Few things in comics are more evident than the love hate relationship that comic fans have with comic books and publishing companies. For those of us that love Superman, Supergirl and the rest of DC's roster, you may have spent the last few months feeling slightly distraught and apprehensive about the impending changes to the DCU.
And as much as DC's publicity has tried to quell your fears, the fact that there has been no mention of what will happen to characters like Stephanie Brown (Batgirl) and Wally West (the former Flash) can be a bit disheartening when these are some of your favorite characters. I know how you feel. Recently I wrote an article on Cassandra Cain and why I felt she deserved better treatment in the new DC Universe, instead of being stuck in limbo for the foreseeable future (which, as far as I can tell based on solicits for upcoming comics, is exactly what will happen to our poor Cass). But DC isn't the only company getting flack from it's fans about the state of mainstream comics. Marvel has been getting an earful as well -- and while the argument is different, Marvel fans have been equally as vocal.== TEASER ==
Year after year, month after month, Marvel has released big events that encompass their entire gallery of characters into some sort of life-altering, crazy event. Within the last few weeks, the publisher revealed they were once again gearing up for big Marvel events this fall -- however it would not be just one. Last week we saw the release of the teasers for Marvel's latest X-Men event -- first there was Schism, and after 'schism' was revealed to be caused by a split within the X-Men (Cyclops and Wolverine) and that Schism would break into an array of new books. Not to be outdone by DC's "new 52 number one's," Marvel will be launching an all new X-Men book, Wolverine and the X-Men #1' this October. The publisher will also be relaunching Uncanny X-Men as a #1 issue, and will make vast changes to the rosters of their X-Men books. We posted all the teaser images here which you can see for yourself. But the new X-Men era isn't the only big event Marvel has cooking.
Last week Marvel released teaser images for their all new upcoming event Shattered Heroes which implied that many of the Avengers would be 'broken' following the Fear Itself event, which is due to conclude this fall. When we put the preview images for those teasers up on Comic Vine, I, like many of you, let out a little groan. Yet another event from Marvel comics.We shouldn't be surprised since big events are just the way the Marvel Universe works, but have we had enough already?
The truth is, Marvel has been revolving many of their biggest and most impactful stories around major story arcs since the 1960's. So we should probably be used to reading them by now, right? Not exactly. Since the beginning of 2001, Marvel started publishing at least twice the number of events per year. Prior to that, Marvel was only doing an event per year. Now, events are intertwined and cross over into a plethora of books and tie-ins -- the repercussions of previous events stumble into new events. For example, Fear Itself will result in Shattered Heroes, and if I have to guess, whatever happens in Shattered Heroes will cause Marvel's next big event which will be introduced probably sometime in January.
The game changer was probably Marvel's release of House of M and Decimation in 2005, which not only changed everything in the X-Men Universe, but the repercussions of that event can still be seen today (and are still referenced) in books like Avengers Children's Crusade. In 2005, Marvel released three events, House of M, Decimation, and Spider-Man: The Other. Secret War which had begun in 2004 flooded into 2005. In 2007 we saw six events, two of which (Civil War and Annihilation) started at the end of 2006 and went into 2007. In 2010 fans witnessed fifteen major Marvel events, five of which started in 2009 and ended in 2010. Its no wonder fans are complaining about the number of events and event crossovers that we are seeing today -- and personally, I think they have a reason to be complaining. Everything feels like a massive comic book event. No longer do Marvel books read like character driven stories that aren't prompted by some massive life-altering catastrophe. We are seeing more and more of "Is this the end of ______?" and less of the stories that focused on the development and nourishment of individual characters. Sure, sometimes the events that take place can change a character and force them to reflect. Take for example the death of Johnny Storm (Fantastic Four #588) which could be considered a crossover (it crossed into Amazing Spider-Man). In Amazing Spider-Man #657 Peter got to reflect on the life and death of Johnny, one of his closest friends. And as beautiful and poignant as it was, does someone always have to die for characters to appreciate them?
I don't blame the publishers for their decision to make these big events the center of their stories given the proof in numbers which books have the most sales. Books that featured the death of Johnny Storm and Spider-Man in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #153 revolved around big events. People want to read the issues where the heroes die this crazy death, but not enough people want to read the stories that are told in-between and focus on the development, evolution and growth of these characters.
Even though the events and event cross-overs draw the biggest numbers, Marvel hasn't yet given up on character driven stories. In fact, I would venture to say that most of my favorite Marvel books out right now are disconnected from big crossover events -- and should probably stay that way. Daredevil, for example, which has been relaunched by Mark Waid is turning out to be an absolutely fantastic title. The book, so far, seems to be self contained, focusing on the return of Matt Murdock to New York City and to his former role as Daredevil. Not only is the story accessible because (so far) the focus has remained solely on Matt's character, but it's fun to read. It's interesting to explore the facets of Matt's character that make him so appealing in the first place.
Writer Marjorie Liu has been continuing to deliver a highly entertaining series with the release of X-23. X-23 focuses solely on the character development of X-23 -- even with all of the crazy shake-ups happening in the X-Men universe right now (Schism) X-23 has remained unscathed and has (so far) survived the wrath of the cross-over. It continues to be a book that revolves almost entirely on the different aspects of Laura's character, and how she deals with coming to terms with who and what she is.
As far as team books go, Uncanny X-Force has been almost entirely disconnected from any other cross-over event at Marvel, save for a Fear Itself mini-series which had absolutely nothing to do with the Uncanny X-Force ongoing title by Rick Remender. The story there, while confusing at times for new readers, continues to be totally enthralling. This X-Men team book is god because it has nothing to do with the big events in the Marvel Universe. Only time will tell if the title will remain under the radar and continue to remain separate from the rest of the goings on of the Marvel Universe.
If you have felt like there have been more events and cross-over events at Marvel in the last few years, it's because there have been. But as of right now, it's still good to know that there are still mainstream Marvel books that have not been influenced by these big events, and continue to be books you can go to in order to read a solid character driven story. What do you think of the number of Marvel's big events? Are you more inclined to purchase big event books, or character driven stories?