Comics are a fantastic medium for storytelling for various reasons; they can display epic spectacles, are flexible to both long and short term storytelling and are only limited by ones imagination. Of course there are a million other reasons but for the sake of brevity I will spare you. Either way the power of comics and what first attracted me to the medium is on full display during their yearly blockbuster crossover events.
These stories define epic in scale by bringing together all of a multitude of heroes and villains and creating universe ending scenarios. Epic crossover events created and firmly cemented the idea of a shared universe that is now a staple of the comic book medium. Event comics like Secret Wars, Infinity Gauntlet, Crisis on Infinite Earth’s and even The Death of Superman are among the first comics I read and are responsible for birthing my fandom and creating the geek you see before you. Without these fantastical events I am not sure the comic book and superhero genre would have the foothold that it does (or did) and the world certainly wouldn’t be as immersed in the comic book couple as it is now.
So why did I just spend 2 paragraphs phrasing the importance of crossover events and they important place in comic book history? Mostly to say recently Marvel comics has been fumbling their big yearly crossover events and this fan can’t take it anymore. Now, just so I am clear what I am talking about is Marvel’s highly published, shoved down our throats summer events that always seem to promise a giant pay off or status quo change. I am not necessarily referring to small events (ex. Age of Apocalypse, Spider-Island, or Realm of Kings) as these occur frequently throughout the year and typically only touch a small section of the universe. I think it is safe to argue that Marvel’s last great event was Secret Invasion (2009), Siege (2010) or maybe even Civil War (2007).
Civil War is definitely billed as one of the best so much so that when it was announced that Captain America 3 would be titled Civil War you would have thought it was the second coming of Christ. I feel like Secret Invasion and Siege although not as ground breaking and earth shattering as Civil War (the effects of which still reverberate throughout the Marvel universe today) still changed enough of the Marvel Universe to be compelling and engaging.
In recent years though Marvel has really seemed to lose steam in their summer events despite the massive talent they recruit to write and draw these “monumental and important” events. It really feels like this all started with Fear Itself (2011) written by Matt Fraction with Art by Stuart Immonen. Fraction and Immonen both are extreme talent s and I have loved their styles in other books but Fear Itself even with its sweeping devastation, its awesome premise, and Asgardian inspired new character designs Fear Itself fell flat and did little besides Kill Bucky Barnes (who quickly came back) to change or even shake up the Marvel U.
The next two Events Schism (2011) and Avengers vs. X-Men (2012) were definitely a step up when it comes to affecting the Marvel Universe as the tension from this event is still felt, but what else would you expect when you get the best of the best like Bendis, Fraction, Aaron, Brubaker and Hickman to write them. This event while being a considerable step up from Fear Itself did so mainly by doing what Marvel always seems to do when they need to shake things up, “Mess with the Mutants.” I’m not saying this is a terrible idea but Marvel always seems to rely on this technique when they need to grab some headlines and sell some books. These events were better than most we will talk about but only because the ramifications of this story are still being felt in current issues.
2013 brought us the two worst events in recent memory with Age of Ultron by Brian Micheal Bendis and an all-star cast of artists and Infinity by Jonathan Hickman with artists Jimmy Cheung, Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver. Again both events have stellar creative teams but seem to fall short in scoop and impact. Age of Ultron is widely considered one of the worst events ever as its only purpose was to seemingly break the Marvel Universe, introduce a new character from a new land and never show us Ultron. The only reason I was even interested in this event was because of the seemingly obvious appearance and dominance of one of my favorite Marvel villains Ultron. Boy was I disappointed when after 10 issue I got maybe a total of 5 panels of Ultron and instead another convoluted time traveling tale.
Infinity wasn’t much better as again it’s only purpose was to again introduce a new character who has yet to really make any kind of impact on the Marvel Universe. Again I was fooled with Infinity as I was so excited to see Thanos make a triumphet return and really challenge our heroes but at the end of the day he was defeated by a deus ex machina and his invasion was quickly forgotten.
Original Sin (2014) by Jason Aaron and artist Mike Deodato was a great idea and will make a great premise for a movie someday but is hardly on the level of Civil War. It did introduce some cool ideas to the Marvel Universe and was much better than Age of Ultron and Infinity but it did very much feel like it was written for the big screen and didn’t present itself as a massive event that would forever change everything.
The last event to hit store shelves and the one I was probably the most personally excited for of all the comics I have listed was Axis, from the mind of Rick Remender (my favorite comic writer at the moment) and handful of amazing artists. Axis again in great Marvel event fashion promised something that it wasn’t; A massive event that would forever change the lives of our heroes and villains. While it did do this for a select few we all know it won’t last long but that was the least of Axis’ issues. This event required hardcore Marvel dedication as you couldn’t just pick up issue 1 and jump into the story. This make Axis a difficult read for newcomers or even fans who hadn’t been regularly reading Remender’s Uncanny Avengers.
Axis also felt extremely rushed and didn’t flush out the premise or its ideas very well. Breaking it down to its simplest form good guys became bad and bad guys became good, but this was never really explained and seemingly was just a plot point to allow for a couple of select characters do undergo status quo changes to make them more interesting and viable. I wanted nothing more for this to be and awesome story about heroes and villains switching personalities. Instead it felt overly simplified, extremely rushed, and it only existed to make Iron Man an Asshole.
This all brings me to my final point. In a strange and mysterious turn Marvel’s next huge summer event will be a retelling or rebooting of Marvel’s classic event Secret Wars. Along with this crazy endeavor it appears they will also be retelling many of their other most popular and influential events including Infinity Gauntlet, Planet Hulk, Civil War, House of M and many others. These strange teases really are starting to worry this comic fan because Marvel hasn’t been handling their summer events well and now they are entangling our favorite events in this complicated and inconsistent web. I really hope Marvel’s Summer of 2015 is a step in the right direction for Marvel’s summer events but I am more afraid it’s another marketing ploy trying to tune into the consumers nostalgia. If it’s not and Marvel really does have an amazing story to tell by using classic stories we love to do it Marvel is putting itself in direct line of nerd artillery and we are ready to pull the trigger.
Marvel please consider what you are doing, consider the “Age of Reboots,” we are in and how unsuccessful that has been. Please know that changing, manipulating or heaven forbid erasing classic story lines, with a deep ingrained continuity is a bad idea. If really have to use these stories and recreate Secret Wars please just consider us, all of us who have spent countless hours and paychecks loving the vast universe you have created, nurtured and watched grow through decades. Please Marvel don’t reboot the 616!