So, Marvel saw DC temporarily knocked them off the sales throne with the New 52. So it decided it wasn’t going to let that stand.
To wit, Marvel is announcing “Marvel NOW!”, which is not a Seinfeld reference. Instead, it’s a massive reboot across the entire Marvel universe to shake things up.
Not all of the changes Marvel is announcing are entirely unwelcome. But a lot of this does absolutely nothing to address the underlying problems that Marvel is facing creatively and as a company. If we want to stick with the DC analogy, this isn’t really the New 52: this is Marvel trying its very own DC Explosion.
Here’s why it may drive sales, but it won’t solve any problems.
The New 52 Didn’t Succeed In Bringing On New Readers
That’s really the first and most important thing Marvel needs to remember: the New 52 may have put DC on top of the sales charts, but it wasn’t because it brought in new readers. True, Marvel is riding a high DC can only dream of right now, with The Avengers being a billion-dollar hit and The Amazing Spider-Man looking poised to rake in the bucks.
But the New 52 largely brought back former DC readers who’d given up on the company. Which brings us to problem number two…
Marvel Desperately Needs a Reboot
Part of the reason the New 52 was so successful was the fact that it allowed lapsed readers to get back on the horse. Marvel NOW! is not going to do that. It spins directly out of a twelve-issue limited series with multiple tie-in issues across all of Marvel’s X-Men and Avengers books, of which there are what feels like dozens. Worse, this limited series also has two other tie-in series, one of which is a digital exclusive. To fully know what’s going on you’ll need to invest either $200 or more in comics or spend an hour or two on Wikipedia. How the hell is that friendly to new readers? Or old readers? Or anybody?
Marvel should know better, too, in light of the success of the Ultimate line of books. Those actually brought in new readers.
It’s Another Continuity Snarl
Yeah, yeah, yeah, NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME. Blow it out your alimentary canal, Marvel. You promise us nothing will ever be the same like clockwork, every year. Sure, X-Men and Avengers may be stuck on the same teams for now. But we all know that status quo is God and eventually these teams will be back together in their classic line-ups. One of the new books Marvel is launching is the original sixties line-up of X-Men, for God’s sake.
The Creative Teams Are Awesome, But Will Likely Be Restricted By Editorial
Rick Remender and John Cassaday on a mixed Avengers and X-Men team? Jonathan Hickman writing the Avengers? Awesome ideas.
But are these teams going to be allowed to actually cut loose? One of Marvel’s biggest problems has been that every damn book feels like it’s written around pushing an event. You can feel some of them straining at the leash. And if they’re not really allowed to bring their A-game…then why bother?
It Won’t Fix the Pricing Issue, Especially In Digital
Look, the simple fact of the matter is, DC books are three bucks. If you’re on the fence about an issue, you can wait and buy it digitally for two bucks. Marvel has thankfully adopted this policy to some degree, but four bucks is still a rough price point.
Marvel, we live in a world where five bucks is a lot of people’s upper limit for buying a full album of music, forget twenty-two pages of comics. Honestly, it affects my personal comics shopping. If nobody has recommended a Marvel book to me, either here or elsewhere, I’m simply not going to buy it. It’s just not even on my radar. Five Marvel comics is $20 that could go to a trade a friend recommended.
I doubt I’m alone in that, either. In the long run, I think it’s hurting Marvel.
If you want to change, really change, then pull the trigger. Otherwise, stop pretending nothing will be the same, because everything is.