The Next Big Thing, Again

If your comic looks like this, it may be terrible.

If your comic looks like this, it may be terrible.

It has been about five months since Marvel’s last Earth-shattering, mind-blowing, character-changing, nothing-in-the-world-like-it event series, so naturally it’s time for another. If you didn’t detect a small amount of exasperation in that sentence, then you’re reading it wrong. Event comics are part of the mainstream culture at the Big Two publication houses in comics. They generally tell a story described as above, involving a central mini-series and lots of spinoffs and crossovers. In the end, they tend to be better described by a quote from a little-known writer named William Shakespeare:

…it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Shakespeare may have been interpreting a human life in the bleakest of terms, but it’s also possible he travelled into the future, read “Avengers Vs X-Men”, cried, and then snuck back to provide me this quote. Before I let this devolve into a tirade of aforementioned sound and fury, I’ll leave my description of events as this: They are published regularly, with great volume and little valuable content.

So what’s the problem with these event comics? They come from the same publishing houses that are currently giving us great titles like “Hawkeye” and “Batman”. There are usually very talented individuals involved like Ed Brubaker (AvX, Criminal) and Jason Aaron (AvX, Scalped). I’d say it has to do with the completely rational urge to make a profit. Looks at the series of terrible titles Marvel has pushed out year-after-year ranging from “House of M” to “Siege” to “AVX”. It’s not just the central titles though. These series have crossovers that sometimes total over one hundred issues. Each one of them being sold to comic stores. There’s a lot of money to be made with the formula they’re using. It just so happens the formula is terrible.

These books sell like a 90’s gold foil variant cover (if you don’t get the reference, count yourself lucky). Just to give you an idea of how well they sell, here are some numbers comparing the god awful “AVX” to the best comic book currently being sold “Saga” over the course of three months.

Avengers vs. X-Men #4 – 178,330
Avengers vs. X-Men #3 – 175,695
Saga #3 – 38,895

Avengers vs. X-Men #6 – 190,705
Avengers vs. X-Men #5 – 186,555
Saga #4 – 41,143

Avengers vs. X-Men #7 – 179,208
Avengers vs. X-Men #8 – 174,910
Saga #5 – 40,556

Now that I’m done vomiting at the sight of that and have re-convinced myself to live, let’s continue.

Just because so many events turn out so poorly doesn’t mean they have to though. In other mediums, we receive major event releases that are incredibly good. I would proffer “The Avengers” as a movie event and “The Avengers” rocked harder than any other movie released this summer. It was so damn good, that if someone disagrees, I may Hulk out and smash them like a puny god. (All kidding aside, you’re always welcome to your opinion, but the third act of this move is undeniably great) There’s no reason that a superhero event in comics can’t attain the kind of greatness we saw on screens across America this summer. They can have explosive battles, all of our favorite characters, and still be good. There’s no reason a major event can’t focus on themes and character while blowing shit out of the sky. They are not mutually exclusive concepts.

I represent hope!

I represent hope!

I feel a little like John Cusack in “High Fidelity”. I’ve had my heart broken so many times, but I keep retreading old ground and hoping the next one will be better. That having been said, “Age of Ultron” has the potential to be the first good event book in a long time. It’s doing a lot of things right. For one, it’s not crossing over with a roughly estimated million other books. All of its crossovers occur in single issue spinoffs, which will not interfere with ongoing stories, and have been limited to nine titles. It has a solid creative team, with Brian Michael Bendis writing and Brian Hitch illustrating the first five issues. The first book is also a solid piece. It sets a great tone for the remaining nine issues and establishes a status quo that leaves you wanting to see what happens next. There’s a lot of work to be done, like setting up the actual conflict of the series, but it’s a good start.

So let’s start supporting good events. The first issue of “Age of Ultron” is worth a read, but that doesn’t mean readers should commit themselves to ten full issues. If the story continues to be of high quality, keep buying, but don’t be scared to drop it, if it goes South. Publishers seem to think they can cobble together a ridiculous story, slap some big names on it and shovel it out the door once a year to up their profit margins, so they do it. If readers stop buying (or just buy less) bad event books, then it’s possible that we can expect an increase in quality. There’s a reason Marvel Studios hired Joss Whedon, instead of Michael Bay, to direct “The Avengers”. They recognized there was additional value in high-quality storytelling and both sides reaped the benefits. Dreck, like “Transformers 2”, may still sell well, but not as well as good stories of a similar nature. It seems like movie studios are starting to figure this out and it’s because the public is speaking with their pocketbooks. If comic readers start doing the same, then maybe the same could happen and we could all start to anticipate the next event, instead of dread it. I hope “Age of Ultron” may even be the book that starts that trend.

Prove me right Mr. Bendis.

P.S. I’ve recently experienced the joy of discovering some new series like “Nowhere Men” and “Thor: God of Thunder”. It’s often difficult to discern what’s worth picking up with so many books on the shelves. So look forward to article discussing strategies for filtering through the stands and finding some good reads.


About chasemagnett

Chase is a mild-mannered finance guy by day and a raving comics fan by night. He has been reading comics for more than half of his life (all 23 years of it). After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with degrees in Economics and English, he has continued to research comics while writing articles and reviews online. His favorite superhero is Superman and he'll accept no other answers. Don't ask about his favorite comic unless you're ready to spend a day discussing dozens of different titles.
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2 Responses to The Next Big Thing, Again

  1. Johnnie says:

    I agree with the sentiment. I always get into these things with the greatest hope and most of the time I am left wanting. The worst part, as you say, is that there are grand possibilities out there waiting to be realized. It is frustrating, but I will continue to line up, because I am apparently a hopelessly optimistic fanboy.

  2. chasemagnett says:

    It’s the curse of the fanboy, but I’d rather be disappointed, then not read comics at all. With the second “Age of Ultron” book already coming out on Wednesday, we’ll at least be able to get a read on what kind of event it is early on.

    That having been said, a lot of Marvel’s other new books have been very good. Have you checked out the new “Thor: God of Thunder”? I figured as a Thor fanboy, you’d get a kick out of seeing three versions of Thor (young, current, and old) all in the same book.

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