The Mighty Marvel Mess

Marvel Comics has a long history of innovation and reinvention. Few eras in the publisher's long history represent this more than the one we're currently suffering through, but it looks like things may be turning around sooner than later.

Enter: Legacy. The next event from Marvel (after the current one, that is..). Legacy apparently aims to reintroduce Marvel's near infinite roster of beloved classic characters, pairing them with their newer, younger (attempted) replacements. This means we'll be seeing Miles in action with Peter, Riri with Tony, Jane with Thor, Kate with Clint, and so on. Marvel is planning a series of ten 1-shot comics to bring these icons back to the front and center of the Marvel Universe.

And, with the House of Ideas clearly running on E, it's long past time they take a look back to what made them THE dominant force in comics in the first place. Give the fans what they want. Stop trying to shoehorn flimsy new characters into powerful and iconic old costumes. This wouldn't just be a case of fan service, or even shilling for a quick buck, but rather a show of intent to the masses of Marvel readers that are left feeling disillusioned and abandoned in favor of a "new" generation of heroes that, quite frankly, are incapable of filling out the borrowed tights they're trying to wear.

I always figured it would take hitting rock bottom in sales for them to consider this. It now seems Marvel has not only hit the bottom, but slammed clear through the basement floor. Perhaps in the depths of sales hell, they'll take a moment to look back on the core of what once made Marvel the mightiest home for heroes the funny pages have ever seen...

But will it be enough to dethrone the Distinguished Competition as the former and current home of heroic storytelling?

DC suffered a problem similar to Marvel's current woes in the not-too-distant past, when it shook off decades of continuity in favor of it's New 52 reboot. While it felt fresh and exciting in the beginning, it didn't take long for the luster to wear thin. Readers longed for the characters and stories they'd known and loved all their lives, not the darker, grittier, colder universe that the New 52 offered. DC listened to their fans, and their response has been nothing short of a rousing success according to critics, fans, and sales figures alike. Rebirth brought back all the qualities that had been lost, and they couldn't have chosen a better time to do it.

DC Rebirth has not only managed to bring back multitudes of fans who had given up on the New 52 universe, but also succeeded in bringing in truck loads of former Marvel fans, still unable to find their footing in the "All-New, All-Different" universe. Thousands of people (myself included) were reading about DC heroes such as Aquaman, Hal Jordan, Hellblazer, and more that they had previously ignored or shrugged off as dorky, old, or irrelevant. These new readers are now hooked, and Marvel is going to be hard pressed to win these folks back. After all, why should they come back?

For all the flack thrown at DC for rebooting their universe, it seems many Marvel zombies are unable to recognize the exact same thing when it happens in their own sandbox. Don't believe me? Just take a look at the Recent Comics racks in any local comic shop. At any given time, there seems to be at least a half dozen new #1's, often times for series that never made it into the double digits of issue numbers. More than anything, this demonstrates that Marvel has been focused more on the cheap sales pop a new #1 brings than they are in actually telling good stories in those books. So, why should disillusioned Marvel fans come back to a universe that can't commit to a series for more than 10 issues, on the vague promise that they intend to return to their roots? That's a question for Marvel to answer, and it's a question that's best answer lies at the core of what wrecked their line in the first place: Secret Wars.

Personally, I enjoyed the Secret Wars series very much. It wasn't without it's problems, but the arc was a massive undertaking that mostly succeeded in what it was trying to do. The issue here is what, exactly, they were trying to do. It seemed the intent was to merge all the alternate realities and timelines into one Marvel universe. That doesn't sound bad on the surface, but what we were left with was nothing short of the dismissal of the iconic, existing heroes in favor of newer, younger characters. Had Secret Wars not happened, or had it ended differently, Marvel could've kept it's Ultimate universe and populated it with all these re-imagined characters, leaving the fan favorites alone to continue doing what they do in the mighty Marvel manner.

Perhaps Legacy will do just that. Or, perhaps, it'll be just another example of Marvel pushing an agenda over good story telling, massive crossovers designed to get you to buy titles you otherwise wouldn't, and another excuse to slap that #1 logo on the cover and milk their fans for another $3.99 (or $4.99, or $5.99). This reader is sincerely hoping for the former but, as they say, I'll believe it when I see it in the funny pages.