Get off my lawn, ‘Secret Wars!’
My knee-jerk reaction to the announcement that Marvel Comics is ending the Marvel and Ultimate universes in May with the debut of “Secret Wars” #1 was, quite simply, “I don’t like it.”
Before I could think any more about it, I had to go tell some kids to get off my lawn and take their loud music with them.
What follows “Secret Wars” will be an “all-new” Marvel Universe, using the branding that has been on so many of their titles lately. In the meantime, we’ll get mash-ups of Marvel stories and characters both classic and obscure, until a new status quo shakes out.
These kinds of stories are generally enticing to fans, since it provides a platform for our armchair “who-would-beat-who” discussions. But that’s tempered by the fact that Marvel appears poised to undo and redo a lot of beloved stories.
DC did the same thing three-and-a-half years ago with the New 52, a relaunch that translated to strong sales numbers. I’m sure that didn’t go unnoticed by Marvel, even as editors and writers say they’re focused on telling great stories. I’m not cynical enough to believe there’s no truth in that, but this is a business.
It’s not the idea of tossing out classic stories or my personal favorites that bothers me. Writer Mark Waid had a masterful response to that in “Legion of Super-Heroes” #15, part of his run on one of the 873 reboots of that particular team. Good stories are good stories, and they exist. Period.
Marvel’s multiverse has been chugging along since 1961, and perpetually telling stories with the same characters does limit your options. One solution would be to actually let some characters stay dead or permanently pass along their mantles, but Marvel and DC have shown they just generally won’t do that.
I’d be OK with Marvel declaring “The End” on current continuity. Rather than starting from scratch, they could begin with some characters already established, with a common, simple history that would alleviate the need for dozens of origin retellings.
But what Marvel seems to be doing is – like the New 52 – keeping what works (or what they think works; that’s always in the eye of the beholder), tweaking some stuff and probably making things more like the movie versions. And so – again, shades of the New 52 – we could have a status quo where everything happened, except the stuff that didn’t.
What could be an effort at simplifying continuity baggage could instead make longtime readers like me focus more on figuring out what happened and what didn’t than the stories themselves. That’s a me problem, sure, but it seems unnecessary.
Whatever my issues, I recognize they indicate nothing about the quality of the stories that will result. Some stuff will be convoluted and groan-inducing. Some will be better than I imagined.
I thought the dumbest idea out of the New 52 was making Barbara Gordon Batgirl again. Yet, Batgirl was consistently my favorite title of the line for three years. When I heard Heath Ledger had been cast as the Joker, I thought it was ludicrous. Then I saw “The Dark Knight.”
I don’t want the Marvel Universe to be relaunched, revamped, rebooted, retooled, etc. But it’s happening. I can prematurely quit based on stuff I’ve never read, or I can give it a shot and be entertained, irritated, frustrated and pleasantly surprised, as I often am when reading comics.
If I hate it, I can quit and read back issues and trades. After all, good stories are good stories, and they still exist.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group.”