Congratulations! We have cornered the market on being succinct! For new readers and old alike, Marvel Comics are definable in a universal fashion. Retailers hear “Oh, I don’t know anything about comics” on a daily basis, so now there’s a very simple and interesting way to talk about the Marvel Universe in general. As of the start of the Heroic Age, Marvel-flavored comics are about (now right this down): heroes, both mortal and super-powered, coming together to form alliances and make the world a better place despite past mistakes.
Tah-dah! From this humble little back jacket blurb, the new reader can be directed to a number of #1 issues coming out this summer that will illustrate this point to some degree. The Avengers is now a self-styled franchise, this week the Avengers Academy showed us a great setting to hook younger readers in with, some old characters have been dusted off, given a new look and fresh start on their fictional lives. Welcome to the beginning.
Again. We’ve already had that beginning/fresh start/young new characters/slew of #1 issues before. The Heroic Age has thus been more roll call than running start. In our new Avengers books (as opposed to our New Avengers books) thus far, the action is brief and cliffhangery; you just get to the action in time for the twist ending that is supposed to catch you into the next issue. This is a great way into introduce new readers to characters they haven’t been following before or get people settled into the all new, all different setting (that looks a lot like Marvel say seven years ago or so) , but these kind of get-togethers can leave the long reading fan feeling déjà vu. It’s like getting an appetizer when, no thank you, we’ve been waiting for this meal since January when the Heroic Age was announced so let’s get to the main course. For we True Believers, another refresh might seem a little unsatisfying.
The reason why you may be still hungry is decompressed storytelling. And possible bad eating habits; if either of these relate to you, please see a professional about the latter and follow me about the former.
Decompressed storytelling has been ruling our comic lives for the past seven years. It’s such a standard there’s a sort of adrenaline rush that a Big Tent Event can bring , the kind that can have you signing up for a slew of tie-ins and aftermaths, strung out to know more. For years, one has led into another from Avengers: Disassembled to Siege with little more than a couple deep breaths for a selection of follow-up titles before we’re back to the big threat again. Each major event leaves a big footprint behind that stories fall into before the next footprint reshapes the whole thing. Avengers: Disassembled led into House of M which got people thinking about the events that led to Civil War which in turn created the group that brought World War Hulk which brought aliens to Earth rather like Secret Invasion when Norman Osborn came out on top and started Dark Reign which leads us to now and…? Well, see the above: heroes, both mortal and super-powered, coming together to form alliances and make the world a better place despite past mistakes.
For old readers, that doesn’t have an ounce of that zazz that Event Storylines have gotten us used to. What’s great for Joe Q. Public can bore Joe Q. Fan.
And in the next couple of years, we’re going to be reintroduced to a lot more people; the Captain America and Thor movies will be close enough to the origin stories that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby set down, but only enough for copyrights. Spider-Man is getting a reboot even though his last movie came out 3 years ago, making this the equivalent of a Mephisto Deal on a celluloid level. Movie goers can’t be bogged down by continuity and stable relationships so let’s get fresh. X-Men: First Class is all about restarts as we’re getting younger, hipper characters to play out stories that should be ingrained in popular culture enough not to need explanation. But by God, we love an origin story. We love it more than a regular storyline because in that #1 is the future. We haven’t had time to hate it yet. If you retell an origin,we know how the story’s going to end and that the Fantastic Four are going to be the Stretchy Guy, the Guy on Fire, the Invisible chick and the Guy Who’s Made Up of Rocks, plus we get to be there when it happens. We get to be a part of that inspiration, that moment in history but only when it’s your history, not the one your dad read when he was a kid.
That moment of inspiration is beautiful, the first shock and thrill of web-slinging, the heartbreak of losing your uncle, playing with those strange new powers before you put them to good use. It’s human too, and the human connection is a Marvel cornerstone. And as beautiful as that moment is, I just wish that we could let it go. We don’t want to watch an Iron Man Movie that takes too long to get him into the Iron Man armor. The Fantastic Four movie loved it’s origin story so much we were left wanting more superhero adventure and less lackluster Doom. On the other hand, remember the recent Incredible Hulk movie? The entire concept for the movie’s plot was given to you in the credits: Banner makes machine, machine breaks, makes Hulk, his girlfriend gets hurt and he’s chased around the world as a wanted man by the government BAM! That’s all we need. Ang Lee took forever to get to that point and it used to be done in the opening credits of a TV show.
What I’m trying to say is that saying too much isn’t a good thing. Giving us a moment with each of your new Avengers (as opposed to your New Avengers) isn’t necessary, just get us to the big show because starting fresh time after time leaves us a little cold. After enough massive threats to humanity, the idea of a Heroic Age just doesn’t sound as exciting anymore. While we might be in the Heroic Age, the House of Ideas is still writing for the event book, simplifying and starting anew to no new threats on the horizon. I never would have guessed that Event Fatigue might have kept some fans in, just for the rush of that next new book. The Heroic Age and all of its normality might seem like what we even wanted, but the #1s and cast list shuffles just don’t have the push we need to set this at Heroic Levels.
We need to hit the ground running. No more slow character spotlights for now, let’s just talk adventure.
Action and suspense and revelations that give us that Big Event feel without the massive tie-ins and convoluted pacing. We don’t need to announce it to the high heavens when a book is going to get good and then tie a bunch of other books to it like tin cars on a honeymoon car. Just tell good stories and save the twists for when we’re settled in. All these #1 issues only give you a taste of what’s to come and they could have easily been #0 issues. Hey new reader, take this ticket to the big show and old fans, may we direct you to the front row seats?