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Superhero graphic novels are like fun-house mirrors. Although they warp reality, they have an eerie way of capturing the tone and timbre of America's attitude toward itself, reaching into the crevasses of the national consciousness in ways that no poll can. To wit: the recent huge box-office success of Iron Man and The Dark Knight.
This has been a dark year in comics. In the Marvel universe, Captain America died; war continues among superheroes over a new, arguably racist, governmental law requiring the registration of all meta-humans; and an evil Russian company has caused the collapse of the U.S. housing market. In the DC universe, Superman has been transported to a future where atrocities are committed in his memory; and the Joker has been declared sane. Don't let the capes and external underwear fool you. The best superhero comics long ago stopped being escapist at heart and morphed into a place where readers confront their own world-weariness.