So what does everyone else think about this whole Marvel Age thing?
According to the March solicits, the House of Ideas is launching yet another major publishing initiative to improve the relations between their camp, and the younger demographic of untapped readers that we all want to believe still exists. Operating under the adage “if you build it, they will come,” or the theory that they’re already here, Marvel Age is set to deliver contemporary takes on classic Marvel stories, hopefully endearing a whole new audience to the industry. Noble cause to be sure, but I can feel your déjà vu from here, and after glancing over the solicitation copy for the first title, Marvel Age: Spider-Man, it likely won’t go away. Initially, the whole thing looks like more of the same, re-invention for re-inventions’ sake, another half-hearted attempt to justify putting another #1 title out, yet keep the same stuff going that’s been going for the last few decades, but that’s cynic’s talk. Besides, I’m quickly changing my mind about it anyway.
The usual knee-jerk response to the question of “where have the children all gone?” is to blame video games, movies, the Internet, and any other form of undeserving entertainment that probably garners more respect than ours. To an extent, this is valid reasoning, as anything that has the misfortune of appearing in print seems to have fallen out of favor, as the current trend is information communicated in the quickest, and most disposable way possible, an entertainment IV filled with ever increasing amounts of bullshit. So it’s easy to point and say, “It’s their fault,” but as an exercise, the next time you visit your friendly neighborhood purveyor, look for comics that could be handed to a ten year old, if one accidentally ended up there. Something they could pick up, read and enjoy without having to pick up an expensive trade that they had to mow lawns all summer to buy.
Right, right, I know, don’t ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to. Applies to girlfriends, applies to the comic industry.
We’ve gotten to the point that the very possibility that a modern generation will discover, and then grow up with comics, has been cast into doubt, and hastened along by a lack of options. The first bit of knowledge that excited me about the “Marvel Age” is self-contained stories featuring wildly popular characters that give a ten year old what he or she wants to see from Marvel Comics, superheroes in cool costumes beating the hell out of each other. They aren’t afraid of the “S word”, and just want something with bright colors and crazy stunts to keep them occupied for ten minutes.
“Waiting for the trade” is the new phrase that pays, but does little Jimmy care about decompressed storytelling, or making sure every title has nice widescreen panels? I doubt he does, and though his little brain probably doesn’t understand it, flipping through a lot of material on the stands is going to leave him shaking his head, and telling his friends that he was gonna buy some comics, but it was just a bunch of people talking in them. That’s only an observation, but you’d have to agree that only a small handful of writers truly excel at slowing things down to a crawl, and building up to that dynamite pay-off. Now it’s become the “house” style, and books can’t launch without an epic seven part story, though we can easily name the ten writers that routinely pull that off and make it look easy. Instead of writers being allowed to play to their own strengths, the tide says that everybody should write like Bendis, or make everything more cinematic, or whatever’s going on out there. I love and appreciate this trend too, but everything, everything, is a comic that looks like a movie, or a TV show. And Jimmy’s computer came with a DVD player and his parents have a flat panel TV in the other room.
Jimmy wants some kick-ass comics that aren’t apologizing for it.
Spider-Man fighting some member of his extensive rogues gallery every month is a good move, as is Marvel’s decision to skip over the origin story entirely, and just get down to business. Tsunami titles like Sentinel and Runaways have the best chance of tapping into this Tokyopop market that’s currently owning the bookstores, and finally collecting Spider-Girl is an obvious choice. With the preceding titles, and a Fantastic Four one launching in April, the foundation appears solid, but even more important than what they’re offering is how they’re offering it, and ultimately the initiative will live or die because of the digest format.
Manga’s presence in the bookstores is well documented, and Marvel’s willingness to attack this segment of the market quickly is encouraging. Marvel Age launches in March, and there will be digest editions available in April, bearing a strong resemblance to Tokyopop’s output, which has drawn some criticism, but honestly, if I could get away with it, I’d put the damn Tokyopop symbol on the book. It’s a style and design that numbers have proven the audience responds to, and even a part-time cynic isn’t above a little sleight of hand. Besides, this may all be over in a few years when these kids start having sex, so why not make a good run for it?
The most relevant issue is diversification, ensuring that there are books out there for anyone that cares to read them, and anything that’s about expanding the influence, deserves a fair shot. A year from now, we may all be sitting around and musing about how Marvel Age failed miserably, but like everything, despite our insistence on classifying things by imprint or publisher, the only two brackets that mean anything are good shit and bad shit. Hopefully, the “Marvel Age” will offer more of the good shit, toward a demographic that deserves it.
Da New Hotness
Fallen Angel #7 (Peter David/David Lopez/Fernando Blanco)
This was a book I kept changing my mind about. While the first few issues were definitely intriguing, largely because of the characters, I wasn’t quite sold on the tales of Bete Noire, and the “angel” that protects it. David appeared to be leaving certain elements deliberately vague, and I wanted to be shown more, which is a credit to his talents, because while the title initially proved frustrating, I stuck with it, and with issue seven, my reservations prove unfounded. Go ahead and buy the Fallen Angel. There’s more than enough mystery, sex, and magic to hold your interest here, with the proper introduction of Black Mariah, who like any good villain, further defines and explains the motivations of our hero, by her presence alone. And just when you think you have everything figured out, the writer twists it up, and shows you that the hero of the piece may not be a “hero” at all.
Ultimate X-Men #41 (Brian Michael Bendis/David Finch/Art Thibert)
One common complaint about the work of Brian Michael Bendis, and probably the only one, involves the usual length of his storylines, and the lack of “action” that occurs in them. At this point, he can really do whatever the hell he wants, having proved his considerable skills long ago, but this latest arc of Ultimate X-Men has thus far dropped two very strong stories, that began and ended in their single issue frame. Here, in one of his strongest scripts ever, we’re introduced to a young mutant with a horrible mutation that effects everything around him in a very permanent way, and Bendis uses the first half of the story to crank the suspense to a maximum, strongly hinting that something terrible is happening, but keeping us in the dark, along with the main character. The truth is horrifying and tragic, and I refuse to spoil it here, but the ending is both obvious and ambiguous, and the story itself encourages multiple readings. Not bad work in 22 pages…not bad work at all.
Captain America #22 (Robert Morales/Chris Bachalo/Tim Townsend)
Am I the only person that loves the work of Chris Bachalo? His artwork alone was reason enough to start giving Captain America a shot, and Morales’ scripts are easily keeping me here, because quite simply, I like the Steve Rogers he’s writing about. Morales portrays him as a man trained to follow orders, but never to the extent where he compromises his own morals, and when attacked or harassed, he fights back with whatever he can get his hands on. Last issue, he fired a gun to protect the lives of a couple government agents, and this month he tosses an asshole commanding officer into the ocean for being an asshole. The addition of Rebecca Quan as romantic interest is working, much to my surprise, and I’m anxious to see where that goes. Combine this with the mystery of the secret tribunal, and you have more than a few reasons to buy Captain America. Imagine that.
And now…a brief public service announcement about free comics…
Hey everyone! Brandon’s been kind enough to give me a little of his space to run a small advertisement for the relaunch of Working Title Comics, so get ready for the pitch.
Working Title Comics is an absolutely free website dedicated to running, maintaining, and advertising webcomics. And by free, I mean free. Free for people to host, free for people to view. The idea is simply to provide a place for aspiring writers and artists to get a chance to put their work out to the world and get some finished pieces under their belts. We update every Wednesday and are dedicated to bringing you quality comics for your enjoyment.
Now, we’ve been around for a few months, but we’re kicking the site into high gear starting this week. We have a sleek new website design, a host of comics waiting to be uploaded and a promise to keep doing what we’ve been doing. So we’d like to invite everyone to come check the site out. See if there is anything you like (I promise there will be.) Stay a while, and come back every week if you want.
Better yet, if you have a script or idea for a story, get in contact with us. Are you an artist who wants to try his hand at a comic? Give us a call. Heck, if you have a fully completed comic with no home, send it our way and we’ll put it online for you. Check us out HERE.
And did I mention it’s all free?
Aaron Mehta, Editor-in-Chief
Working Title Comics