Does Marvel Need To Pull A DC Comics 52 Relaunch?

11 comments

The DC Comics 52 relaunch is arguably one of the biggest success stories of last year. Despite the fact that several of their flagship titles were closing in on milestone issue numbers, DC decided to completely reboot their universe, which meant fiddling with the mythology of characters, dropping fan favorite titles, and giving lesser characters new books and a chance to shine. Since the relaunch, DC has seen a rise in sales and has been the top selling comic publisher for several months running. After this success, fans and columnists started to wonder if maybe Marvel should pull a similar move. So what do you think? Should Marvel think about relaunching their brand and top titles?

Before the relaunch, DC Comics had a terribly convoluted mythology. This was thanks in large part to the Multiverse, which appeared, disappeared, brought characters back from the dead, and re-introduced them to the "normal" DC continuity. Take for example Power Girl, who began life as a character on Earth-2, which was created so that Silver Age and Golden Age characters could coexist together. Originally, Power Girl was Superman's first cousin, but it just took her ship longer to reach Earth after she was saved from the destruction of Krypton. After the Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries erased Earth-2, Power Girl's origin story was erased and changed to her being the granddaughter of an Atlantean sorcerer named Arion. Power Girl's history was then changed again with the arrival of the Infinite Crisis miniseries, which basically redid everything so Power Girl's origin went back to way it originally was.

Then there's the history of The Flash. A lot of people have gone under that name in the DC Universe: Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West, Bart Allen, Jesse Chambers, Sela Allen, John Fox, Blaine Allen and Jace Allen. I'm not even going to dare try and tell you which Allen is the descendant of which and who is related to who, but suffice to say it's very complicated.

While Marvel hasn't had anything quite as dramatic happen, there are characters with complicated pasts. And when you've had characters around for as long as some of Marvel's most elite, it's going to be hard to remember who did what and what happened when. You've got Colossus, who died sacrificing himself to cure the Legacy Virus that killed his sister, but was years later revealed to still be alive. His body had been replaced with a duplicate (before it had been cremated) by Ord, an alien who resurrected the metal giant on the Breakworld. Of course, Colossus' sister Illyana (aka Magick) didn't remain dead either. She was brought back into existence for a short time during the House of M event by The Scarlet Witch, which caused the lord of Limbo - Belasco - to want her back for real, so he recreated her from essences and memories that remained in Limbo even after her death. Illyana didn't come back the same, however, as she went through a phase as Darkchylde, stole a piece of Pixie's soul, and so on and so on. Okay, so maybe Marvel does have some histories as complicated as those of Power Girl. I didn't even get to Bucky Barnes and Jean Grey's many deaths and re-births.

The question remains though: does Marvel need to relaunch itself like DC Comics did? It's a tough nut to crack, as there are numerous pros and cons involved.

CASES AGAINST A RELAUNCH

Heroes Reborn

I personally liked the character of Onslaught during his initial inception, when it was revealed that he was a psionic entity that resulted from the co-mingling of Professor X and Magneto's minds. Things got complicated after that and the event fell apart in the eyes of many, but it eventually resolved itself when members of the Avengers and Fantastic Four (among some others) sacrificed themselves to help stop the monster once and for all.

While it appeared that the Avengers and Fantastic Four had died, in reality they had been moved over to a pocket universe created by Franklin Richards in order to keep them alive and preserved. Marvel continued on without these heroes and let others step into their place (such as the Thunderbolts). But throughout it all Iron Man, Avengers, Captain America and Fantastic Four comics were published they were just kept separate from the rest of Marvel's continuity. In this pocket universe origins were changed, such as Johnny and Susan Storm getting a ride on Reed Richard's ship because they were the financial backers for his mission. All-in-all it was a fresh start and a new chance for readers to embrace these characters.

Onslaught

The four titles actually did very well and saw an upswing in sales, but many fans were furious at the changes made to some of their favorite characters. So after 13 issues of each book the characters were brought back into the regular Marvel continuity and the Heroes Reborn history was done away, though Onslaught has made a few appearances since, and Rikki Barnes - Captain America's protégé during Heroes Reborn - was brought over as Nomad, who helped form a group called the Young Allies.

Ultimate Marvel

The Ultimate Marvel comic line is a case of Marvel wanting its cake and eating it too. Instead of completely rebooting its universe, Marvel decided to give fans an alternate universe they could delve into if they so chose. It was intended to snag fans of the flourishing Marvel movies being released at the time, because Marvel thought jumping into a series numbering into the hundreds would be difficult for newcomers. A few of the Ultimate Marvel comics have found success, such as both incarnations of Spider-Man, but other titles like The Ultimates have faltered, or were only as solid as the creative team behind the project.

Marvel gave the Ultimate Comics line eight-years before allowing Jeph Loeb to essentially "clean house" with his Ultimatum event, which resulted in the death of over 30 characters (you don't wipe the slate clean like that if everything is smelling like roses). Ultimatum was almost unanimously panned by both fans and critics, as the entire event seemed as if it was created to do nothing more than shock readers with the way characters were killed off (Wasp and Blob, for instance, being wiped out by cannibalism). Earth-1610 still exists today, but only in a limited capacity, as several books were outright canceled while others were tweaked in one way or another.

House of M

I was a fan of the X-Men for years, but all of that changed with House of M. I loathe the series. I'm not saying it all was smooth sailing up until then, as there were definitely peaks and valleys on that rollercoaster when it came to quality, but with House of M it felt like Marvel was giving the middle finger to fans everywhere (especially those who loved their mutants).

Wanda Maximoff - the Scarlet Witch - has always been a powerhouse to be reckoned with, as her reality warping powers have always had the potential to do more evil than good. After doing all he could to keep her powers in check, Professor X had to finally admit that an alternate plan needed to be devised. The X-Men and Avengers had their own opinions, but for many, killing Wanda seemed like the only viable solution. Something went wrong, however, as Wanda suddenly vanished, as did all the nearby heroes.

By using her powers, Wanda created a reality ruled by the House of M, where mutants were the superior race and sapiens the minority, living in fear. As with most Marvel events, House of M bled into numerous books and tie-in series, resulting in several issues where readers were forced to go along for the ride and read about fan favorite characters in a world that nobody cared about. House of M finally ended with Wanda uttering "No more mutants," which resulted in the world going back to normal. Now mutants weren't popping up all over the place and many fan favorite characters were de-powered and made insignificant in a flash of light.

House of M was a poorly constructed story and the re-imagined world was a bore and one many fans simply didn't care about. I personally hated what transpired during House of M so much that I actually quit collecting every X-title I had on my pull list and only just recently got back into the X-Men series. A lot of fans were so annoyed at the de-powering of their favorite mutants that over the years writers have re-worked things so those characters got their powers back, got enhanced powers, or got completely new powers. It was a series of moves that didn't have a natural progression; it was one big "oops" and apology from Marvel.

In fact, very little has carried over since House of M finished. Wolverine still has his memories. Hawkeye and Magick were brought back to life. Vulcan was revived. Beyond those events, however, nothing really stands out as having any lasting effect on the Marvel Universe of any worth.

CASES FOR A RELAUNCH

Age of Apocalypse

Professor X's son - Legion - gets it in his head that if he were to go back in time and kill Magneto, perhaps the world would be a different place, and humans and mutants would be living in peace. Legion accidentally arrives at a time when Professor X and Magneto are still friends and ends up killing his own father when Professor X tries to save Magneto. The death of the Professor completely does away with everything that would have come after, and the X-men are never formed. Instead, the long-time villain Apocalypse takes over the world, and thus the Age of Apocalypse begins.

During the Age of Apocalypse storyline, all of Marvel's X-books were done away with and temporarily replaced with AoA versions. Cable became X-Man. Wolverine became Weapon-X. Etc. While the event certainly re-imagined a lot of the X-Men characters, the book was almost universally loved by fans. The Age of Apocalypse story was relatively self-contained, as only a few villains such as Sugar Man and Dark Beast made their way into the official Marvel Universe, but Marvel has slowly been reestablishing this history in a number of ways. Nate Grey is back in the picture and now a member of the New Mutants. Uncanny X-Force recently finished its wildly successfully 'Dark Angel Saga,' which saw the team traveling to the world of Age of Apocalypse, and ended with their version of Nightcrawler staying behind. Uncanny X-Force's recent 'Point One' issue also paved the way for the upcoming ongoing Age of Apocalypse series, which follows the events of the 'Dark Angel Saga' and 'Point One' tie-in (you better believe this is going to be a pull-list title for me).

Age of Apocalypse remains to this day one of my favorite event books of all-time.

Age of X

Very little was known about Age of X before it was published, just that a few of the X-books were going to be focusing on an alternate reality similar to Age of Apocalypse. But considering there was no event planned, nobody knew how this story was going to fit in to the Marvel universe, if at all. Was Age of X simply going to be one long "What If" issue?

In the Age of X, mutants are living within the confined walls of Fortress X, which is a haven that Magneto created in order to protect them. The characters feel familiar yet different, a great way to ease fans into the book and not completely do away with everything they already know.

Age of X

Rogue starts to question this world when Blindfold tells her to ask about Professor X. This leads to the revelation that the Age of X is real, and that everyone has been brought into a pocket universe created by one of Legion's multiple-personalities (personalities developed when Doctor Nemesis tried to implement a system to keep Legion sane and in control of his powers). Legion eventually gains control over X - the personality that developed and helped him create this world. He changes the pocket universe back to the reality it once was, though some characters are brought over and some chose to retain their memories of that time.

Much like Age of Apocalypse, Age of X offered fans a new, re-imagined world that was exciting and managed to succeed at both delivering a new story while not pissing on the heart and soul of the characters that fans have enjoyed reading about for years.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Marvel has the potential to either fail miserably or succeed wonderfully if they were to relaunch their brand. When it all breaks down, however, I think Marvel is too set in their ways to truly embrace something new and different, which is why I think DC  is currently besting Marvel in every conceivable way. DC Comics had the balls to reset their titles and give fans a more streamlined universe that offered readers fan favorites who resembled their former selves, and delivered new blood and new experiences that didn't previously exist. If you took a poll of fans you'd probably find that the top titles are Animal Man and Swamp Thing, two characters who were all but gone before the 52 relaunch happened.

But DC Comics didn't completely restart everything and do away with everyone, as Batman, Superman and Green Lantern are all still around. What they did do is give us fresh new ideas and hire top talent to help liven up the franchises. Marvel has their "Architects" by way of Brubaker, Aaron, Bendis, Hickman and Fraction, but I'll take DC Comics' Scott Snyder and Geoff Johns any day of the week. Marvel's core writers are too familiar and set in their ways and don't bring anything new to the table. They recycle ideas or deliver stories that drag and never stop. There are fresher writers attached to smaller titles that need to be given a chance to climb the rankings, as well as independent writers who need to be given a run at things.

Finally Marvel needs to really consider its pricing model, which I think is the single greatest factor hampering their brand. DC made a bold statement when they said that all of their titles would be $2.99 unless it was a particularly special issue or a certain title (namely Action Comics). For me, that's a price point I can take a gamble on. When I'm standing in front of the rack trying to decide whether I should pick something up or not, I'm much more willing to grab a book priced at $2.99 rather than the $3.99 Marvel charges for their big titles. I think it's a complete rip-off when Marvel releases an event book or annual and price it at a ridiculous $4.99 when it's usually not even worth $3.99. For instance, this past week (as of this writing), Avengers released its latest annual at $4.99, and besides some nice artwork there was nothing of substance within the book. It had some moments, but the "villain" was taken down in literally one panel and his team taken out over three pages. The Avengers annual would've been a perfectly fine book at the DC price of $2.99 (or even $3.99, since this was supposedly a "special" book), but after forking over the $4.99 and reading it, I feel like I've been robbed blind by Marvel.

Beyond anything else, Marvel needs to work on these issues in order to succeed. Do they need to pull a DC 52 relaunch? No, not necessarily, but then again, I'm not so sure it would hurt, either. Based on their history, I'd say it's a 50/50 shot at this point.

Image of X-Men: The Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic, Book 1
Author: Scott Lobdell, John Francis Moore, Brian K. Vaughan, Howard Mackie, Ralph MacChio, Terry Kavanagh, Judd Winick
Price:
Publisher: Marvel (2006)
Binding: Paperback, 376 pages
Image of X-Men: Age of X
Author: Mike Carey
Price: $21.29
Publisher: Marvel (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 256 pages
Image of Avengers Academy, Vol. 1: Permanent Record
Author: Christos Gage
Price: $19.99
Publisher: Marvel (2011)
Binding: Paperback, 120 pages
Jason Van Horn

Column by Jason Van Horn

Jason has worked as the editorial manager and head writer for a number of sci-fi/fantasy and videogame related sites that were part of the IGN network once upon a time. He currently writes for LitReactor, where he puts his love of comics to good use, and the gaming website MPOGD, where he handles reviews, previews, and interviews for all things multiplayer.

To leave a comment Login with Facebook or create a free account.

Comments

JameseyLefebure's picture
JameseyLefebure from Liverpool, Uk is reading The Gunslinger- Stephen King January 27, 2012 - 2:47pm

That was a brilliant article and I think that you summed up the main problem with Marvel perfectly. Where hell do I jump in?! I used to be a huge marvel fan and spent years reading X-Men (I really wanted to be Jean Gray :P) and Fantastic Four, but I stopped reading for a few years and by the time I tried to pick it back up it was just way to convulted. Yet for all my years reading marvel I never looked at DC.
Until the new 52, now I've found myself reading comics that I would never have given a second glace too (animal man, swamp thing and birds of prey being 3 of them) simply because of the chance to jump into the series at a suitable point, where the characters have either got their backstory and it's explained neatly with no real loose ends (other than the sense of bringing up in later issue's) or they simply start creating it (the new look at Wonder Woman and Supergirl are brilliant) which as a new reader is brilliant and inviting. 
I think that Marvel is far to stuck in their ways at this point and they have *too* much history, like an insanely complicated, dragged on for years but change it in a second history which unless your a pretty hardcore reader makes it far to difficult to join in.
I personally would love a reboot of Marvel to try and start rivalling DC again!

 

 

TwistedPaper's picture
TwistedPaper from Poland is reading "The Book of the New Sun" by Gene Wolfe & "Seven Wonders" by Adam Christopher January 27, 2012 - 4:05pm

@Jamesey : I've got similar thoughts on DC's New 52. I Vampire, Justice League and Detective Comics are great and even new versions of Stormwatch and Grifter doesn't bother me so far. 

I'm totally curious how it could look for Marvel but they got few good titles going on right now (brilliant Uncanny X-Force!).

JameseyLefebure's picture
JameseyLefebure from Liverpool, Uk is reading The Gunslinger- Stephen King January 27, 2012 - 4:28pm

@Fnz I can seriously say try Swamp Thing and Animal Man they are honestly brilliant!! 

TwistedPaper's picture
TwistedPaper from Poland is reading "The Book of the New Sun" by Gene Wolfe & "Seven Wonders" by Adam Christopher January 27, 2012 - 4:57pm

new Animal Man is delightfully psychodelic and i enjoy it too (but mostly because of The Rot - fine idea). I'll check Swamp Thing, thanks for recommendation

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated January 27, 2012 - 5:16pm

YES YES A 1000 TIMES YES!

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. January 27, 2012 - 5:49pm

Great article.  Your summary of Age of Apocalypse makes me want to read it all (digitally, Marvel, and for a reasonable price).

Jason Van Horn's picture
Jason Van Horn from North Carolina is reading A Feast For Crows January 27, 2012 - 6:55pm

Swamp Thing and Animal Man are definitely two of my favorites from their relaunch and these are characters I never cared about before, but I find myself fascinated by The Green and The Red and The Rod all tying into each other. Aquaman is another character who always seemed like a joke, but with his new series he's never been cooler.

Plus I've really loved the new Batman and his battle with the Court of Owls and their assassin Talon. Not sure how I'm going to feel about the big crossover throughout all the Batman books, but the last issue and how it toyed with the idea of perspective - genius.

JameseyLefebure's picture
JameseyLefebure from Liverpool, Uk is reading The Gunslinger- Stephen King January 28, 2012 - 1:06am

I've not looked at the Batman series but I have heard a lot bout the Owls - I have started the "Super" series though, Suupergirl and Superboy - just not superman...yet. I know there's a big crossover event with those three soon as well so Im quite excited about that. And I can echo the same sentiments about the red, the green and the rot being really interesting parts of the whole swamp thing/animal man story.
I was tempted by Aquaman - but not heard much about him either way.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. February 1, 2012 - 10:48am

@Jamesy--the new Justice League with super demonic, non-talky Darkseid is awesome.  Geoff Johns is really an amazing writer because the new Aquaman is readable and as we know from Big Bang Theory, Aquaman sucks even Aquaman doesn't want to be Aquaman. Johns plays off that idea and really shows us why Aquaman is interesting with the creepy ass creatures that come from the Trench to the new Atlanteans. Plus he plays up the whole half-man/half-Atlantean thing that makes him a lot more likeable than say Namor who is a major douche.

Swamp thing and Animal Man are awesome, they make me feel like I'm reading old school Vertigo comics in their heyday when Sandman was king. The art is amazing and the story is creepy. I always thought Animal Man was the lamest hero ever but the Salvador Dali sensibiliity of the comic takes it to a whole new level. Marvel does need to do something, but they have done so many relaunches that they have really shot themselves in the foot. I often say this to my comic book friends, Marvel has lost a lot of what made it special. DC understands that you need to stay close to the core of who the characters are. That's why you don't see Batman smiling and hanging out with his pals drinking a bud. He's always going to be a melancholy bastard. Although I don't really like the new take on Superman as this cold alien versus the world. Superman is the Captain America of the DC world and they should just embrace it.

The problem is Marvel is like a big soap opera, the only changes they can make are repeating the same stories over and over every ten years. I'm just waiting for Jean Grey to come back, Red Hulk to disappear, the Fantastic Four to disband and then get back together again.  Plus Aunt May will probably outlive me in the comic book world, I think she's Mephisto in disguise. Plus the whole dissolution of the Mary Jane/Peter Parker marriage was BS. Every chick he dates now I just want to pull a Gwen Stacy and if you understood any of this, you might be a nerd.  LOL   ;)

JameseyLefebure's picture
JameseyLefebure from Liverpool, Uk is reading The Gunslinger- Stephen King February 7, 2012 - 3:33am

@Alien - I'm totally a nerd. I understand :P

 

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer May 8, 2012 - 1:07pm

The where to jump in thing is a bit of a mess, but I'm not sure a reboot is the way to deal with it. I have Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited and it is a bit scary to try to read a series that has literally hundreds of issues. I started out with some of the shorter runs, such as Moon Knight's 2006 run.

That might seem like an argument in favor of a total reboot, but I am against change for the sake of change. It could end up being nothing but a short term fix. With all the movies out, now is a time to get people in to comics, but destroying all that they have made up till now just seems silly.