Sunday, November 15, 2009

Enough with the gimmicks.

About a year ago, I wrote how disappointed I was when Marvel Comics rebooted Amazing Spider-Man.

Basically, since the 60's, comic books have been telling the same stories over and over and over, each time with a new twist or something to keep it 'fresh'. However, at the end of the Marvel Civil War series, Peter Parker had been 'outed' as Spider-man, Aunt may had been shot and was dying and Peter had visited the Kingpin in prison and delivered him a royal smack down…as openly as Peter, not as Spider-Man.

It was a whole new Spider-man story. The world knew Peter was Spider-Man, every villain in the world was gunning for him, the US government was after him (along with a lot of supers) for openly criticizing the Registration Act and Aunt May was on borrowed time, hit by a bullet meant for him? What would this mean for Spider-Man?

Well, we never found out, because instead of following this new and amazing story arc, Peter decided he couldn't handle losing Aunt May, so made a deal with Mephisto, trading his marriage with Mary Jane for Aunt May's life. In other words, it was a total reboot. In the next comic, Peter and MJ hadn't met yet, Peter had never outed himself as Spider-Man and it was an almost total return to the status quo.

At that point, after nearly twenty years of reading Amazing Spider-Man, I put it down and decided I'd never buy another Amazing Spider-Man again.

At this time, I picked up Ultimate Spider-Man. It featured Peter as a 15 year old kid and the comic was more centered on the more 'realistic' (yeah, yeah, I know I use that world loosely) story of how a teenage kid would handle having Superpowers and the problems he'd have keeping it a secret. In the Ultimate universe, Peter had to worry about sneaking out of the house at night, and he spent a few issues with no costume, because it got ripped and he couldn't sew.

I liked it, the writing was fresh, there was a healthy dose of humor and I loved Mark Bagley's artwork.

Then, they decided they'd gone a whole year without a massive gimmick, so they went ahead and had magneto from the X-men series basically destroy the world.

I know print comics in general are in trouble, but it feels like Marvel comics feel the way to keep the readership up is to piss off readers by not just upsetting the status quo…which is usually welcome…they tip the whole board over.

In the Ultimatum storyline, more than twenty-five major characters are killed off…and when I say major I don't mean important second-string characters, I'm talking about characters like Wolverine, Magneto, Cyclops, Daredevil, Doctor Doom and Professor Xavier.

You know how when a major character dies in one of your favorite TV shows, it's a huge deal? Imagine an episode of your favorite show where literally half the cast are killed in a plane crash, and suddenly the glorified extras are taking center stage.

Now, this wouldn't bother me so much if they had decided that after fifty years of comics, they were going to sweep the decks and bring in some new characters…but we all know this is a gimmick. We all know that these beloved characters aren't going to stay dead.

The problem is that all they're really doing is making every new series totally irrelevant. Basically, imagine a series of Dexter on TV that ends up with Dexter getting caught and being executed, Deb goes to jail for aiding and abetting, and all the cops Dexter worked with get fired for not working out that Dexter was a serial killer.

Now imagine the next series starting with Dexter alive and everything is back to normal and either the change is never mentioned or it's hand waved with some very vague and unlikely story. Firstly, the previous series becomes totally irrelevant because nothing that happened in it mattered. In order to watch and enjoy the new series, you have to think like the last series never even happened. Then, In this new series, if Dexter's about the get caught, there's no real drama or suspense, because there's no jeopardy any more. Even if Dexter gets caught and ends up in the electric chair, we know he'll be back in the next series.

Basically, Marvel needs to stop with the Gimmicks. Marvel Civil War was amazing, and was slightly spoiled by the number of reboots that followed in it's wake. Ultimatum was simply the end of the whole 'Ultimate' series, where they killed off a ton of characters for no good reason.

If you kill off major characters, as unpopular as doing that might be, it really adds to the story… as long as the characters stay dead.

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