Monday, January 25, 2010

My return and Marvel's event failure pattern

Three and a half years is a long, long time.

For a guy who loves to write, and usually writes somewhere in the vicinity of two thousand words a day just to keep in practice, one might think that it would have taken a lot less time for me to get back to writing about comic books, which anyone can tell you is my single greatest passion. I can’t tell anyone why I’ve been away from the blog for so long, or what it was that ultimately brought me back to it, but I can tell you that in the years that have passed I have stumbled across all manner of things I would like to talk about. With the closing last year of yet another local comic store I have lost my last outlet for verbal discourse with other intelligent (and often unintelligent) comic readers, which is where I am hoping that all of you will step in.

I can’t promise you an insightful literary analysis of the underlying themes of a book, because quite frankly I don’t want to root into the core of a writer’s subtext and expose it for analysis.  Somebody else can take the highbrow approach to comic reviews.  All I really want to do is talk comics.  I want to share with you what I think is working in comics, and what I think is failing.  I want to look into the big press blunders and the small press wonders that I find every time I pull a shipment of comics out of the box and start exploring.

If you’re wondering right now what kind of focus I’ll have, I can tell you that I read a fairly even mix of Marvel and DC books, with preferences given to the books that continue to attract the best writers.  I follow some small press work, though most of it tends to be written by either Warren Ellis or Garth Ennis, and I can’t remember the last time I got truly excited by anything that Image publishes (although I do enjoy Invincible when I read it.) Comics that draw on history are fascinating when done well, and trite when door sloppily, and if an author or publish let a book’s schedule slide to some kind of erratic schedule I will almost certainly drop it in favor of coming on here and blogging about their failure to respect the fans.

Looking back on the last couple of years I can tell you, as somebody who did reasonably well with Marvel’s recent sale, that I was largely disappointed in the major stories that “my” company pushed.  In almost every case I found myself intrigued and excited going into a story, only to have the climax fall far short of the anticipation, leaving me wondering if they would ever learn how to properly complete a story. Maybe we should take a moment to think about what strikes me as some of Marvel’s unmitigated failures in recent years, like House of M, World War Hulk, Civil War and ultimately Secret Invasion (we won’t pass judgment on Dark Reign and its climactic Siege just yet.)

These were all big name events, driven by a simple but solid premise, in which the story leading up to the event was more compelling than the event itself. Watching Hulk and Cap stand their ground against the Marvel heroes who had done them (or the nation; TONY STARK!) wrong only to capitulate and fold at the climax was both frustrating and offensive, and tore their respective stories apart. House of M was a muddle of a story that never really got going and built to the event that it should have become (it would have been better served with a company wide focus reflective of Age of Apocalypse) while Secret Invasion blurred too many lines to have the impact it should have had.  If the story had lead to the return of 1 key person (cap) or 1 key team who had long been believed dead, evil or some such, it might have resonated.  Instead all it did was muddy the waters surrounding a host of mid-level characters and their ultimate fates in the Marvel Universe.

The events arguably ran from one into another, creating a chronology of events that all seem to be leading to Siege, but now that Siege is here I find myself asking…..”how did they do in building to this?”

Answer: not well.

Before anyone puts the common denominator together, let me just say this; I like Brian Bendis.  I like his books and I routinely read MOST of the things that he’s writing (I don’t read Spider-Man because it goes against my religion) so this isn’t a concerted attack on the mastermind of these events.  What it is is a condemnation of his ability to deliver a knock-out punch, which in my opinion he hasn’t done since Avengers Disassembled (which he promptly fixed by bringing back Hawkeye in House of M - this is not a compliment.) In small story, month to month writing the man is exceptional.  In big story, event writing?

I haven’t seen it yet.

Next up?

Let's talk about James Robison some more, as he takes over on Justice League Of America...

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