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Ok, Axis! Here we come!

JSFan's question hit me right after i found out that my two current favorite Marvel books were being cancelled, and so it mixed in with other thoughts that were floating around in my head, so i wanted to wait a little bit before responding.

It's worth noting that before these cancellations, creative team shifts were announced on Iron Man and the Hulk, and i wasn't interested in following the titles after that. Which already put me in a really weird spot where i'm not reading any of the "big" titles about the more obvious characters. We've stopped reading Avengers, our forays into the X-titles didn't go well, same with Fantastic Four, and i can't bring myself to read Spider-Man after Brand New Day.

At least compared to my local comic reading friends, i liked Bendis' Avengers run more than most, but even i was souring on him in the end, and the things that i soured on made me unable to enjoy his X-books. And i've never liked Dan Slott or Matt Fraction. I feel like i ought to like Jonathan Hickman but i'm unable to. And Uncanny Avengers convinced me i'm not a fan of Rick Remender. Brian Wood's x-title started off promising but we got sick of that pretty quick, too. So that pretty much leaves me off of all the core Marvel books.

And that's fine because Marvel has been admirably running a second stream of quirkier or more "indie" style books. And we had been reading a lot of those, from "FF" (where Allred's art overrode whatever i don't like about Fraction) to Superior Foes and New Warriors. And i'd also put the Waid/Samnee Daredevil in that category, and also the Hawkeye book even though that's another one i'm not getting. And this new wave of female led books: Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, She-Hulk, Elektra. But FF was cancelled, and now SFOES and New Warriors are as well, and we've decided to drop Black Widow. I'm also pretty ambivalent about Captain Marvel. I think Ms. Marvel is great and after the latest issue She-Hulk is moving up there for me, and so far Elektra has been pretty good. But my crisis of faith at the moment is that none of those books are awesome books that, by themselves, would get me to the comic store. They are books that i'd pick up while i'm at the comic store to get something great. Maybe Ms. Marvel and Daredevil should be, but i'm not feeling it at the moment. They're books i put in the middle of my pile and am always happy to read, and i usually enjoy them more than i anticipate i will, but they're not the ones that i save for last because i know i'm going to love them.

Now, i should mention that i don't actually go to the comic store. Friend Wanyas picks up my books for me. So on momentum alone i'll probably keep getting what i'm getting. But i really am feeling like i need an "anchor" book or i am going to continue to let books drop and eventually stop picking up Marvel monthlies. Especially since a lot of the books i'm getting are skirting the cancellation line.

But all of the above is just ebb and flow. At one point in the 90s i was down to just Peter David's Hulk, so it's not the first time i'm just not interested in Marvel's current output. I came back in a big way with Heroes Reborn and enthusiastically stuck around when (pre EiC) Quesada launched the Marvel Knights line. And i was pretty enthused with the Return of the Mega Crossover era (moreso beginning with Civil War than House of M) in the beginning. So it's entirely possible that Marvel turns things around in a way that gets me picking up more books again.

But to get to JSFan's specific question, i stick with Marvel books because i'm very much invested in the Marvel universe. Not necessarily specific characters, but the universe itself. If it was just the characters i think i would be satisfied with the movies or would have switched over to the more manageable Ultimate universe. I grew up with the idea of Marvel as a contiguous ongoing story, and i like to keep in touch with that story, even if i can't or won't get all the pieces. I've said all this over in the Timeline project and elsewhere on this blog, but the huge and intertwining aspect of the Marvel universe makes it unique, intriguing, and bigger than the sum of the individual books. Even books that are pretty terrible quality wise become great because of what they add and the way they get built upon. I think that's awesome and in its own special way makes the Marvel universe "story" at least as appealing to me as an A+ quality Neil Gaiman Sandman run.

As an aside (and i'm repeating myself from older posts with this too), this is where i think Marvel has a disconnect with a certain (small, cranky) segment of its readers, me included. I've seen Tom Brevoort say things like continuity is fine but it shouldn't get in the way of a good story, and that seems to make logical sense, but i actually disagree when it comes to Marvel universe stories. The continuity is the main appeal of those stories. So when it's discarded (mistakes are one thing, and it's clear from my project that they happened all the time; i'm talking about a very conscious decision to not worry about it), the stories really do have to stand on the strength of the writing and art quality. And frankly, you can get much better standalone stories from other sources. I'm not saying it's impossible to get works of art out of ongoing super-hero comics, but it's not something you're going to achieve on a regular basis.

And that gets to a difference now compared to when i was just collecting Hulk. At that point there were enough touchpoints with the rest of the Marvel universe that i could see what was going on. I saw the changes to the Avengers line-up, i saw the various Infinity crossovers, i saw bone claw Wolverine, etc. (and by the way, guys, i picked up a lot of the stuff i skipped out on as back issues not long after the fact thanks to the market crash, so just to be clear it's not like i never read Infinity Gauntlet).

Nowadays, many of the books, especially the more "indie" books, are completely isolated from the Marvel universe. Daredevil has actually been an exception to this; thanks to that and Waid's Hulk, i was able to keep up with the more recent crossovers despite not actually getting them. But all the other books exist in a vacuum. And on top of that Tom Brevoort has been signaling to us old timers that there really isn't a Marvel universe any more and we really need to get over it. I've been unable to fully accept that, but it does have an effect. If there were a clean break of some sort - the sort of reboot that the rumors have been predicting for years now - i think i'd be more relieved than disappointed. But at this point i still feel half obligated and half genuinely still attached enough to the larger Marvel universe story to plug along with at least some books on my pull list. And along the way there have been great writers in recent years that have done some fun books that delve into Marvel "continuity" the way i like - Yost, Wells, Van Lente, Pak, Parker, Gage, Abnett/Lanning and Gillen all come to mind - and i'm sure there will be more in the future. If there isn't a reboot (release me, Marvel!).

In the meantime, i really do feel like i need a book that connects me more directly with the goings-on of the Marvel universe. And since i don't really love any of the writers of the core books, i was considering just collecting whatever the crossover of the moment was, since those are the books where things mainly "happen" nowadays and they feature most of the Marvel characters. When i suggested that to my local friends they looked at me like i had two heads, but that may nonetheless be the way to go.

By fnord12 | August 25, 2014, 3:56 PM | Comics


I left Marvel when I went to college, which happened to be right as Onslaught was concluding and Marvel had demolished everything I once liked--except PAD's Hulk, and even that was never consistently good once Gary Frank left.

I came back in the early 2000s, first hoping that Claremont would pick up where he left off with his X-Men return, but when that didn't happen I stuck around for PAD's Captain Marvel and new things like Runaways and Young Avengers, which I loved, and Busiek's Avengers and FabNic's a Thunderbolts, which seemed like bad cover versions of '80s comics I had loved. I sampled Grell's IM, Bruce Jones's Hulk, and a few other things and was repulsed--not by the darkness, which PAD's Hulk often had, but by the sheer unlikability of every character.

Well, Marv got cancelled and the good creators left YA and Runaways. After that, I dabbled a little more, and finally I did the crossovers-only thing during World War Hulk. I might have continued with Hulk except that was the beginning of Loeb's Red Hulk, and another repellent lead character.

Since then, I've been a reader of no Marvel but back issues and Essentials and old-school trades. My interst in the universe is as high as ever, which is why I post here, but nothing Marvel publishes seems worth the effort and price. Even series I know I'd like are pointless because they'll get cancelled in a year or, worse, rebooted into something repellent. Knowing that Bendis was the fate awaiting the team makes me glad I never started reading DnA's Guardians of the Galaxy. (I did read Giffen's Drax and the first Annihilation.)

I think Marvel has traded short-term booms for long-term brand loyalty. I could easily be reading a few current comics, maybe more than a few. But I'd want to invest in long-term development that showed respect for the characters and their world. I'm amazed that Marvel thinks its current system of over-promoting Bendis and relying on badly received crossovers lke Age of Ultron isn't destroying the only thing the publishing company (as opposed to the more important IP company) has going for it, the accumulated goodwill of readers who got hooked in the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Modern comics that appeal to these readers have been written by guys like BKV and those you mention, and guys like Gillen and Mike Carey seem to love the old continuity as much as we do. But Marvel is stuck in a rut instead.

Hi fnord, you remarked: "i stick with Marvel books because i'm very much invested in the Marvel universe. Not necessarily specific characters, but the universe itself". I find this one of, if not the main reasons Marvel are failing to capture new readers. If you're a Marvel fan and know the history, then the stories can be followed easier.

I often go into my local comic story and pick up random books that I might be interested in but I can't get into the story straight away. Now I know I sound like an old man but in the "good ol days" I could pick up any random book (which I did) and get straight into a a story, even if it was a two, three, four or ongoing story. I had no problem understanding what was going on. I was reading a Conan comic from 87, yesterday and It was the second part of a 2 part story. The 1st 3 pages did a great recap without sounding too expository but modern books can't be bothered with doing such a simple thing. Everyone knows that every book is someones 1st book it's comic book storytelling 101.

I also find the art to be uninteresting, crude and lacking basic storytelling. The Black Widow panel, especially the one where the guy was supposed to grab her gun. I didn't even know that was the case and could barely work out the speed lines due to the very dark coloring (another thing that irks me about modern comics).

The one book, that felt had that old school storytelling was New Warriors, but I was afraid it would get cancelled and, yep, it got cancelled so I'm sort of glad that I didn't get into it. Although, on reflection by not buying it I helped to get it cancelled...if you know what I mean.

I'm not sure why Marvel go for these gimmick: issue 0, issue 1.1, reeboots, crossovers, etc. I believe in concentrating on great stories would go a long way to helping them for the long-term. It's also not about trying to impress the "fanboys" (no disrepect) it's about attracting readers of all ages.

Rant over.

One thing that required some adjustment for me is that Marvel is now definitely writing "for the trade", so to speak, where they don't want to have characters re-explaining the plot every chapter. And that's understandable to a degree, but it does make it much more difficult to pick up a series mid-stream. And the things you don't like, like the reboots and the point one issues, are actually meant to help people understand when there's a safe jumping on point. In practice i'd say it doesn't work as well as intended - i've read point one issues that were equally incomprehensible to a new reader and others that had nothing to do with the regular series - but that's what they're going for.

I'm ranting, again. I think I might have to make this one my last one so as not to bog down your blog with rants; and also because it's a subject that could well go on into the next century. I just feel that Marvel should aim for every issue to be a jumping on point.

Marvel and DC tend to keep rebooting and rebooting instead of just writing good stories. I was more of the classic pick and buy whenever I felt like it type of kid and I never ever felt like I had to read Amazing Fantasy 15 to know about Spider-Man.

Here's what I wrote in response to JSfan's original question but was stopped by the UTF-8 problem:

I love Marvel more than ever right now, I think. I love watching this huge giant piece of continuity move forward. To me, some of these characters have grown more since 2004 than they did in the 50 years before it combined. But unlike DC, all of those stories are still here! We still have relationships like Daredevil-Black Widow and Captain America-Falcon intact. Having that background spotlighted in today's books really emphasizes just how wonderfully intricate the tapestry is.

And while there are continuity problems to be sure, I love how everything still pretty much holds in place. It's a joy to me to follow, for example, Thor remembering his axe in "God of Thunder," using the axe in "Uncanny Avengers," and learning he is unworthy in "Original Sin" so that he can be replaced in those books and also "Avengers." That's a lot of planning by at least three different writers!

Plus, all of those stories are good! The quality has certainly improved by leaps and bounds in the last decade. Sure, everything is sort of "Marvel style" now and there only a few books for the "Eisners," but I would have killed for the quality of Hickman's Avengers in the 90s.

I know we all like to compare today's books to the glory days of the 80s. But when I read Fnord's recaps of 1988 and I see Steve Rogers bouncing from "Evolutionary War" to "Inferno" to his own book in events that are supposed to be taking place the same day-ish, I think it's crazy. And he's not progressing through those stories from a character point of view! He's just doing stuff.

Speaking of 2004, I love how the X-Men and Avengers universes started to merge around that time. I love that Wolverine is an Avenger! I think it really introduces a lot of new and wonderful combinations. Seeing Steve Rogers go from hating him to respecting him while almost willfully denying his murderous past is an amazing thing to me. Venom running around with the Guardians of the Galaxy? Sign me up!

I don't read anything but Marvel because of time and money. DC totally lost me with the shoddy quality of the unnecessary New 52 reboot. I don't have time to follow indy books I know I should read, but also, I don't buy comics for quality stories. I buy them because I like the continuity.

Fanboy rant over. Sorry it was so long. But I notice that you all don't seem to be buying a lot of the bigger books like "Original Sin" and "Uncanny Avengers," and I think you're missing out on a big piece of what brought you to the table in the first place: telling cool new stories with evergreen characters.

Thanks for providing some positive balance, UM. If you go through some older posts on this site you'll find me defending Bendis on similar grounds, but i haven't been feeling it in the past couple of years.

We did actually try 10 issues of Uncanny Avengers and i've just amused myself by reading through my old speed reviews (and the How We Fight post) and watching my opinion of it plummet, but i'm glad you like it and i'm hoping i'll like it more when i read it all together.

This is maybe a different/bigger conversation, but here goes:

Recently, I dropped picking up issues week to week and started buying comics only when they went on sale on Comixology. Mostly I pick up things on the $0.99 sales, but if something looks really tasty, I'll go ahead and shell out $1.99 when they're reduced. Lately, I've actually spent full price on Original Sin and the Uncanny Avengers wrap-up.

But switching over to batch reading has made Original Sin a slog! I can only evaluate each chapter at a time, so while issues 2, 4, and 7 have been great (for example), the other issues have been less great. I KNOW that if I read everything at once, I'd feel much better about the whole story.

I know that by issue 10 of Uncanny Avengers, things were definitely slow moving from month to month. But reading it all at once, you really do see the sense of urgency and impending doom build up from chapter to chapter, leading to the big issue 17 climax.

Yeah, that seems to be the way to go. I'm not ready to make the digital plunge, so it's bargain bins or trade waiting for me. But it makes sampling random books difficult, as JSFan has noted. And for the most part since i've got so much going on in terms of my timeline project, once i'm past the moment, the books are pretty much out of mind and i figure i'll pick up on them when i ever get to that year. But that's a long ways away.

I entered the hobby in the Shooter era, and my fondest memories are of that. I was a big time Marvel zombie. I too was down to only Peter David's Hulk by mid 90s, but came back with the Busiek/Perez Avengers and picked up a lot of titles. The Jemas/Quesada era has lots of problems, but they brought back an excitement I hadn't felt since 1991.

I was originally very excited about Bendis working on Avengers since I liked his indie work, but was completely repelled. I stuck around for a while but ultimately came to a conclusion I had almost reached in the nineties - it was time to move on since Marvel no longer had the things I loved about it. This site is one of the few things that keep my involved for sake of nostalgia.

If you ever decide to quit, it's OK! I think many of us have been there. We'll see you through. ;)