Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Comics Crossroads!

I've got friends who can't really fathom the appeal of super hero comics. In fact, I'm pretty sure that a number of people I know think that it's an entirely unseemly pre-occupation for a grown man with literary leanings and that I'd be better off directing my time and money elsewhere.

Well, I can't really argue that it's an a pretty risible genre, a ridiculous and bizarre mix of adolescent fantasy and naked commercial opportunism. What does it say about me that not only do I find these stories innately appealing, but that I have lost count of the times I bought a comic long after I've stopped enjoying the series out of a misplaced sense of completionism or brand loyalty.

Well, I'm working on the latter – a family man now and I can't really afford to drop thirty or forty quid a month on comics – but I can't see myself ever losing that innate love of reading about guys and gals men and women in skin tight spandex knocking the crap out of each other. With end of Marvel's Dark Reign storyline, though, I find myself at a crossroads. It definitely feels like the end of an era. It feels like the events that started with Civil War have finally run through the system, and the themes and plots that it engendered have run their course.

It's been a wild ride, and I feel it's led to a real flowering of the whole idea of continuity as it was created by Stan and Jack all those years ago. The writers and editors in charge of Marvel right now come in for a lot of flack online, but they seem to me to have really understood the mix of cliqueishness and huckterism that made classic Marvel such a joy.

I think it's good, though, that the last few years have seen the Marvel Universe basically re-set. I can see the appeal of wanting the world and story to develop in real time – DC's Earth 2 titles All Star Squadron and Infinity Inc were what drew me away from Marvel to DC back in the 80s – but I also think that that these types of developing story gradually alienate new readers. Original characters become stale, the pillars that made them interesting gradually give way after they've been explored over and. The classic example is the romantic tension of the Clark Kent/Lois Lane variety. You've got to choose – they either get hitched or they move on. Either way, the tension that fuelled so many stories goes away.

So, Marvel's hit the reset switch. They've gone for a soft reboot rather than the universe bashing “Crisis” tactic of DC (who claim to have sworn off Crises for now), although the Spider-Man “Brand New Day” story line was a rather heavy handed way of doing away with various elements of Spidey-lore that had become inconvenient. It's fair to say, though, that Spidey works best as the frazzled college student/twenty-something than the thirty-ish family man with a public identity he had become.

Much of Marvel's realignment is based on the movies, of course, and its no coincidence that the new Avengers feature the movie heavy weights of Wolverine, Spidey and Iron Man, as well as upcoming movie stars Thor and Cap. DC seem to be playing catch up a little with their “Brightest Day” storyline, which will eventually see Bruce Wayne back in place as Batman, Hal Jordan as Green Lantern (he's been back for a while after an ill-advised sojourn as the Spectre, of all things), Barry Allenas the Flash and... er... whatever they're doing with Wonder Woman this year. (I'll post about the wonderous Grant Morrison's Batman later in the year when that story wraps up.)

So, what to do? I'm inclined to stick with Bendis's Avemgers, as he's regularly delivered over the last four years. Aside from that? I don't know. Maybe I should be heading back to underground andf arts stuff. Maybe I should dig through the Marvel Essentials and trade paperbacks and enjoy classic stuff. Maybe I should grow the hell up and start putting my money in the bank... NAH!!!

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