Yesterday, I went into a comic book store and I picked up a comic book set in mainstream Marvel continuity for the first time since…2007? The last thing I really remembered reading was ‘World War Hulk’, which I gave up on because I realized that it had been four years since a major Marvel story had actually involved superheroes fighting bad guys. I may have bought something since then, but if I have it didn’t stick in my memory. Which probably doesn’t argue well for it anyway.
What changed my mind? The new ‘Ms Marvel’. I read about it and decided that a) a superhero who had a different point of view than other superheroes, written by a writer who had a different point of view than other writers at Marvel, might result in something (surprise) interesting and surprising and different. And b) I had, on my own blog, taken Marvel to task for writing something that was designed to appeal to people other than its existing fanbase, only to market it squarely at its existing fanbase because Marvel Does Not Know How To Market Things, and then shrug lazily when it fails and say that all the whitebread fanboys who say that Marvel should stop trying to appeal to anyone other than them must be right after all. And I realized that if I was going to do that, I should really actually buy the comic instead of talking about how it deserved more support and not actually supporting it.
So I went in, and I bought the ‘Marvel Now Point One’ special. And what did I think? Well, first off, it’s almost impossible not to notice the way that Marvel has changed itself to be more like the Marvel Cineverse. It’s not just the obvious stuff, like Coulson making a cameo on the SHIELD helicarrier where he and Loki had a scene together on the prison set from the ‘Avengers’ movie. There are fundamental changes to the basic personalities of the main characters and the dynamics between them. Loki has transformed from a cartoonish supervillain into a complex antihero solely to take advantage of the Tom Hiddleston death cult. (Of which I’m a member as well, don’t get me wrong. I did not expect to walk out of ‘Thor: The Dark World’ thinking I’d want more Loki, but that’s exactly what happened.) The Avengers, as a team, are turning into a partial adjunct of SHIELD, primarily because that’s what makes sense to the new comics fans out there. Black Widow is being given new prominence in the Marvel Universe because to someone just walking in the door from the movie theater, she’s a major player in the superhero world and significantly more famous and important than Captain Marvel. Even the space opera stuff feels like it’s getting ready to tie in to the future ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movie.
In case it’s unclear, this is not a complaint. This is actually a lot of appreciation for Marvel’s editorial savvy; in a world where comics are a weird, ghettoized marginal medium that’s perpetually five years away from being unviable as a business model, the only possible way to survive is to latch on to whatever freaking trends you can and milk them dry. In the Seventies, Marvel survived by picking up the ‘Star Wars’ license and riding that pony, and in the Nineties, they hung their hat on multiple covers and shock twists. Right now, the movies are making money on a scale ten thousand times what the best-selling comics do; they would be foolish not to adapt. I am proud of them for doing so. And even thought it’s not enough to tip the scales and get me back into buying Marvel comics in general…yet…as someone who has counted himself as more of a “Marvel movie fan” than a “Marvel comics fan” for quite a while now, it was nice to come back into a comic book and feel like I was being made welcome.
Second, it was tremendously amusing to watch Norrin Radd try to grow hair and fail.
And third, I really liked the new Ms Marvel. The character is smart, she’s self-determined and has interesting and accessible character conflicts, she has a good sense of humor and a cool powerset that she uses in fun and visually dynamic ways, and the art really lends itself to the story. (Oh, and I like the costume. It looks homemade in a good way.) It’s only an eight-page preview, but it left me really looking forward to issue #1 and thinking that while Marvel Does Not Know How To Market Things, they picked a great creative team. I’m excited about this.
Although I confess that I still expect it to be canceled by issue #12, and the character to die in a crossover within the next five years when Captain Marvel becomes Ms Marvel again. But I may just be a pessimist at heart.