Marvel Legacy isn’t just a single comic book released to set up the next year or so of Marvel’s publishing line -- it's the publishing line itself. Legacy is, at its core, a way for Marvel to try to win back any lapsed fans or curious first-time reader with a message that says, “We know what you want, and this is it.”
The tone of Marvel Legacy is strikingly similar to DC’s Rebirth initiative, which began last summer and continues to be a huge hit for the publisher. Even before Marvel Legacy was officially announced, there was speculation that Marvel needed its own Rebirth to get things back on track once the controversial Secret Empire event had wrapped up. Now that we have a better look at the landscape of what Marvel Legacy is and has the potential to be, we can see all the ways it successfully apes DC Rebirth, as well as how it's falling short.
The Rebirth of a Legacy
To start out, the one-shot titled Marvel Legacy #1 is shockingly similar in presentation, structure and format to last year’s DC Universe Rebirth #1. In DC Universe Rebirth, there’s an overarching mystery narrated by a returning fan-favorite character as the comic’s story jumps from vignette to vignette of what different characters are doing, setting up the status quos of their solo books as part of the upcoming initiative. In that case, it was Wally West narrating the mystery of a missing ten years and the presence of Doctor Manhattan in the DCU. Marvel Legacy #1 has the narration of Valeria Richards talking about the concept of legacy within the Marvel Universe, as the mystery of The Fallen, a so-called rabid Celestial seemingly searching for something on Earth, is re-discovered after a billion years by Loki.
It’s definitely an effective way to set up a new line of comics, and you can’t fault Marvel Legacy for copying the Rebirth formula. Even more interestingly, however, is that in a way Legacy manages to do it even better than Rebirth did. While DC Universe Rebirth #1 features shots of what characters such as Superman, Blue Beetle, The Atom and others will be up to in their DC Rebirth branded titles, Marvel Legacy accomplishes that same sort of set-up more effectively. When the story drifts towards Captain America, Thor or Iron Man, and teases the upcoming stories in their titles, it does so with Chris Samnee, Russell Dauterman and Alex Maleev, all artists currently associated with those characters and books going forward. If you want to know what Marvel Two-In-One is going to look like, the Human Torch and Thing page is drawn by Jim Cheung, who will be drawing that title. It gives the Marvel Universe a look of more variety, whereas the message of DC Rebirth was that the DC Universe either looks like Gary Frank, Ivan Reis or Ethan Van Sciver.
The new Marvel titles even look like the Rebirth titles simply in terms of trade dress. One of the smallest but most effective changes of DC Rebirth is that every issue has a story title, or at least the arc itself has a title, and those titles are displayed prominently at the very top of the comic. That way, you don’t just know that you’re buying Action Comics, you know that you’re buying “The Oz Effect.” Marvel Legacy is doing the exact same thing, advertising each Legacy book with its own story title, placed prominently on the front cover; if you’re at all wavering on picking up Invincible Iron Man, the fact that you can see that the story is called “The Search For Tony Stark” might sway you into checking it out. It’s an effective marketing strategy that puts story first and helps readers make their buying choices that much easier.