Why The Russos Are The Best Thing to Happen to the MCU Since Joss Whedon
I’m a year or so late to the game here, but a recent find while trolling through some issues of Spider-Man 2099 got me thinking; if the past that led up to the apocalyptic 2099 going on now? Let me explain.
In the early 90s, Marvel began a line of comics set over one hundred years in the future. In this future corporations had run amok, leading to a Blade Runner-esque future replete with hovercars and cybernetics galore. Although superheroes were prevalent in the 1990s of Marvel continuity, they were completely absent as the 2099 line began. Over time new iterations of Marvel icons began appearing, but what’ s important for this is that in the 2099 future they teased as to what happened in the late 20th/early 21st century to get to this point. In an issue of Doom 2099, they go into some detail describing a “Heroic Age” (their term) that existed around the turn of the century, that fell into disarray with a massive “civil war” between humans and mutants.
That mention,way back in the nineties of a “Heroic Age” came full circle last year with Marvel’s turn to their own “Heroic Age” post Siege, and as coincidental that might be it also gives me a bit of fanboy hope that something bigger might be coming along. Marvel has previously stated that the 2099 titles existed in a different universe — Earth-928 to be exact — but wouldn’t it be unique if some of the events in the 2099 came true in the regular Marvel Universe? We only have 88 years to wait.
Cue the Welcome Back, Kotter theme music: At a live press conference from NYC’s Midtown Comics today, Marvel unveiled “Fear Itself,” a line-wide event beginning in March. Featuring a prologue one-shot by Ed Brubaker and Scot Eaton, tie-ins, spin-off stand-alone miniseries, and an April-launching seven-issue core limited series by Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen, it’s very much in the vein of past mega-events like “Civil War,” a comparison company personnel made repeatedly at the presser. If anything, it sounds even bigger than “Civil War,” as the two core Marvel franchises who’ve traditionally been kept at arms’ length from the big events of late, the Hulk and the X-Men, look to be playing an integral role right along with the Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and so on.
Let me say that again (in case any cover blurb people are listening): The new five-issue miniseries event, Chaos War, by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, is the finest example of what the “Heroic Age” means to the Marvel Universe and modern comics. If you had ever wondered what that blue banner on your books was talking about or what they meant by “Heroic Age,” then do yourself a favor and go read Chaos War #1.
Within this incredibly crafted over-sized issue, you not only see the triumphant return of a classic ’70s Marvel hero, but there is a Call to Action because the Universe As We Know It is threatened by divine figures, the ultimate authority figure. All the finest heroes are gathered like the best Whitman’s Sampler, along with a key element to make your tale astonishing: the common man. Along with all these heroes and powerful forces is a young man with nothing stronger than the power of his own brain. One who gave up divinity to be who he is and stand next to the impossible.
Pak and Van Lente have worked very hard to get us to this point. They took a title from one of Marvel’s less-touted events (World War Hulk was awesome, it’s just not as relevant as say Civil War or even Secret Invasion, but this is a topic for another time) and fought back story to provide an entertaining read issue after issue. From where they started, Hercules and Amadeus Cho have done something phenomenal to comics: they have grown as characters. Between Incredible Hercules #113 and Chaos War #1, you can actually plot the character arcs that have not only made them better heroes, but better people as well. Their adventures have been told in short and snappy plot arcs, they have weathered through Big Events like Secret Invasion and Dark Reign, they have read up and incorporated older canon (like the Olympus Group and the Pantheon) and even more recent events (the Oeming Ares miniseries) and incorporated both into their own stories like the finest herbs and spices. Incredible Hercules has gone above and beyond the call of duty to present we comic fans the finest in fun storytelling and legendary adventure.
So why does the best book to honor the Heroic Age not even get a banner? Why does the Thunderbolts have it? We’re not even supposed to know about the Secret Avengers and they got a Heroic Age banner! What gives?
(WARNING: maybe spoilers for Chaos War #1? I mean, everyone knows that there’s a war, and it’s against Chaos and our heroes are going to go and fight it, so … it’s a toss up. Go get yourself a copy of the book if you’re not sure. In fact, get two. Just in case.)
Congratulations! We have cornered the market on being succinct! For new readers and old alike, Marvel Comics are definable in a universal fashion. Retailers hear “Oh, I don’t know anything about comics” on a daily basis, so now there’s a very simple and interesting way to talk about the Marvel Universe in general. As of the start of the Heroic Age, Marvel-flavored comics are about (now right this down): heroes, both mortal and super-powered, coming together to form alliances and make the world a better place despite past mistakes.
Tah-dah! From this humble little back jacket blurb, the new reader can be directed to a number of #1 issues coming out this summer that will illustrate this point to some degree. The Avengers is now a self-styled franchise, this week the Avengers Academy showed us a great setting to hook younger readers in with, some old characters have been dusted off, given a new look and fresh start on their fictional lives. Welcome to the beginning.
Again. We’ve already had that beginning/fresh start/young new characters/slew of #1 issues before. The Heroic Age has thus been more roll call than running start. In our new Avengers books (as opposed to our New Avengers books) thus far, the action is brief and cliffhangery; you just get to the action in time for the twist ending that is supposed to catch you into the next issue. This is a great way into introduce new readers to characters they haven’t been following before or get people settled into the all new, all different setting (that looks a lot like Marvel say seven years ago or so) , but these kind of get-togethers can leave the long reading fan feeling déjà vu. It’s like getting an appetizer when, no thank you, we’ve been waiting for this meal since January when the Heroic Age was announced so let’s get to the main course. For we True Believers, another refresh might seem a little unsatisfying.
The reason why you may be still hungry is decompressed storytelling. And possible bad eating habits; if either of these relate to you, please see a professional about the latter and follow me about the former.
Welcome once again to What Are You Reading? where we ask, “If you were stuck on an island with the smoke monster, what would you bring to read?” Yes, that was my lame attempt to make today’s edition topical. Sorry. Let’s just write that off as me being really excited to see the end of Lost.
This week our special guest is comics retailer Randy Lander, who you can find selling comics at Rogues Gallery Comics & Games in Round Rock, Texas or blogging over at Inside Joke Theatre. To see what Randy and the rest of our merry castaways have been reading, click the link below …
Let’s move on, shall we?
Just like we moved on right about this time last year. There came a time when the shock value of Norman Osborn becoming the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. wore off and we realized the Marvel Universe was in for a Twilight Zone of a year. Evil was media friendly, good was outlawed and there was no way this was going to last. The reader just had to sit tight through Dark Reign and wait for this whole nightmare to be over.
Well, Siege is now officially over, the last issue of the four-part story handed over to us this week. Unofficially, this Event book should have been over in January, when Marvel announced that the dawn of an exciting new era would occur by bringing back the old establishment. Civil War really did change the face of modern Marvel Comics for about three years now, the idea of vigilantism and government restrictions explored in a way that flies in the face of a lot of Silver Age convention. You can’t just put on a mask and run around, there are precautions to take, family to think of, morality to debate. There’s more than just the greater good to think about.
And I think we’ve all had enough time to think about it. Personally, I miss that all important line between good and evil. Spend enough time in the gray area between them and you lose your distinctiveness. Dwell on topics long enough and readers get bored, itchy and unhappy. So the long, drawn out blockade between realism and four-color storytelling is at least coming to an end, the long term battle still not won. Characters are going to be shuffled around, new teams made, some younger ones fostered in and we’re all in it to win it for this new Heroic Age.
Well, everyone but the villains.
(WARNING: No Spoilers. Because really, ‘the bad guys lose’ is a little like Darth Vader being Luke Skywalker’s father- Oop! Ruined that one!)
The roster of the Secret Avengers has been clouded in mystery ever since Marvel started their marketing campaign around the Heroic Age Avengers titles, and it wasn’t until the last week or so that they started to reveal who some of those blacked-out images really were. Well, now the cat is fully out of the bag …
We already knew that Moon Knight, Valkyrie, War Machine and Beast had been tapped for the team, and now we know that Nova and Steve Rogers (in a Captain America-fied SHIELD outfit) are also on board.
The new series by Ed Brubaker and Mike Deodato is due in May. Should be fun. I have to wonder what this means for Nova’s solo title, though …
We know that “The Heroic Age,” which arrives in May in the wake of Siege, is intended as a turning point for the Marvel Universe.
Enough of that “dark of age despair” — Marvel’s words, not mine — that began more than five years ago with “Avengers Disassembled.” No more mutant genocides or civil wars or supervillains leading government agencies. Oh, no.
“Heroes will be heroes again,” Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada told USA Today. “They’ve gone through hell and they’re back to being good guys — a throwback to the early days of the Marvel Universe, with more of a swashbuckling feel.”
So that much is clear. But what are we to make of the promotional image the publisher released Wednesday? Are the nine characters the new lineup of the flagship Avengers title, or do they simply represent a cross-section of the Marvel Universe?
There’s a good indication that it’s the former: