Reboots & Rages by Alex Correa
Marvel Comics operates by the old adage of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," unlike DC Comics, who heroically (pardon the pun) "fixed" it, despite their not being in any grave financial peril; the "fix," in this instance, being a hard reboot1 of all their properties across the board. It worked amazingly for DC Comics as their "New 52" line knocked Marvel off their pedestal as top comic book publisher. This sudden shift seemed to be the new status quo for several months until Marvel's big annual crossover event came out and everything turned back to the way it was: with Marvel back on top (with the gap in sales between the two companies being considerably smaller).
Marvel will continue to make money despite itself. The wheel will keep turning, Marvel Studios will stay open, Joe Quesada2 will continue gorging and we, as consumers, play our role as spokes on said wheel by picking up the NEW New Avengers first issue (even though the "new" gimmick wore itself out after its second relaunch).3 Fact is: there is no point of Marvel having a company-wide reboot from their standpoint (which is a financial one) but there is merit in the idea that a fresh start is exactly what they need at this point.
This brings us to "Marvel Now!," what Marvel Comics is naming their current creative endeavour. Marvel Now! sees the final issues of long running titles such as Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and others. Don't be too concerned, though. This happens about as frequently as death in comics (re: VERY frequently). Why cancel books? To relaunch them, of course, with brand new collector's editions brandishing a big, bold "#1" on the cover. The second big draw is the creative shuffle. Jonathan Hickman, who wrote Fantastic Four, moves on to Avengers. Brian Michael Bendis, formerly Avengers' scribe shifts to X-Men. Jason Aaron to Thor, Mark Waid to Hulk, Matt Fraction to Fantastic Four, Rick Remender to Avengers, etcetera, etcetera. Brand new writers teaming with brand new artists on a familiar brand with a different creative direction. The process is very similar to what DC Comics did with its New 52, save for one difference: no reboot.
Why does this matter? Let's see. A reboot means a freedom in storytelling that a writer lacks when having to adhere to a continuity4 that stretches back to the sixties. A reboot could mean a Batman: Year One or an All-Star Superman, or even Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Instead of aiming for revolutionary, Marvel is contented with merely acceptable stories that tread familiar ground with the only groundbreaking changes being new superhero team rosters or a death (maybe two!). The most significant moment in modern Marvel Comics history that had nothing to do with big name writers (I'm looking at you, Joss Whedon) was when Daredevil was outed to the media and public as his alter ego, Matt Murdock. It was such a breath of fresh air to see Marvel editors be unafraid to take this brave step in storytelling so impactful that repercussions are still felt to this day, ten years later. While not exactly a reboot, it demonstrates the mentality that's needed, which leads to the Ultimate universe.
Oh, Ultimate universe. What the hell happened?5 In 2000, Marvel began a comic line that first consisted of only two titles: Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men. The goal was the reimagine and reintroduce popular Marvel characters in modern day settings. So Peter Parker had an aging, long haired hippie for an uncle, rocked a grungy haircut with a skateboard and instead of working as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, Peter Parker worked as their web-designer (again, ignore the pun). Not only did it modernize these characters, but it was wildly successful, both critically and financially; also add the fact that movies took cues from these books as well, if you paid attention to the recent Amazing Spider-Man or the black leather costumes in the original X-Men trilogy. With the addition of the Ultimates (an ultimatized version of the Avengers), this reimagined continuity was picking up steam and actually could have stepped up as the NEW Marvel universe. Just imagine how much sense it would have made: the Fantastic Four's origin would have been about scientific discovery rather than a Cold War race to the moon. Flashbacks of Peter Parker would no longer involve him in a cardigan and crew cut hairstyle. The sixties era of clothing could have been omitted when recapping the early years of the X-Men's history. But no. They decided to kill off nearly everyone (Wolverine and Peter Parker included) and introduce a whole new set of characters. The reboot that should have been but never was.
And now we have Marvel Now!, the cosmetic reboot that just isn't one. There will most likely be a few worthwhile books to follow as well as tremendously talented artists giving it their all -- I'm not taking anything away from the very talented people working on these titles. However, I doubt there will be anyone saying "Make mine Marvel Now!" anytime soon. Now if you want me, I'll be the spoke on wheel buying almost all of these books when they come out. But I won't be proud of it.
1 This article is going to be throwing quite a few big boy comic book terms around, the first of which is "reboot" which refers to the restarting of a comic book series beginning at the origin point of the character(s).
2 Joe Quesada is Marvel Comics Chief Creative Officer and is fat.
3 "Relaunch" refers to a comic book restarting at issue one for one reason or another.
4 While not necessarily a comic book term, "continuity" is the back story of any narrative.
5 Jeph Loeb.
6 Thank you, Jeph Loeb.