I am quite fed up with people, references, articles, etc. continuing to refer to this as the "Modern Era' of comics.
First off, talking about the "Modern Era" of anything is just sheer intellectual laziness and hybris. "The era in which I live in cannot be easily classified or typified, as can the shallow, simple eras of the past. My era is simply 'modern' and all others are ... not."
To which I say, poppycock. I'm sure many people in those previous eras thought they were living in "the Modern Era", too. Current social, cultural, and artistic eras will, in fact, be tagged and bagged by future generations. Pretending that they won't or turning a blind eye to "the Modern Era's" earmarks is disingenuous at best.
Yes, some distance is helpful in identifying and characterizing an era, but it's not an absolute necessity ... we all knew quite well what the Big '80s were like when we were living in them, for example. I think we're pretty clearly not in the same era as that which began with Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen, and the Dark Knight Returns, and it's about time we acknowledge that new era and begin to get a handle on it.
We have emerged from the Iron Age, characterized by the rise of the anti-hero, the tarnishing of the heroic ideal, the abandoned of Silver/Bronze continuity, and the emphasis on mythos-breaking. The current era, which I call the Platinum Age, is instead characterized by a re-statement of the heroic ideal, the reincorporation of elements from Silver/Bronze continuity, and the emphasis on mythos-building.
There are other changes, of course, but with my focus on DCU continuity these are most immediately salient.
To me, that we are in a new "age" isn't really in question. The question is: when did it begin?
Comic ages seldom have one clear starting point; having different publishers alone ensures that. But there are usually several clear signposts...
2000. Marvel's launch of the Ultimates line indicates awareness that there mainline continuity has become a burden to storytellers and a barrier to new readers. The transition from the Bronze to the Iron was marked by DC chafing against its accumulated continuity and taking steps to address it. The transition from the Iron Age to the Platinum Age by a similar phenomenon at Marvel. Both the Ultimates are Brand New Day are examples.
2004 Identity Crisis. Essentially, the last gasp of the Iron Age and its tarnishing of the Bronze ideal. DC likes to play it as the beginning of its new era. But in fact it was merely the final straw for many readers, causing a loud "enough is enough" from fandom on the grim-ification of mainstream superhero comics.
2002/Spider-Man and 2008/Dark Knight. The superhero film become a serious and profitable genre, part of general re-surfacing of the superhero as a cultural ideal/icon.
2005. Infinite Crisis restablishes the multiverse and M-Day cleans house at Marvel.
What do you think marks the end of the Iron Age, the beginning of the Platinum Age, and the diffferences between them?