SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Marvel Legacy #1 by Jason Aaron, Esad Ribić and Steve McNiven, on sale now.
With Secret Empire now in the rear-view mirror and fading into the distance, Marvel Comics looks down the road to its future, kicking off with the supersized Marvel Legacy #1 by Jason Aaron, Esad Ribić and Steve McNiven. While planting the seeds for at least a dozen upcoming storylines, the one-shot plots the course of Marvel's current roster of characters, a path that includes the pending return of several heroes that have recently gone unused, as well as the definitive return of another. Like the title of the issue implies, the familiar characters inserted throughout the issue show that Marvel has not forgotten its own legacy, and that the potential integration of its past franchises alongside the current ones heralds a reason for both longstanding and newer fans to anticipate what's coming.
When Captain Americas Throw Their Mighty Shields
While Secret Empire left a bad taste in the mouths of some readers, it also gave those fans the return of the Steve Rogers they know – not as the Hydra-fied Captain America, not as an old man, and not as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but instead as the true Steve Rogers, who can one day reclaim the role as the Captain America. The return of Mark Waid to Captain America – and with his one-time Daredevil artist partner Chris Samnee, no less – is reason enough for many fans to rejoice, aside from Steve Rogers' eventual presumed return to the role of Cap.
Sam Wilson also returns to his signature role as The Falcon is his own upcoming series by Rodney Barnes and Joshua Cassara, but it should be kept in mind that Sam did find that extra shield at a S.H.I.E.L.D. storage facility this issue. This points to the all-too obvious possibility that Sam or another hero will eventually take on the role of Captain America alongside Steve.
What To Do With All Of These Classic Heroes?
While Marvel has brought on newer, younger, or simply different characters to fill classic superhero roles, it's somewhat danced around what to do with the legacy characters who traditionally filled those roles. Tony Stark has appeared prolifically as an A.I. construct while he himself lies in a coma, giving a non-committal feel to his place in the Marvel Universe. Amadeus Cho has called himself a totally awesome Hulk, while Bruce Banner lies dead. And Laura Kinney has taken on the role of Wolverine, but in an era where death in comics is akin to a temporary illness, the Logan-less Marvel Universe – old man variety notwithstanding – never really carried any sense of permanence.
Unless a storyline entitled "The Search for Tony Stark" ends with "Sorry, we couldn't find him," Tony, and Iron Man, are ultimately likely to return to the Marvel Universe, as precedent has long been established for multiple Iron-types simultaneously co-existing. Amadeus Cho is set to star in a new "Planet Hulk" arc starting when Greg Pak and Greg Land reunite in Incredible Hulk – another reunion anticipated by many – with Amadeus himself set up to be the one true Hulk, complete with Banner-type hang-ups. And the return of Logan (yes, he's back!) stands to set up a pseudo-father/daughter dynamic duo of Wolverines.
Can Marvel's Classic Legacies Truly Be Preserved?
Each instance sets up a unique dynamic integrating the legacies of both new and old – Iron Man and Ironheart as allies, Amadeus Cho who now sees The Hulk as a burden, just as Banner did, and Logan and Laura as a family unit. The legacies of the traditional heroes are being given a formal place in the modern Marvel Universe, rather than just scooting aside to make room for their young successors who don't want to sit at the kids table any longer.
The assimilation signals genuine growth with little pruning required, and stands to walk that fine line between alienating older fans and drawing in newer ones. Readers who have grown attached to the new generation of heroes will continue to see their adventures, and those who felt put out to pasture with the heroes they read growing up have hope that Marvel's Legacy initiative will welcome them back.