fact that alternate timelines, especially in the X-Men, are a pretty proven commodity), it's not a surprise that Marvel has returned to it several times, in miniseries and books like <i>Exiles</i>. <p>Starting in March 2012, they went all-in with a new <b>Age of Apocalypse</b> ongoing series by David Lapham and Roberto De La Torre, picking up where Rick Remender left off during "The Dark Angel Saga," a story that took place extensively in the dystopian setting. The series comes to an end this spring, but not before crossing over with two other X-Books with the "X-Termination" story; a fitting end to the <b>Age of Apocalypse</b>.
Remember how we talked a couple entries ago about the X-Men being the dominating franchise of the '90s? And last entry? And #s 10 and 5? Yup, a lot of that was at the hands of editor Bob Harras and writer Scott Lobdell. Now, with Harras as DC Comics Editor-in-Chief, Lobdell is at the forefront of the New 52, currently writing three (through March) high-profile titles for the publisher. <p>With the relaunches of the controversial <b>Red Hood and the Outlaws</b> and the adventures of younger heroes in <b>Teen Titans</b> and <b>Superboy</b>, the dawn of The New 52 marked a major return to ongoing work-for-hire comics for the writer, and it's likely no coincidence his old editor is at the helm. His work is certainly encouraging conversation amongst fans, and a great example of the '90s triumphant return. Fellow X-Vet from the '90s, Howard Mackie, got in on the fun as well, with <b>The Ravagers</b>. <p>While Lobdell has shifted around a bit - he's now on <b>Superman</b> & <b>Teen Titans</b> and moving on from <b>Red Hood</b>, he has re-established himself as a premier writer, this time with DC Comics.
Variant covers are back in a big way. Whether it's those adorable Skottie Young "baby" variants on most of the Marvel NOW! relaunches, the 50 "State Variants" of <i>JLA #1</i>, or the Gold Foil cover (yes, you read that right) of <i>Age of Ultron</i>'s first issue, it's clear that Marvel and DC, amongst other publishers, are enjoying making special covers prolific once more for their series. <p>But Valiant, king of the variants in the 90s, may have taken the cake with the QR-code powered <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/valiant-xo-manowar-voice-variant-120227.html>world's first talking comic book cover</a> in 2012. With the power of a smartphone, fans can actually hear the new X-O talking about his rise to power.