It seems that every couple of years comic book companies need to reinvent themselves. They often take years worth of storytelling and take a dramatic shift heading into new and possibly exciting directions, but often times leaving readers annoyed and weary of changes being made to continuity. Being a comic book fan is difficult at times especially when one considers that the medium has a tendency to dictate towards the movies and less towards the loyal readers. When comic companies start messing with continuity though it’s only a matter of time before hardcore fans take to the streets with pitchforks and torches trying to preserve the stories they love.
There are times when these shifts in storytelling work though. Take DC’s Rebirth one shot from last year. This was an issue designed to help erase the frustration of readers who hated the companies New 52 direction. DC heard it’s fans and created a story that would help return the company back to more familiar territory with its readers, and largely it’s been a success. The stories being told within the DC Universe right now seem to hold tighter narratives while restoring continuity that had been missing during the New 52 experiment. Rebirth was refreshing and filled with hope and one of the most exciting comic reading experiences I’ve had in a long time.
Marvel recently found themselves in a similar position. Having taken a good amount of criticism for massive crossover events that were constantly changing the state of the Marvel Universe. Marvel thought it would a good idea to restore a little hope into the universe and designed a one shot of their own. Having spent years writing stories where the heroes were fighting the heroes, Marvel thought it would be time to return to an age where the heroes focused more on saving the world than fighting each other. On paper, it’s a great idea. Take the focus on some of the classic heroes and remind readers of why they fell in love with Marvel comics in the first place. A one-shot issue, Marvel Legacy, was released earlier this week in the hopes of restoring those feelings. A book that was supposed restore faith in the fan base that Marvel was going to go into a brighter direction, not unlike Rebirth.
Having read Marvel Legacy I’m not entirely sure what’s changed. Legacy is an oversized book written by Jason Aaron (who writes kickass Thor and Star Wars books) and presented a number of new storylines, but I’m not entirely sure if it established those feelings of hope that Marvel intended. As a matter of fact, it seemed a bit more of the same. A book that’s supposed to shift away from heroes fighting heroes had at least one hero vs hero fight and never captured a different tone for the company.
Rebirth was so refreshing and exciting because it was a DC book that had some dark elements in it but focused centrally on the idea of hope. It felt different because the tone provided was different. Rebirth jumped off its pages supplying the set up for a number of different storylines while maintaining a new tone and a direction for the company. Legacy set up a bunch of storylines but never brought that new tone and now I wonder if it’s just another “game-changing event” for the Marvel Universe to be pushed aside in a year or two.
I love Marvel comics. I haven’t been shy about that fact. The majority of comics that I read are from Marvel, and I have enjoyed their stories for the most part. I was not a huge fan of the conclusion of Secret Empire, an event that held so much promise to be something more, and I’ve been finding that I’m suffering from event fatigue. Civil War II was pretty awful and was clearly used to cash in on the Civil War name and I’m still trying to figure out what happened with Secret Wars. It seems over the past few years that Marvel has dictated their storytelling to lead to one massive event so they can shake up the foundation every year in order to cash in on more books. It’s getting to the point now where I’m just rolling my eyes and choosing to ignore these events.
Legacy comes at the hefty price of $5.99 and reeks as an excuse to charge loyal readers more for something they “can’t miss”. At least DC has realized that the cost of books is a deterrent for readers and has lowered the majority of their books to $2.99. Marvel hasn’t flinched on pricing and it’s a bit frustrating. At some point it almost seems like the company is taking advantage of their fan base, and in a time where comic book buying has dropped dramatically, one would think that they would try to be as accommodating as possible. For the sake of the medium and to show some loyalty to fans.
With all that being said though, Legacy isn’t a bad book. There are a number of events that transpire that are exciting. There’s the return of a classic character, that Marvel spoiled themselves earlier in the week (that’s a column in itself), some interesting developments for Black Panther, Tony Stark, and the Hulk as well as the foreshadowing of a much-desired return. Legacy does a good job of setting up the next year of Marvel comics, and that’s exciting, but pegging it as a new direction just seems like a mislead.
I have little faith that Legacy is going to hold and I know that the company has said it’s looking to steer away from big event comics for a while yet I can’t help but feel like they’re lying. Marvel is motivated by the big event comic as its a reason to raise prices and erase the board for more books that will have raised prices. As a constant reader of comics who spends a healthy amount of money weekly on books, I’m getting a bit frustrated. After a while the smoke and mirrors gets old and the fans will call you out for crying wolf. Maybe I’m wrong and Legacy is actually a step in a new direction for Marvel, and I’d really like that to be the case. I do worry that focusing on the “classic” characters will start to make these younger heroes irrelevant, but that’s a story for another day. For now, Marvel has promised change and seemingly gave us more of the same and it was that lack of changed that hindered my reading experience.
After Legacy call me apprehensively excited. I’m holding on to the hope that there will be a new direction but I’m fully expecting an event announcement in a couple of months. Just in time for summer. Where do we go from there? Probably more of the same from the House of Ideas. Here’s hoping I’m wrong though.