Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 The Year in Review Marvel Comics

The final part of my year in review is Marvel. I think Marvel comes last for me as a segment of the market it is the one I have the most problems with from a few standpoints. Number one I think that since I used to love the characters at Marvel the most as Marvel moves away from how I would like to see them handle them it is almost becomes a matter of resentment. I almost resent how they are handling characters I care about. I know that having that type of emotion tied up in characters is a little much, but I think it is part of it. Spider-Man is still dead to me due to the “One More Day” reboot and it will probably take a long time for me to want to go back to that book.

Another problem with Marvel is that since they do not have the legacy aspect like DC does we are stuck with the same characters forever playing the same roles. In DC we had the teen side kicks that grew up and many of the silver age revivals were updating of characters DC owned from
the Golden Age. Marvel did some of that also, but they ignored the Golden Age for the most part, where DC embraced it. So we now have almost fifty years of the same Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Daredevil and X-Men. Very few new characters and new dynamic and right now to end Dark Reign they are setting us up for the reborn big three Avengers of Thor, Cap and Iron Man. Fifty years later and we are right back where we started from.

The real truth is if they can tell great stories with great art, I can live with the same old characters, but I miss seeing some advancement in the lives of these characters and miss seeing anything happen that will have a true consequence down the road. I know all the reasons behind it, but Marvel is more static then DC. Marvel performed a wonderful and market share grabbing illusion of changing the playing field the characters are in, without ever truly changing the characters. I think this is why Marvel is usually my least favorite and why the independent side of books and the reprints where things seemed to happen are becoming my favorite material. Of course no one expected fans to stay around for almost five
decades, so I’m not their core audience. Julie Martin from Echo, Dara from the Sword, Mark Grayson from Invincible, Bigby Wolf from Fables actually change as time passes and their stories may end, it makes for a better read as a generality.

The Dark Reign dominated the main core of the Marvel Universe and this year it seemed that an editorial mandate was to drag almost everyone into the core universe and we saw the Punisher come back, Daredevil, Moon Knight, Captain America, Thor was slowly dragged into it and the X-Men were brought kicking and screaming into it. The few areas that remained outside of the DR were the Ultimate line, Max line and the cosmic side of things.

Where Marvel did shine was with Agents of Atlas and Incredible Hercules. I put these two titles together as both are 2009 best of the year books in my opinion. I know that we saw Agents of Atlas cancelled and Hercules is rumored to be canceled (at least the current title soon), but both books are fun and Agents survives just not as a regular series. Each tells a good story, has dramatic moments and still keeps the humor in the books. The characters are respected and are developed, yet it is always with a huge emphasis on keeping the book a little breezier. Hercules is the much lighter in tone of the two, but if you read a lot of Agents of Atlas you can see the irrelevance is all throughout the title.

Under the category of “you only miss them when they are gone” Brubaker ended his run on Daredevil. At times his pacing rivaled the previous writer (Brian Bendis) for mind numbing slowness, but overall the stories that he told were entertaining and very strong, The cast of Daredevil is as important as Daredevil himself and with Dakota, The Tarantula, Foggy, Milla and all the rest the book was a good read and will be a better read when read issues at a time. Diggle has started out okay on his tenure on the book, but it is too early to judge if he will continue the tradition of well told stories. Of course the new artist is very good, but Lark, Guardino and Hollingsworth are tough to match.

Staying with Brubaker his run on Captain America has really slowed down and from what I read I believe his plans for this book were derailed a lot and he was forced to do a lot of treading water. Then the god awful Captain America Reborn was put out and we are still awaiting the end of that story even though the ending has been pretty well put out there in the last few weeks with all the Steve Rogers as Captain America appearances. I have the feeling that Captain America dying was only suppose to last for about one arc after he was shot and then he was coming back in perhaps a less convoluted manner, but editorial came in and I think they wanted to milk the Death of Captain America and then decided he should be involved in this whole rebirth of the Avengers thing. It is a shame, if true at all, as Brubaker’s first 25 issues of Captain America made it a book I wanted to read again. Now it is living off the good will the book built up during that run. The other Brubaker project is Marvels Projects, which is a nice reworking of the origins of the Marvel Universe and a good capping off to the excellent 70th Anniversary work Marvel did with so many updating of their Golden Age titles.

Marvel also did the “Noir” line of books and except for the first Spider-Man one and the Wolverine series I never finished any of them. Not enough originality for the $4 entry price for a 22 page comic. The Ultimate Line came back and I now only get Ultimate Avengers and I could not even tell they did the big Ultimate cross over that changed the Ultimate world forever. Ultimatum was a non-event from what I am reading. It seems that Marvel’s Ultimate Universe has lost its way and there is no buzz on this material. The Ultimate Avengers is my action movie book as Millar writes a good adventure as long you don’t think about it. Eventually even with good art, Millar will probably do something so inane I will have to drop the title.

Another best book from Marvel was Thor by JMS. I have read some people saying how the new writer has done a seamless job since JMS left, but I would disagree as I thought JMS’ last issue wrapped up a lot of stuff quick and the new writer was hitting the reset button with a lot of the story elements also. Thor was a top selling title and I know JMS did not deliver scripts as fast as Marvel wanted, but they could have just used Thor in other books and left JMS’s Thor as its own thing.

Finally another favorite of 2009 is the War of Kings, which led to the Realm of Kings. DnA seem to be having the time of their lives with this stuff and basically are being left alone to do what they want. Since they write all of the books involved the mini-event has worked quite well and I think you could have just read War of Kings and been very content with only that story.

Even though Marvel is not my favorite for the most part they still produce some quality books, but they also produce a slew of add on crap and flood the market with it. For me I would like to see a little more focus on the individuals and less focus on the landscape they are playing in.

That ends my year in review and ends my active participation on the blog for the rest of 2009. I have some commentary upcoming and I may pop in on the twitter side of things, but for the most part I will see you all again in 2010.

Thanks for all the support as you can see by the cluster map on the sidebar we get a fair amount of traffic from all over the world. The internet is a wondrous thing.

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