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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

My Conundrum of Current Comics Events (Amended)

An amendment is offered at the end of this article, so keep reading if you want to be a witness to my crow dinner.

(Originally posted on Komikazee.)

My Conundrum Concerning Comics Current Events

(Warning: The following contains the possibly annoying venting of an aging fan.)
I’m empty. Having finished D.C.’s Infinite Crisis, as well as the first issue of Marvel’s Civil War, I feel like the guy who had two rice cakes for lunch over two hours ago. There’s simply not enough sustenance there to carry me over to the next meal. Or, in the case of comics, the next “big event.” Therein lies the problem.

These are event-driven projects. Take Infinite Crisis (Please!); it was an attempt
to add to the amazing work of Crisis On Infinite Earths, which, in my opinion, had no dangling strings to be sewn up. The first Crisis stood on it’s own, as one of the most awe-inspiring and well-done stories in comics history. Don’t get me wrong, Infinite Crisis had a few “Wow!” scenes, like the sacrificial death of Superboy (Conner Kent) at the hands of the Earth-Prime Superboy (I’ll throw in an extra “Oy!”) Unless I’ve missed something, however, there was no serious character development and no new or amazing revelations about characters in the mainstream D.C. universe. It was a big-budget slugfest without an inspired storyline. Y’know, like a Steven Seagal movie.

Then there’s Civil War. Remember those great Marvel team-up stories, wherein some of your favorite heroes were required to duke it out before joining forces against a common enemy? After reading the first issue, I feel fairly confident in predicting that the rest of the story will be, in that sense, a fanboy’s dream: lots of team up action (in the form of two big teams) and lots of knock-down drag-outs between some of your favorite characters, with few or no lasting repercussions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, you have to admit, considering the Civil War checklist lists over 80 comics as being part of the story, whether main or tie-ins, fans would have every right to expect something long-term will come out of all of this.

I suppose, however, that this could all be the inane raving of an aging reader. I mean, if the fans are satisfied, that’s what counts, right? Well...., maybe not. At least in Marvel’s case. They’re getting ready, once again, to shut down Spider-Girl, despite a proven loyal, and depending on who you listen to, growing readership. On her 100th issue, no less. If the irony doesn’t immediately slap you in the face, let me help; no other Marvel comic with a female lead has EVER reached 100 issues. Yet, Marvel is anxious to put the kibosh on a milestone book.
Oh, I know Marvel is a business, and, first and foremost, they have a responsibility to stockholders, not fans. But, it seems to me that when a property has the proven ability to capture and hold readers as Spider-Girl has, a company would see the profitability in that. The digests have already proven a solid seller in bookstores, after all. And, if the rumors of Marvel simply relaunching the title are to be believed, even that would seem to be a waste of time and effort. Why not let it continue, simultaneously placing it in new avenues of commerce, for potential readers? How about in Wal-Mart stores, in the magazine section along with Shonen Jump? It’s a well-known fact that kids are reading THAT book. Or even in the toy department of such stores, as they’re doing with their black-and-white digests reprinting Silver Age superhero material? I mean, it may work and it may not. But, as the old saying goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

On the other hand, maybe that old chestnut went out with character-driven stories. Ya think?

Okay, for the record, Marvel has restarted Spider-Girl, and I STILL think it was a waste of time, effort and what little marketing went into it. My opinion of Infinite Crisis is also unchanged, as is my belief that, overall, Civil War was largely event-driven and not character-driven.

Now for my self-served slap-down concerning Civil War. My prediction was that there would be “few or no lasting repercussions.” Well, not only have the effects of C.W. been felt across the Marvel Universe, but it seems they will be dictating the very appearance of said universe for years to come. Some developments below:

- Peter Parker: Fugitive - Having revealed his Spider-Man identity to the world and rebelled against the Superhero Registration Act, Parker is now a fugitive, and his wife and aged Aunt May are on the run with him. May’s death is also on the horizon, another Civil War ramification, as I understand it. I’m not sure how big a deal losing the secret identity is in the long run, as Iron Man (Tony Stark) and Daredevil (Matt Murdock) have both been able to re-establish theirs after having them revealed to the public in the past. I’ve no doubt that, at some point, things will return to the old status quo. For the short term, however, it could make for some very interesting reading.

- A Chicken in Every Pot, and a Super Team For Every State - That’s right. In the post-Civil War Marvel Universe, every state gets a specially trained group of super-powered do-gooders. I actually find this to be an interesting premise, wrought with many different possibilities. Though, I wonder if Marvel will ever get around to telling stories for each one. Hmmmm. I wonder who will comprise the Oklahoma team?

- Tony Stark Plays Spy-Games - Iron Man’s alter ego is now head of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division). If you consider that he was instrumental in the implementation and enforcement of the Registration Act, this is a somewhat scary premise, as Stark now gets to use the most powerful international peace-keeping organization in the world to carry out his plans.

Less interesting developments involving some of Marvel’s most popular characters:

- Fantastic Four Roster Change - The Black Panther (King of the island nation of Wakanda) and Storm (formerly of the X-Men) join The Thing and The Human Torch as the new F.F. The membership has changed many times in the past, so this, in and of itself, is nothing new.

- Steve Rogers Hangs up His Shield - Dramatic, perhaps, but not new. The man better known as Captain America has ditched that gig for no less than two other costumed identities in the past - The Captain and Nomad.

- Spider-Man is Black - That is, he’s in the black costume again. My initial excitement as a 16-year-old comics fan at witnessing the debut of the costume in 1984 notwithstanding, it has come and gone a few times since then. Not new, and not particularly exciting.

Don’t get me wrong, the respective creative teams may build wonderfully innovative stories around those last three changes, which is certainly my hope. The events themselves, however, are not enough to be considered ground-breaking, or even interesting, in my opinion.

And, all of the above items are only part of the changes in store for Marvel readers. My hat is off to the creators at the House of A Few Good Ideas for at least trying to shake up a universe; the words “few or no lasting repercussions” will haunt me for years. Or, at least ‘til I go to sleep tonight.