The Ninjabot

Marvel NOW! – A Rant

Posted on January 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm by Jeff Mueller

So there is a bit of a nerd divide here at the GeekLegacy cyber-office. There are those of us who realize that Marvel comics are floundering and that “Marvel NOW!” is nothing but a weak attempt to disguise their messed up comic-verse, and then there are those other people who buy into the hype and are blinded by the smoke and mirrors like my compatriot Tyler (@BatmanIncVIP).

Our Editor-in-Chief asked us both to explain why we love/loathe this pseudo reboot, so grab your favorite beverage and settle in for a healthy dose of Jerd-Rage over this “Marvel NOW!” bullsh*t!

To Marvel NOW! or to Marvel NOT?

I want to be clear upfront; I love what Marvel is doing on the cinematic front. They are crushing it, and have made a serious effort to not only tell really good stories in a connected fashion but to also make these characters accessible to the masses all the while still keeping them fresh and interesting for the hard-core fans. Not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination.

"A New Beginning" my ass!

“A New Beginning” my ass!

 

 

It is that very fact that leaves me so salty over how this “Marvel NOW!” re-launch is turning out. It is obvious that Marvel realizes that in order to expand their audience they need to provide inroads into the very long and complex histories they have spent 50+ years establishing. So why can’t they do this with their comic franchises?!?

Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t think there are some good titles coming out of this “reboot” (and we have only really seen about half of the new titles hit the stand at this point), because I most certainly am enjoying the crap out of “All New X-Men”, “Thor: God of Thunder” and “Journey Into Mystery”. My ire is not directed at any specific writer, artist, inker (aka just the tracer” if you are Scott Mosier) or title but rather at the company as a whole for how they handle the presentation of their collected works.

In the wake of last year’s massively successful DC Comics New 52 reboot Marvel realized it was getting overshadowed on the comic front; they were losing ground and fast! So to compete, they too decided to relaunch all their titles at issue #1. The problem here is that DC not only restarted their series at issue #1, but also rebooted almost the entire universe’s history; leaving a scant five years of backstories to be referenced and giving new readers a fighting chance to engage with new (and old) books without feeling as though they don’t know what is going on.

This isn’t to say that DC didn’t play it a little safe and cloud the reboot a little bit, by keeping a good many past Batman and Green Lantern stories in the continuity, but for the most part should a new reader want to jump into a book they can. More importantly though; should a reader decide to try a new book now, a little over a year into the reboot, they only have to go back 12-15 issues and be completely caught up on the entire history of this new incarnation of that particular title.

Try that with a Marvel title. I dare you.

Here’s a little experiment for you, let’s take a character like Emma Frost. Go and read her character history over at Wikipedia or the like and see if your head doesn’t explode tying to figure out how she went from a villian, to gaining new (and ridiculous) powers, to leading the X-men to having an affair with Cyclops, to gaining the power of the Phoenix Force, etc… it is too much for a seasoned reader, and it is definitely way too much for someone new to the character!

See, “Marvel NOW!” isn’t really a reboot, it is simply a marketing scheme. Essentially this is the landscape of the post AvX (Avengers vs X-Men) Marvel universe. That event gave them the excuse to create even more X-books, add a bunch of off-shoot Avengers titles and… renumber? Wow, what a bold step forward Marvel! Excuse me for a moment while I go beat my head into my monitor a few times.

You still have characters/teams with such long and convoluted histories that are continually referenced (I guess in attempts to fuel back-issue sales? Whatever it is, I shouldn’t feel like I have to do homework just to understand what the hell is going on in a comic book), characters who show up as regular players in so many books that it is almost impossible to suspend the disbelief enough to buy Marvel’s attempt at universe continuity (I am looking squarely at you Wolverine) and you can’t blink without some huge Marvel-wide crossover being shoved down your throat.

Age of UltronThat’s right; before they even got the first couple issues of their flagship books out, Marvel was already priming the pumps for their huge cross-over event “The Age of Ultron.” A ten issue mini-series that will tie into multiple Marvel books and promises to re-write the landscape of the Marvel universe (Nope, never heard that before… oh wait, yes I have. At least twice a year. Aaaarrrgghhh!!!). Wouldn’t it make more sense to actually lay out a navigable landscape to start with before they send a super-evil robot tearing through all the major books? And wouldn’t it be nice if you like to read a handful of books consistently, that you wouldn’t have to go pick up a mini-series and a few other new books to just to understand what is going on in your favorite series when the inevitable “event” bleeds over into your book?

Just like superheroes dying (Hey look someone killed Professor X… again…*yawn*), Marvel has overdone the massive universe changing event to the point of it almost being laughable. They are almost always super predictable, starting off with an interesting premise that shows promise and then closing out with a whimper. A whimper that is barely audible over the *cha-ching* of Marvel raking in the bucks yet again from fanboys who keep hoping that the company, which used to be so bold and innovative, will eventually return to their roots.

I often wonder if it is fear that keeps Marvel in check, constantly retreading the same ground over and over ad nauseam? Even when faced with a dwindling fan base there seems to be hesitancy on their part to do anything to upset those loyal readers*. While I understand where that mentality is coming from I just can’t understand why it isn’t apparent to them that maintaining the status quo is not going to expand their reader base! In his October 2000 story notes for the X-Men story “E is for Extinction” Grant Morrison wrote the following:

We have to stop talking to the shrinking fan audience and re-engage the attention of the mainstream. Longtime fans will read the book and bitch about it NO MATTER WHAT. We don’t need to attract them, we need to make the book accessible to the real world audience. We need to get X-Men and Marvel comics in the news again, in the cool magazines and on TV… we need to take a closer, harsher look at what’s not working in this book and the comics field in general.

Here we are 13 years later and that quote, if written today, would be just as accurate and on-point as it was back then.

I keep holding my breath that the comic company I used to love so very much will return to its ways of quality over quantity, but it is hard to see a future where that happens. If they couldn’t grow the sack to make those sorts of changes with this “Marvel NOW!” push, then I really don’t know when they will be able to pull the trigger on it. Until they do, DC Comics continues to kick Marvel’s ass from a universe and accessibility perspective!

Make sure to follow @TheMightyJerd on Twitter for all your nerdtacular needs!

*This article was written prior to Amazing Spiderman #700. While it was a very bold move, I fully predict that within a year Peter Parker will somehow cease being dead; which will just cement my assertion that Marvel is guilty of devaluing huge universe changing events such as the death of a major character to nothing more than a shrug-worthy blip on the radar.

 Editor’s note:  Make sure to read Tyler’s counter article, and tell us which side you think is right.  Let us know in the comment section below.

    • kooliebear

      Accessibility is the major issue in comics. How can we get more readers? As readers we want to see more because we wish the world could experience the joys we do. As the publishers they want to see more readers because…well more revenue! Lets face it we all know that the loyal readers interest is always secondary to our wallets. Grant Morrison was right then as he is right now. The DC reboot was successful and it was a jumping on point to a certain degree.

      I still maintain that if you wikipedia many of the characters then the history will blow you away, there is too much back story to ignore. Simple ideas such as Lois being married to Clark, Wonder woman borne from clay and Batman having one protege are gone. These are the foundations for the casual fan who watches animated series and movies. These changes are as big as any in a Marvel reboot. Let us consider the Batman and Lantern legacy as currently both books never really underwent a reboot. Batman has a massive confusing family which includes an actual son, two possibly but maybe not anymore adopted/surrogate sons, a Robin who has returned from the dead to be a good or a bad guy and a woman who was once disabled and now not. The Lantern situation is even worse because we cannot seem to get rid of lanterns anymore, we have all of them in one form of another and include a new lantern and Hal's archenemy and there is carnage! The old emerald guard is no more and there is not a single person that can claim to understand that without reading all the associated books. The largest irony is that Morrison writes the rebooted Action Comics which is so confusing that no one has a clue what Clark is up to! The Superman book itself is not great either so there is no jumping on point for Superman.

      I am not defending Marvel Now because they are also ridiculous. The numerous Avengers teams as well as books are mind boggling and now we have how many X-teams? There is even one from the past! What there are two Cyclops' now? Eh? This needs to be resolved as only a year back we have the Schism which was a landscape changing event. The DC universe went through a crisis to resolve the issue and then what did it do? It brought universes back and then had a mind boggling Final Crisis?! Ultimately the stories need to be told with the same characters we have always had with the limits of a mainstream book: Popular heroes need to be seen everywhere, they cannot really die, no permanent changes can easily be made. There is no such thing as a reboot anymore because nothing is held true, there is no permanent shift. This is the status quo and I do not think it will change, the big two are as bad as each other.

      As fans there is one thing we can do. We have to help new readers. I am a firm believer in the art of comics and that I promote as much as I possibly can. I talk to everyone about them and I lend so many to so many people. Friends know about Batman because of me, my girlfriend understands the X-men predicament because of me and some people out there know what I love because of my blog. A wikipedia page is never enough and it us up to us to spread the love. It is not an easy task as we can be quite the exclusive bunch. We sometimes hold dear the inane sense of detail we think is required to read comics. This makes comics and us unapproachable. We need to become better, because lets face it the big two, as they have repeatedly demonstrated, havent a clue how to do it. They just think rebooting or franchising a product (Before Watchmen) is the way forward, they see it as a business not as a passion. Accessibility relies on the fans spreading the word and giving guidance on what needs to be read, and what can be left behind. We already waste so much money so let us make sure no one else has to. In the new world of social media this has become easier than ever, the medium is out there, we just need to know how to tune into it.

      Don't even get me started on how to promote the independent world of comics!

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my ramblings!

      I 100% agree that the Bat-Family and the Lantern Corps are a mess, that's why I singled them out as the major misstep in the New 52.

      I don't mind the semi-regular (and most necessary) reboots ala Crisis on Infinite Earths. The way the big two run their books, constantly bringing in new creative teams to helm each book in the lineup, makes it impossible to maintain perfect continuity and manageability. As each new writer layers on his personal touches the individual mythos of that book grows, and as a result the comic-verse swells to new proportions. Eventually, like a garden that has grown out of control, it reaches a point where it becomes unmanageable and it needs to be cleaned up and started fresh; and then the cycles begins anew.

      As comic books almost entirely focus on the 2nd of the 3 act structure (the origin and formative years have already been laid out, so the 1st act is relatively defined; while the 3rd act is hinted at but never really comes unless it is in the form of a "future" book such as The Dark Knight Returns or Daredevil: End of Days) it is important to clean things up occasionally so that you can continue to create those 2nd act stories without them getting over-bloated with connections to all the other 2nd act stories.

      Marvel had their big shot to un-complicate the mess and they didn't take it.

    • inkedsoldier

      I love Marvel – and dramatically prefer it to DC for a number of reasons – but I have to begrudgingly agree that their Marvel NOW! initiative fell kind of flat. If you're going to reboot your universe, REBOOT YOUR FREAKING UNIVERSE! Start over from the beginning to allow new readers to come into the fold. My other major issue with Marvel is they have far too many crisscross story lines in their major event arcs (i.e. Fear Itself, Ultimates).

      That being said, I still think that some of the stuff to come out of Marvel NOW is absolutely awesome, and I wish they would have used more of what they did recently with the alternate universe stuff (Zombie Avengers, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe…etc). That stuff is always a blast to sit down and read through from beginning to end. Since I didn't start reading comics really heavily until I was already about 20, I always feel like there's huge chunks I'm missing. Wikipedia articles on characters shouldn't be a necessary reading companion every time I pick up a new issue.

      • thejerd

        Thanks for your input, keep it coming!

    • Jerd I agree with you on the whole reboot concept. Do it right the first time and stop with all these parallel story-lines; I don't have that kind of money.

      But still, I am a Marvel fan all the way through. Also, Aquaman still sucks.

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