Year of the Mindwipe
Between pulling double-duty as the McGuffin behind Secret War and becoming the de facto reason for every out-of-character villain moment for the past thirty years in DC comics, I'm surprised that mindwipes aren't the official reason we don't see thought balloons anymore.
Yes, everybody and Wolverine may have gotten violated in some way last year, Rape in Comics, but The Mindwipe was having the Best Year Ever.
Of course, it's not like mindwipes are a new idea or anything. Take, for example, Iron Man Annual 1998.
This little gem boasts an all-star team of writers, with a plot by Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern and a script by yesterday's golden boy himself, Mark Waid. Beyond that, there's pretty much two things you need to know before we go any further:
1. MODOK's in it.
2. It is not very good.
Don't get me wrong, I love all three of those guys. I cry every time I read Marvels, and I think it's a Goddamn Shame that Roger Stern isn't getting more work in comics these days. And I think my feelings about Mark Waid are pretty clear. This one, though.. Not even everyone's favorite Mental Organism can save it.
The plot concerns Iron Man and Captain America battling their way through an island that plays host to both AIM and a group of golden, white-haired race of genetically altered perfect people. These low-rent Eloi are, of course, mere pawns in the hands of MODOK... Tools with which he shall finally subjugate the accursed microbrains that oppose AIM! And two Avengers won't stand in his way!
... Uh, sorry. It's, you know, MODOK. That guy's great.
Anyway, Cap and ol' Shellhead do a pretty handy job of busting up AIM's operation and thwarting MODOK's Master Plan™, all the while snapping at each other like a super-powered version of the Lockhorns. So why all the anger? Well, a flashback sequence reveals that while Captain America was fighting Mentallo, who manages to make it "near the top of SHEILD's most-wanted list" despite being a third-rate telepath with a bad goatee, the bad guy managed to jack into some sort of telepathic "world-wide web" (!), controlling every person in the world simultaneously with the sole exception of Tony Stark.
See, Tony's got this wristwatch that protects him from mind control and... You know what? Let's just skip that. All that matters is that Tony ends up defeating Mentallo with his astral form (which also wears Iron Man armor, of course), but not before Mentallo discovers his secret identity. Since he's in control of the big telepathic shebang, though, he drops the ol' mind-wipe action on him, and then decides it'd be a good idea to get rid of everybody's knowledge of his secret identity.
Eventually he tells the rest of the Avengers, who pretty much just shrug and deal with it because when thou hang'st out with the Odinson himself, a guy in a flying suit of armor screwing with your memories is just par for the course. They all get their memories back, though, and everybody seems cool with it except Cap, who stomps off and gives Tony a lecture on why super-heroes shouldn't just go mind-wiping people just because their families are in danger from poorly-kept secret identities.
Sound famliar? Truly, this one was ahead of its time, by about six years to be specific. Heck, it's even a bad story with Captain America and Iron Man, which means it's a precursor to New Avengers and Identity Crisis!
The whole thing culminates in Cap having to decide whether he's going to save the genetically altered folks from getting wiped out by MODOK by reverting them to their natural state, where they're old and sick. He does, which somehow means Tony was right about mind-wiping the Avengers. I don't really know, it's not great.
But the point is, everybody learns a valuable lesson. And Pepper Potts didn't even have to torch Sharon Carter with a flamethrower.