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Le sigh -- as Reboots spread
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jducoeur
(Pardon a mild grouse.)

Marvel is in the middle of one of those once-every-few-year events, only bigger and weirder than usual. Basically, they've taken every character and situation they've ever had, thrown them all into a giant mixmaster, and set it on high. For several months, they're doing exclusively these weird little crossover / nostalgia books, tied into an overarching "Battleworld" scenario. It's pretty dippy -- I'm picking some of them up out of curiosity, but I'm not very impressed by the concept.

And after? They appear to be pulling a DC, rebooting the entire continuity in a way that lets them ignore anything that has gone before. I *despise* this particular trend. Frankly, I think it's lazy storytelling. If you want to tell new stories, then *tell new stories*. Rewriting existing history in the name of grabbing new readers simply implies creative exhaustion to me.

At least, I assume the idea is to attract new readers. It's all New! and Different! and a Great Jumping-On Point! with Exclamation Points!!!

Thing is, waystations work both ways -- they're a good place to get on, but also a good one to get off. The last time DC did this, with Flashpoint, I dropped the entire line: I simply declared that I was done with mainstream DC comics. I've stuck to that, and really haven't regretted it.

I'm probably not going to be as extreme with Marvel, since I've been enjoying a fair number of their books in recent years, but I'm considering it. Far as I can tell, nearly all of the books I've been really enjoying are at least shaking up their creative teams -- at a quick glance, I think the only book I *really* care about that doesn't appear to be losing its writer is Ms. Marvel. (I've been a sucker for G. Willow Wilson's writing since she started out with Cairo. She's a unique voice, which isn't something you often see at the big companies. It's the only reason I'm considering giving A-Force a chance.)

I'll probably keep several books, but overall this is likely to backfire badly as far as I'm concerned: I think my Marvel consumption is going to drop to a quarter what it was. I was invested in this stuff, and now I'm not -- by and large, it's now up to Marvel to win back my dollars, book by book, and that isn't going to be easy. (Especially since Kieran Gillen doesn't seem to be doing anything for them any more -- he's currently the only writer who I will absolutely reliably buy.)

And truth to tell, much though I may be annoyed by the impetus, I can't even mind too much in reality -- this will let me catch up on my comics, and make room for better ones from other companies. I doubt that's what Marvel had in mind, though...
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What makes you think they want either to "tell new stories", or to "grab new readers"? Historically, since roughly the late 1960s, the overall trend has been to RE-tell OLD stories, with just enough spin that they can feel different.

And then, ever since the birth of the direct market, they have been far more interested in squeezing more and more money out of fewer and fewer aging fans. Just look at the circulation figures. "mainstream" Marvel/DC fandom is shrinking asymptotically towards zero. If it weren't for the fact that Hollywood movies (and ancillary marketing, such as toys) were such cash cows, I don't think either Marvel or DC would still exist.

The recent mega-crossovers from both sides seem to have, frankly, given up entirely on the notion of new readers, and decided to double-down on pandering to aging fanboys, by retelling old stories in an even more blatant fashion than before.

This trend, combined with a significant cost increase was what finally made me cancel my comic subscriptions back in the late 80's. I was frustrated that I couldn't count on any interesting character development lasting more than a couple of years.

I've come to mainly follow interesting writers for their runs, but I let myself get sucked into a sense of attachment to some books. Now that that's been flushed down the drain, I'm going to get stricter about my rules.

(More and more, I've come to favor Vertigo and its ilk, simply because their stories are self-contained, and more often than not are actually allowed to *end*...)

I had come to a similar conclusion before I quit entirely, preferring mini-series that had a clear story arc and ended. Even for those, the fact that the price of those comics was in the range of 1/3 to 1/2 of the price of a solid novel made me question whether they were a good place to put my entertainment dollars. For a comic to really work for me it needed to have both a writer I enjoyed *and* and artist I enjoyed. That combination seemed to be happening less and less often too.

I'm such a completionist that the self-contained ones are the only ones I can actually read-- I couldn't start following Marvel because that would be starting in the middle of the story, and there are so many titles that all interrelate and I can't tell how. Even in the *collections* you don't get to see everything that went into the shaping of whatever up to that point-- Witchblade collected all of Witchblade 1-50, but several of those ended at "Continue in this other title!" and those weren't in the collection. (Not that I think it would have necessarily *helped*, with Witchblade; if there was ever a story that made *no* sense that was it...) If there was a clear beginning I could *begin* at, I'd probably go back and buy all the trades from the beginning one by one, at least for characters that interested me. Instead I'm following the movies because those *are* (at least for the moment) clearly spaced with a specific order, and it only takes a little effort to also determine where the TV shows fit.

I had to have kind of a mental cage to read Marvel or DC at all, by picking up the trades, accepting everything at face value, and accepting that none of them are going to be consistent with each other because I can't figure out what order they go in. But the reboots aren't going to encourage me, as a new reader, to go start buying them every week, because it's *still* a zillion titles that are interrelated in complicated ways that are more effort than I want to go to for what's ostensibly downtime and fun.

Ms. Marvel is great, one of my favorite current books (and Marsy likes it too).

If you're not reading it, I'd also recommend checking out The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. It's a lot of fun, full of charming characters and amusing pokes at the medium. It reminds me of a cross between Young Avengers and the old Assistant-Editors Month humor.

The only other Marvel book I'm reading is their new SHIELD series, because I've always been a sucker for SHIELD and it's interesting to see how they tweak things to integrate elements of the TV show into the Marvel mainstream continuity (so TV's Skye is full on Daisy Johnson, and Phil gets to regularly interact with lots of heroes). Can't say I'd recommend it, but I'm enjoying it.

As for DC books, I'll pick up something now and then, but they rarely fill me with a need to keep buying it. Gotham Academy is clever because it shows a very different side of the Batman Universe. The new Batgirl and Black Canary creative teams are making some fun stories, but I'm tiring of it.

One thing in DC's latest reboot that I might recommend you peek at is the new Dr. Fate. Issue 2 drops today and I'm intrigued by the new direction they're taking the book.

I am reading Squirrel Girl, and it's fun (I was very amused by Squirrel Girl vs. Galactus), but I don't know that I'd miss it if it went away. I suspect that I'm interested in about a year's worth of it before I decide that it's getting tired -- I seem to have a tolerance for Ryan North's style. (The Young Avengers comparison is interesting: now that you mention it, yeah, it does seem to have have picked up a bunch of tropes from there.)

I'm currently buying SHIELD, but it's on the bubble. Fun, and entertaining to contrast with the TV show, but I'm not attached to it.

For now, though, I'm keeping clear of DC. It's way too easy to get sucked back into the universe, and I'm just too cranky at them to go for it...

Squirrel Girl vs. Galactus - I adore the gimmick of the book/character that SG can defeat _anyone_ as long as it happens off-panel (and she's more interested in talking bad guys out of what they were doing than punching them anyway). I agree that I might get tired of it, but it's a hit with Michelle so I'll keep picking it up.

As a long-time fan who's mostly lost interest in mainstream books, it's interesting to be the parent of a new fan and to help her find books she enjoys. It gives me some hope for the medium. (To be fair though, we've been critiquing Marvel/DC and there's a lot of great books coming out these days from other publishers.)

As for SHIELD, "on the bubble" is exactly how I feel about it. I'm one bad issue away from removing it from my pull list.


I enjoy stuff like Squirrel Girl, but only to a limited degree -- I just plain like my stories chewier than that. Indeed, part of why I've been such a big Marvel fan for the past fifteen years or so was their willingness to let writers tell big, complex stories with real ramifications -- while it had its ups and downs, the Brian Michael Bendis tenure on the Avengers stands as one of my landmarks of the field.

(The just-completed Hickman run was both too dark and too esoteric to reach the same level, but was still fascinating in its way. The exploration of how different people react to a true zero-sum situation was a particularly favorite aspect.)

But the new changes are a reminder that even the biggest and most important stories are quite ephemeral in a corporate-owned environment. And I don't see any sign that they're planning anything terribly ambitious or interesting -- frankly, the loud All-New publicity sounds very humdrum to me.

And let's get real -- having just finished Arkwright Integral the other day (the enormous and beautiful hardcover collection of Luther Arkwright and Heart of Empire), it really did drive home that there are better places I can put my money...

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