Robot 6

The Fifth Color | The finality of now

Captain America #19

the final issue until next month

Comedian Demetri Martin has this great, short bit about how he loves digital cameras because they allow you to reminisce instantly. That we can take a picture and immediately look back with clarity and fondness at something that happened only seconds before — “We were so young!” — is essential to current comics culture. The world so quickly and drastically changes for readers that events that happened just last month can feel oh, so long ago. Characters die and return, sometimes within months of our grieving. It seems like only yesterday when we were still under the threat of the Phoenix, because it was only yesterday, relatively speaking.

This week sees the ends of five titles, and each one takes a final bow with all due gravitas for its moment in history. Invincible Iron Man #527 says goodbye to Matt Fraction and Salvador LaRocca, who began their run when the first Iron Man movie was hitting theaters. Ed Brubaker relinquishes his Captain America writing duties with Issue 19; not exactly an illustrious numbering to leave on, but when you look back at all the work he’s done and how it’s changed the common reader’s understanding of Steve Rogers, it’s a remarkable career. Kieron Gillen leaves Journey Into Mystery with #645, after which the whole title gets a new face to focus on, a new creative team and a new mystery to journey into. And Jonathan Hickman leaves FF, a book he created to serve a beautiful purpose for Marvel’s First Family, and I dare anyone not to get a little misty eyed after turning those final pages.

These are all weighty doors closing on eras that changed the face of our comics, and we may never see their like again. Times, they are a-changin’ … but are they, really? This moment with these books written in such a way is over, but Captain America lives on. Iron Man will fly again, as will Fraction, both just moving in new directions. Heck, Loki isn’t even leaving Gillen’s hands; they’re just moving into a new apartment with different roommates.

So why do we mourn? Why do we read these books as the final issue of Captain America when we all know logically that Captain America will continue next month with a new issue? What exactly are we losing when so many things stay the same? I’ve got an idea; see if you agree.

WARNING: we’re talking about this week’s comics listed above but might spoil some Avengers #32. So grab your copies (and a couple hankies because man, FF is a tearjerker!) and follow along!

Each of the issues that ends this week quietly pack up its toys and put it all back in the box for the next creative team. The future selves of the Richards’ children are sent off on new adventures, Iron Man says goodbye to this version of the supporting cast and gets a new reason to delve into new sets of armor, Captain America gets back out on that lonely road in service to the symbol he’s always been, and Kid Loki comes full circle in the machinations that Gillen has woven around him. Everyone gets an ending, but nothing is really ending except one chapter of a larger, never-ending story. Writers put away what they’ve accomplished but their mark on these titles doesn’t really leave. Brubaker’s vision of Captain America has left its mark and can’t really be set aside completely. But for now we will salute the work he’s done and prepare the way for Rick Remender as best we can.

As these eras are ending, we also have a weird rebirth of stuff that seems completely incongruous. To the point, Avengers #32 brought Janet Van Dyne back (so far). The Wasp was killed in two books and mourned extensively in the 616. In the aftermath of Secret Invasion, Hank Pym has lost so much dealing with his ex-wife that, for a time, he even tried to take her name as a way to honor her memory. This taught him that the best way to honor Jan was to be himself, something he really did have the best grip on when she was alive. Then he tried to save her from infinity in the pages of Avengers Academy and again learned to let the past go and accept her loss. Sure, the universe could recover her at any time because, hey, comics. But these stories were about her effect on one man and what he struggled with as far as who he was and what he left behind. Hank Pym has become a stronger character in her absence and now, comics’ revolving door of death and rebirth turns again in the microverse to find the Wasp alive and not as infinite as we saw in Avengers Academy. What does that mean for the stories that dealt with her death? Were they in vain?

We’re also getting Jean Grey back in the upcoming All-New X-Men, a character that has been sort of the cosmic joke of comic death for quite some time. This time, she returns as the teen she started out as, a fresh template clean of all the history we’ll most likely shoulder her with as soon as she hits the page. We can reminisce about all the things Jean Grey has been through, despite the fact that this character has nothing to do with that yet. Or might ever. Or will eventually lead into.  And if this Jean Grey dies under Brian Michael Bendis’ watch, what exactly will we have lost?  You can see how this all becomes confusing.

Why does the end of these historic comic book runs that finished this week feel so definitive when we all know logically that nothing is comics is truly “definitive”? Books may end, but the stories continue. Writers may leave one book but move on to the next. Characters can die but for how long? Serial storytelling is forever, it’s a song that never ends. It can change tempo and pitch, the words can change but it remains the same. We feel the weight of these last issues because the writers and artists are honestly that damn good; given the time they had, we became comfortable together. As Capt. Picard tells Cmdr. Riker in Star Trek: Generations, he believes “that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived.”

A particular era of Marvel comics has ended. Writers and artists may return, but this one moment is over to make way for something new. Now is a perfectly reasonable time to reminisce about.

News From Our Partners

Comments

27 Comments

Marvel is giving us all a wonderful opportunity to drop all our favorite titles. Just like I dropped DC last September. Gosh, what am I going to do with all the money I’m not spending on comics?

You could spend it on other comics that aren’t Marvel and DC.
Humanoids is putting out a lot of top-quality material from Europe.

“Now” you see how much it sucks when a perfectly good status quo is razed to spike sales.

To me the Marvel Era died out with the transition from Quesada to Alonso, there was a short creative breath and and a re-crafting with new characters (Red Hulk, X-23, Daken,Winter Soldier…even The Sentry)and lush story lines that involved every character into what was a lush tapestry of events(Civil War, Secret Invasion, Thor’s return to Midgard, Dark Reign) And looking back I feel, no, I know that that essence has faded away.

Snarky-snark-snark (As is your right, I guess). As to the ACTUAL article, I think that part of what I love about really good comic runs is that they can both stand alone or be part of a larger tapestry. If Brubaker’s Cap run is the only Captain America you ever read, you’ll be well served, if you want more, however, we’ve got two Mark’s for you, and now we can see what Remender will do. Same with FF; you like Johnathan Hickman? Why not check out John Byrne? There are also other examples with people with different names as well, it’s just that I think I’m so clever…

FF is a real tearjerker. The book I will miss the most.

@Jake
Start a new hobby? Donate it to a good cause?

You know what? I think the reason why people resent the “New 52″ so much is that the old DCU never got a proper send-off. The existing storylines were very very quickly wrapped up, and Flashpoint transitioned the universes, but a host of other plotlines were never concluded. That, and we got the sudden “shunt” from usual Superman to armored Superman, and a lot of other things were very different.

Heck, even the last time DC did this, there was *some* attempt at transitioning the Silver Age to the Post-Crisis. The JSA got a send-off in their “Last Days” special, and Alan Moore wrapped up Superman with “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow.” Flashpoint was just–“YOINK”–everything’s different!

you know those people who always say that the current cast of SNL is not as good as the last one. I remember when I loved Farley, Sandler and Spade and everyone said, man these guys aren’t as good as the original cast. Then when it was Will Ferrell and his guys everyone said, man these guys aren’t as good as Sandler and Spade. then when Tina Fey took over everyone talked about how great the Will Ferrell era was, now I here people talk about how great Tina Fey was….

That’s what the internet is like for Marvel comics.

“If Brubaker’s Cap run is the only Captain America you ever read, you’ll be well served, if you want more, however, we’ve got two Mark’s for you, and now we can see what Remender will do. Same with FF; you like Johnathan Hickman? Why not check out John Byrne? ”

Dayfan just nailed what is great about comics. With all the history that these characters have, there is so much out there to like. I’ll miss Brubaker’s run with my favorite character but I’m looking forward to Remender, JRjr and crew. Honestly, I’m no fan of Bendis’ Avengers so I’m happy that he’s gone. I gave Hickman’s Fantastic Four and FF a try and honestly because of the Death of the Human Torch hype, I dropped it. I started losing interest in Fraction’s Iron Man when it seemed that we’d go three issues or so without actually having Iron Man in the comic. Nothing’s particularly wrong with these titles outside of the fact that I didn’t like them after spending what feels like a lifetime of buying these comics (I quit comics in the 90’s). Someone’s Bendis is my Shooter or Stern and so on and so forth.

Marvel Now! has a chance to invigorate these comics and characters. I’m pretty sure that Bendis will fall in love with his own writing to the point that the X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy will be unreadable to me but truthfully, I haven’t really read an X-Men com that I like past Uncanny 200. As for the rest, I remain optimistic. So I’m glad that these creators were able to end their runs the way that they wanted but I’m more interested in what’s ahead and how much I’ll care about it.

What Marvel NOW! is doing for me is the same thing the New 52 did for me: Giving me a jumping-on point. I got out of comics when I was in graduate school (silly money!). Now that I’m out, I can afford comics again, but the storylines in both the big 2 were such I didn’t feel comfortable jumping in. Then DC did the new 52 and… well, I started with 6 of the monthlies. I’m down to 4 now, and only 2 of the original 2, but it gave me a place to start.

Marvel NOW is giving me a chance to start in on Fantastic Four, FF, and Thor. I’ll wait to hear about the others once they’re out, but those three in particular have grabbed my attention. Meanwhile, I’ll probably go back and pick up the Hickman FF and Fantastic Four in trade, based on the good things I’ve heard.

Like Dayfan said, each run in a comic is a place to jump in and jump out… but it’s also a doorway to other runs. I’d never read Fantastic Four, and then a friend shoved Essential Fantastic Four vol. 1 on me. Then I tried out the Byrne stuff. Then the Waid run. I loved all of them. (I’m very behind on the Essential volumes… I left off at volume five!)

I recognize that new starting points often signal stopping points for others. It’s happened to me, too, and I get that. It’s good to recognize, though, that at least sometimes it works. It did for me — pulling me back into the big 2!

@Jake

Smoking and drinking my friend, let those two “hobbies” suck your money.

And stop visiting internet comics sites……imagine all the free time you will have! You can thank Alonso and Didio all over again!

If you’re talking about DC and Marvel superhero comics, I don’t think there’s any point to reminiscing or feeling like change is constant – the only constant is the recycling of characters, ideas, and storylines. If a character “dies” he’ll be back. If you missed a certain storyarc, just wait until some minor variation on the same thing is repeated again in a couple years. This ceaseless repetition makes me feel the OPPOSITE of whimsical, I can feel free to shrug my shoulders and miss years worth of any title and just jump back on in the future. Or not to because what does it matter? What am I risking? Nothing new is being introduced by the Big Two anymore so who cares?

The real payoff is in indie books. I’m not saying that because I’m an aesthetic snob, I just care about storytelling and this eternal game of hoping DC and Marvel events reach an emotional payoff without being immediately reversed is a losing game. I honestly feel like previous generations, where kids would quit reading superhero books when they hit high school and then creators had an opportunity to circle back and reuse crap over again because it was a fresh group of new kids coming in, had it right. Trying to read DC and Marvel over a period of many years is useless.

Jake Earlewine – Seek out better comics. Check out indie publishers, it’s well worth it.

“you know those people who always say that the current cast of SNL is not as good as the last one. I remember when I loved Farley, Sandler and Spade and everyone said, man these guys aren’t as good as the original cast. Then when it was Will Ferrell and his guys everyone said, man these guys aren’t as good as Sandler and Spade. then when Tina Fey took over everyone talked about how great the Will Ferrell era was, now I here people talk about how great Tina Fey was….

That’s what the internet is like for Marvel comics.”

– Josh

Ha. That’s a great example. I have this theory that SNL was never any better or worse than at any other time, the people watching it just aged and their perception of the show changed as their life went on. When I was younger, I used to listen to Boomers yammer about how the show was ONLY good during the original four seasons, as if this was objectively correct and not colored by the fact that this was when they themselves happened to be in college. I wondered what they were talking about because they were missing out on the current cast who was, of course, brilliant in my eyes. Now that I’m a bit older (in my late 20’s instead of my early 20’s) I feel pretty “meh” towards SNL as a whole, sometimes it’s hilarious but most of the time, it’s just tired and not that funny. And it occurs to me that the show hasn’t changed qualitatively, I just grew out of it. That’s a real eye-opening revelation because it applies to so much in the world. If you look at something you used to like and wonder “Why are they still making this crap?” it’s because SOMEONE somewhere is still 17 years old, just because you’re not doesn’t mean it’s entirely worthless. Incidentally, they re-aired the first SNL episode to honor George Carlin when he died. I watched that episode and I wasn’t terribly impressed. It was really shaky and Carlin, who is always brilliant, wasn’t in any of the sketches – his stand up was great but the sketches themselves left me cold. Food for thought.

Maybe we should be that way with DC and Marvel superhero comics. Just grow out of the damn things. They’re not for me anymore so I just quit. I recognized that I wasn’t getting anything out of them because their little shell game of pretending everything “matters” and everything is an epic, world-changing event had no consequence because they failed to engage me on any level in the first place. On the other hand, why shit on them for younger people still coming in, the ones who haven’t grown bored and jaded yet? Let them find this stuff fresh to their new eyes.

Hey D. Peace, really enjoyed your comments. Much wisdom there, man. Actually, I buy about 25 “indies” each month. My favorites are The Boys, everything by Terry Moore, everything by Bros. Hernandez, Dark Horse Presents, and cool stuff by IDW and Dynamite. Those comics aren’t letting me down. It’s the Big Two that let me down. When they should be the best comics of all, because they have all those once-great characters like Batman and those created by Kirby, Lee and Ditko.

I’m just very sad that all the favorite characters I’ve loved my whole life have been twisted and distorted by fourth, fifth, and sixth generation writers/artists who have no respect for what the original creator intended. But what the heck, I’m also sad that you never get to hear trombones and clarinets on the radio any more, and I’m sad because Bush wasted so many lives on that unnecessary Iraq war.

As for the Saturday Night Live comparison, you and Josh are right on. Except that in all the eras of SNL, there has never been another comic genius on the level of John Belushi.

Trey, thanks for the kind advice: “Smoking and drinking my friend, let those two “hobbies” suck your money.”

Those are vices that run in my family. And several have died from them. In fact, my father died at 49 from smoking and drinking. His death certificate lists both liver failure and throat cancer as cause of death. I know I’m an addict, too, but I’ve managed to steer my addiction away from alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. My slightly-more-healthy addiction has been comic books.

Since 1967 I’ve tried to collect nearly every super-hero title by Marvel, DC, and ALL the indies. I have nearly every super-hero comic dating from 1964 until the crappiest lows of the 1990’s — over 150 longboxes in a huge room devoted entirely to comic books. You must see that it is very hard to give up a lifelong addiction. But today’s Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, etc.? I don’t recognize these guys.

It’s probably true that most of Marvel and DC’s current output might rot my mind, but at least they won’t give me cancer.

@Acer
How ya doing, man? Read anything good lately?

Why is it that all the comic websites are focusing on the ends of these great runs and no one is mentioning Daniel Way’s fantastic Deadpool run. That character would not be half as big as he is today without way’s fantastic take and stories with the character.

The way I see it is that you can have it only one of two ways when it comes to comics and reboots (or whatever Marvel calls it in a futile attempt to not look like they are copying DC’s Crisis):
Either age the characters in regular time, so Peter Parker, for example, would be about 70 now, or restart the stories every 7 to 15 years. It’s my opinion 7 to 15 would be best, just an opinion.
Because it just gets more and more ridiculous the way Marvel is doing it. I mean, just how much are we to believe can go on in the time frame we are being told these stories are happening within? Supposedly less than 10 years for everything that has happened in the MU in 50 years? It’s just stupid. Not to mention way too much for any writer to have to “write around”.
I’m 49 and I could care less if a comic universe is restarted. Just have good stories and art, and I’ll buy it.
I started comics at 9 years old, and I’m sure the 11 year old me wouldn’t have cared if suddenly the MU was destroyed by Galactus and all the books started over with first issues. Or if all the books just said “The End. See you next month when we start all our comic’s over, with all new stories!”.
It’s that or Emma Frost still in that costume at 60 (ewww…..).

God, I can’t believe they brought the Wasp back. If there was a more useless weak character than her, I don’t know who it may be.

If SNL is percieved to be good now, it’s only because television isn’t as great as it used to be. Sure, you got shows where you get to do things they normally wouldn’t be able to do 20 years ago. However, most of it is much worse than it ever was and more channels, too. SNL really isn’t that great now. It’s painful to watch sometimes and occasingly they’ll do something that makes me laugh. I’m sure they watched in 1994 and thought ‘this isn’t as good as the original cast. It’s terrible.’ and they’d be right. Fortunantly, they had 87 and beyond waiting or them. Great stuff. Remember Tounces? Awesome stuff.

Marvel and comic book-dome has really stood the test of time. It doesn’t seems plagued as much with the poltical and dreary atmosphere that has seeped into television and the movies. I actually want to read comics. People think comics and they think good stuff most of the time. They think the movies and television they think high ticket prices, remakes, and stupid reality shows.

I’m not sure what Marvel’s story point of view is on this relaunch, the one thing missing is a definitives X-Men book. Nothing that has anything to do with the Avengers. if there’s new mutants again, start a group. There’s room for Avengers and X-Men in the top ten. Big mistake in my opinion to not have a stand-alone X-book that doesn’t have obscure indie are in it. I don’t get the same vibe off Thor than when his first #1 by Jurgens and JRJR back then. Probably the weakest of the Relaunch are the Spider-man and Wolverine reboots. They two biggest characters of the company are now it’s least interesting. James who?

It’s really sad to see another last issue of Uncanny X-Men. I bought the thing and have a hard time convincing my self to read it.

Avengers are the biggest things Marvel’s got and will sell the most, not because of the movies either. But I think this relaunch could of been bigger and more together like DC’s was.

I’m not sure why so many people require “jumping on points”. I’ve never had trouble deciding if I like a book and then looking through the back bins or buying the trade books to catch up on what I’ve missed in the past. That used to be the best part.

The biggest problem I had was that I am anticipating Marvel Now! so much that I’d like them to get to the point already, so the last few months of several of the books had lame-duck status, despite having good stories.

It’s all a marketing strategy to just shuffle the creative teams. But I think the good part about it is that not all books were affected by the relaunch. I didn’t buy the NEW52 because these are not the original DC characters I grew up with.With the Marvel U, they still are the same Stan,Jack,Steve,Don,Bill and every character in the Marvel U. The Marvel U also boasts of fantastic creative runs from different eras.I haven’t bought any NOW books but am willing to try 3 (Superior Spider-man,NOVA,and Savage Woleverine (Frank Cho..yay!!!).Point here is that each creative team brings magic to the characters, and as they leave we will always miss their brilliance in crafting these stories.But that doesn’t mean the hobby ends here.

These relaunches needed to happen. Most of these runs were getting very stale.

Marvel NOW! would be a perfect jumping-on point for me because aside from the Fantastic Four, I haven’t bought another Marvel title in years. There’s just one small problem: they’re mostly $3.99. I know most people are comfortable dropping four bucks on a twenty-two page book, but I can’t justify that. Comics are already too expensive without Marvel’s shameless cash grab. And now, the only new Marvel books I’ll be reading will be the same one I’ve been reading since the early 90’s: the FF. I may get Young Avengers, though, since it’s decently priced

JP wrote: “I’m not sure why so many people require “jumping on points”. I’ve never had trouble deciding if I like a book and then looking through the back bins or buying the trade books to catch up on what I’ve missed in the past. That used to be the best part.”

I think this is because most people know nowadays that comic books aren’t written in a one-and-done format anymore, so you can’t read a single issue and get a complete story. People want to read complete stories from beginning to end, so single issues end up being a harder sell for new readers than say, trade paperbacks, where you can read the entire storyline without feeling like you’ve missed anything.

I know this is one thing that has certainly kept me from reading books like Bendis’ Avengers and New Avengers. By the time I wanted to read them, the backstories between all the characters had been built up so much that unless I went all the way back to Avengers Disassembled, there’s no way I was going to grasp everything that was going on and why, and I just wasn’t willing to make that kind of an investment.

I’m looking forward to the Marvel Now relaunch, because it’ll give me the opportunity to start a bunch of titles at their genesis. And hopefully, I’l enjoy a few of them enough that I’ll want to keep reading for the next 7 or so years.

I did the same when the New 52 happened, but it seems like I’m dropping more and more DC books every month. Even the titles I was enjoying the most like Animal Man and Swamp Thing barely excite me anymore. but that’s not because I love comics any less, the stories just haven’t been strong enough to hold my interest.

When I started buying comics, there was no such thing as “jumping on points”. My first Marvel was Thor #147, and like just about every Marvel comic during the late Silver Age, the story was continued from previous issues and the story was continued in later issues. And because of poor distribution, I wasn’t able to find every issue.

It didn’t keep me from falling in love with Marvel super-heroes and becoming a lifelong addict.

Jumping on points are for wusses. Or the semi-literate.

Leave a Comment

 


Browse the Robot 6 Archives