Marvel once (and I suppose, technically still does) tout itself as “The House of Ideas”. And at one time, I believed it. Because Marvel offered a wide diversity of types of books at one time. You had your flag ship titles, such as Spider-Man, Avengers, Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four ranking probably at the top, with other books such as Captain America, Thor, Daredevil, Silver Surfer, Defenders, Champions, just to name a few that they were publishing. (The list is entirely too long to get too detailed!)
Throughout the years, they took some chances, and published books with second or third, or fourth tier characters – such as The New Warriors (the original volume met with a lot of success). They took a chance and created brand new characters, and gave them their own series, such as Darkhawk (which lasted 50 issues) and Sleepwalker (again, just to name a few). They even took a group of villains, posing as heroes and published Thunderbolts, which also saw quite a bit of success for many years. They also did “divergent” spin offs – such as the 2099 line, which had titles such as Ravage 2099 (a new, unique character), but more importantly Spider-Man 2099 was probably the biggest success from the 2099 series. There was also New Universe, in which a “white event” begins granting people powers – and even that had some great stories, especially in DP7, Psi-Force and Nightmask to name a few.
After the 90’s, it felt like comics hit a slump and it seemed like comics were losing their “cool” factor and losing a lot of readers. Some would debate that it’s because the readers got older and stopped collecting comics; and even if that were true (and I don’t think that’s the case!), why weren’t comics capturing new, young readers? Where was the magic that captured me into comics?
As a result, a lot of the comic book turned more gritty, contained a lot more angst, and in many ways – the characters became more “realistic.” These super heroes were now facing “real” problems. Along with the writing becoming more dark, more brooding, the art also seemed to reflect that as well.
Now, granted – at one time, there was Uncanny X-Men and (Adjectiveless) X-Men, but the titles did a good job of making it clear where each one stood. Right around when comics hit a slump – I felt it became very difficult to keep who was who and what comic they were in – things just seemed to spin so chaotically out of control. Writers (or artists) didn’t seem to stick with books very long; and it felt like each writer/artist wanted to leave their mark on the book they were on (like dogs urinating on trees to mark their territory), and as a result – it felt like new characters were springing up every other issue, when Marvel already had a very deep and rich pool of characters to pull from. This also led to a lot of inconsistencies in the titles (for example, Xorn in the X-Men books, and that’s one of example of very many!) It felt like the Editors at Marvel simply let go of the reigns and let chaos run rampant. Inconsistencies are nothing new to any comic book publisher – Heck, Marvel even used to have fun with it and issued what they called The Marvel No-Prize, where if you could find and explain away an error made in a Marvel book they’d award you a No-Prize. At some point, I think Marvel realized they would be bombarded with letters pointing out the else amount of inconsistencies that now reigned supreme.
Fast forward to somewhere around, 2010 to 2013 – it seemed like the new thing to do was “reboot” titles with great frequency (and little, logical reason) to “Issue #1.” I supposed the idea was that it would be “easier” to jump on with a #1 issue point. However, because of the “mess” (for lack of a better word) of everything that had happened before that issue #1 still within continuity of the comic book universe, even jumping on with a #1 issue was really difficult to follow (especially for new readers, who were seeing these characters make references to things that happened previously, in an overly complex and complicated story line, that was frequently a part of this 20 part cross over, that went through about ten different books if you wanted to catch the whole story, such as Avengers vs X-Men).
Now someone might say, “Hey, you seem to be hitting Marvel pretty hard with all these comments and examples!” That’s because up until this point, other than a few small independent books (such as ElfQuest) I collected Marvel, almost exclusively. I, however, did begin collecting DC Comics when they launched The New 52. While I have never been a big fan of Superman (how interesting can it be when his only weakness is virtually this green stone from outer space?) or Batman (no matter what, he always won!) But with The New 52, I picked up a vast assortment of DC titles because it was a “fresh” start. (I know a lot of hardcore DC fans hated the New 52), but for me – I wasn’t aware of any previous history really.
So we fast forward to just this past month, when both DC and Marvel did something very similar. Alternate realities colliding into one another and criss-crossing characters. Marvel did their version and called it Secret Wars (not to be confused with the excellent 12 issue limited series, which was the original; nor should it be confused with Secret Wars II, in which the Beyonder dresses like someone from Miami Vice!). DC’s version of this was entitled Convergence. Now, admittedly, I did not read any of the Secret Wars of this most recent version (other than the prequel and the first Secret Wars issue) – and it was enough for me to put down and be done with it. I did not read any of the Convergence material, because not being familiar with the previous DC Universes (or at least having a very, very, very limited knowledge of it) – paying $2.99 to $4.99 per issue, just to be confused, simply was not in my budget.
So now Marvel has announced most of the new titles, spinning out in October, post the Secret Wars title. And I can’t believe the “House of Ideas” seems to be running along with Hollywood, and being out of ideas. First, in this article (after my long lead up just to get to this point!), I want to talk about all the “Spider” titles Marvel is coming out with.
Let’s begin with Web Warriors. This is a book about nothing but Spider-Man related type characters. Whether it’s Spider-Man, Spider-Girl, Spider-Gwen, Silk, Spider-Woman, Spider-Woman II (or whatever she’s called these days), Peter Porker and who knows how many other Spider-People. How interesting can this book really be when they all essentially have the same powers? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of diversity here in terms of powers. “There’s trouble down on 42 second street!” Suddenly, everyone is colliding into one another as they’re all trying to web their way down the block to go help whoever it is that’s in trouble. I am not sure I can see this book lasting very long. They’ve created a nitch because of the title, and can’t swing (no pun intended) too far from that or else it loses it’s focus.
Venom: Space Knight. So, I have to admit, I am slightly bitter about this, because I feel misled. News had leaked that there would be a SpaceKnight title – and immediately, if you’ve collected Marvel Comics since the 80’s, you’re probably familiar with ROM: Space Knight. So I was hoping, somehow Marvel had struck a deal with Parker Brothers (who I believe still own the rights to ROM) and that we would be seeing ROM Space Knight return to Marvel Comics – or in the very least, IKON from The Annihilators series that was written by the great minds of Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning. But no. That’s not the case folks. Now, homicidal maniac (if he still is) Venom is a Space Knight – and it doesn’t look like the same kind of Space Knights even from the ROM series (which Marvel owns the rights to; it’s only ROM that they don’t own the rights to, but all the things created within the series, like the Space Knights, Dire Wraith, etc are all owned by Marvel). At any rate – Venom is apparently some kind of Space Knight now. Go and figure. At least being an alien symbiote, I can at least swallow the fact that he’s out there in space.
Uncanny Avengers.First, why Uncanny. Why can’t it just be Avengers. Okay – this one isn’t a Spider-Man book, really – but as we can see on the cover, Spider-Man is indeed a part of the team. That doesn’t bother me, that much to be honest. The Avengers were always a Hodge-bodge of different characters, and unlike the Justice League over in DC, the Avengers were not always made up of the most powerful, or even the most popular characters (which is always something I loved about The Avengers). This team looks to be made up of some random characters. So at least they’re remaining true to the general theme of the Avengers. I am just noting that Spider-Man is in this title, because there are so many Spider-Man related titles. But like I said, at least here, he’s part of a team. And not a team of nothing but other Spider-people, like Webbed Warriors.
Spider-Woman. While not really, directly or even remotely connected to Spider-Man other than “Spider” being in the name. I enjoyed the original Spider-Woman series, and then Bendis (was it?) in recent years gave Spider-Woman a very huge push – to the point I felt like she was being crammed down our throats, making the character less likable, because it felt like, “You have to like her, because I like her!” (And that may not even be the case; but that’s just how it felt). So now there’s a Spider-Woman title; and by the looks of it, it starts off with her being pregnant. Now, I am all for girl power, but I am not too sure how good a comic can be when the main character is pregnant and/or has a child. What happens when she has the child? Does she continue crime fighting or keep hiring a babysitter? The folks who did Wonder Woman with the New 52 did a great job having a secondary character having a baby and dealing with it; but the main character?
Spider-Man 2099. As I said earlier, this was the gem of the 2099 series. I had no complaints when they brought Miguel into the “regular 616” Marvel Universe, especially since it was written by Peter David. Peter David knows how to write a character and make them feel individualistic without the need of pouring on the angst and pain. So when he took Spider-Man 2099 into the regular Marvel Universe, he did an excellent job of writing the character, and making him feel out of place, and yet maintaining his characteristics from his 2099 series (and how the characters spoke in the series; like saying, “What the shock was that?”) This is one, I will probably be picking up because it is Spider-Man 2099, but more importantly, it’s because Peter David is continuing with the book. If it had been anyone else, I am not sure I would be getting it.
Spider-Man, which is actually the Spider-Man from the Ultimates universe, Miles Morales, a half Black/half Hispanic teenager. Now I didn’t read the Ultimates series (any of the them; The Ultimates, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, etc) because they were a little darker, more gritty version of the existing Marvel Universe with a clean “reboot” and their own origins loosely based on the originals. I am however, glad to see Miles Morales make it into a series, post the Secret Wars series, just so there is some racial diversity in the comics. But at the same time, when you take into consideration that he had made it over as a Spider-Man and then there’s all the other Spider-Man books – and I am not even done listing the Spider-Man related books coming out in October – it just feels like there’s too much – and any “diversity” is going to be washed away by the sixty other Spider-Man related characters.
Spider-Gwen. Now I admit, I know next to nothing about Spider-Gwen. I haven’t even looked her up, but I am assuming that somehow, in some other reality or something, Gwen Stacey, Spider-Man’s girlfriend who perished at the hands of the Green Goblin, somehow has some kind of Spider-Powers. Now I can “understand” the idea of making female based versions of “popular male counterparts” (Superman/Supergirl, Batman/Batwoman/Batgirl, Captain America/American Dream, Spider-Man/Spider-Girl – hey wait a minute!) That’s right, Marvel did the MU2 (another alternate Universe) and created a Spider-Girl character who was, if I remember correctly – the daughter of Peter Parker? Her series was repeatedly being threatened with cancellation, but the vocalization of the fans repeatedly saved her series from cancellation. So why is there a Spider-Gwen? Which is probably a “unique” idea of “What if Gwen had been bitten by a radioactive spider?”
But hold on! Hang onto your seats, true believers! Because not only is there Spider-Gwen, there’s also Silk. What’s her story? Well, just imagine – you know the spider that bite Spider-Man and gave him his powers, before dying of the radioactive exposure the spider had received? Get this. Well, the spider didn’t die after biting Peter Parker. No, actually it bit Peter Parker, then nudged over, found someone by the name of Cindy Moon and bit her also. Now, get this – she also got “spider-powers.” She is trained by someone, then locked away after six years, to “protect” her. Spider-Man eventually finds her and helps her, so now we have Silk swinging around the Marvel Universe, and after Secret Wars, she too will have her own series. Which, you know, will be totally different than Spider-Man or Spider-Gwen… I’m sure.
Now this is just wild speculation; but is it me or is that not Venom who is apparently a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy now (along with Thing, from The Fantastic Four). This would at least explain how Venom gets into space to become a “Space Knight” or how he’s doing things out in Space. But really? Venom and Thing as members of the Guardians of the Galaxy? The original (from the future) was a solid team; the modern version (once again by the amazing Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning) made up a team of misfit characters from every corner of the Marvel Universe and made them work. Now, while many would consider Thing a misfit, because he always feels like he never belongs; he’s a different kind of misfit than what the Guardians of the Galaxy are. And adding Venom to the roster? I am not seeing the logic behind it. They already have their rough’n’tough character in Drax and Rocket… did they really need to add Venom?
Carnage is getting his own book. If there was ever any Spider-Man character crazier than Venom, it was Carnage. I am assuming this will still be the wild, murderous, insane Carnage that we’re all familiar with, or else why have the name Carnage still? And if it is still that wild, murderous, insane Carnage, how the heck is anyone supposed to get behind this book? Where’s the fun in reading a book about a character whose only desire is to kill everything and be utterly insane? Even the footnote on the book: Descent into madness… seems to indicate that it’s probably still Cletus Kasady. I just can’t see this, as a series, going on for very long, unless it’s full of super hero guest appearances, out to stop Carnage, but how many times can Carnage get away before you’re done reading it, knowing each issue he’s going to get away or break out of jail, or it’s going to be a long, boring story of him in jail or a mental facility.
And last but certainly not least, Amazing Spider-Man, which being written by Dan Slott, I can only assume this is the Peter Parker Spider-Man we all grew up loving from our childhood, wearing those Underoos. So it’s no surprise that Peter Parker, as Spider-Man would have his own book. But again, with so many other “Spider” books out; how is this one expected to stand out? How are any of them expected to stand out, really? I worry that Marvel will be flooding the comic market with too many Spider-Man titles (which is odd, when I really sit down – and I am sitting down, right now! – and think about it) – because Marvel may have struck a deal to “use/borrow” Spider-Man for their movie franchise; they actually don’t own the movie rights (as far as I understand it) for the Spider-Man stuff – and releasing all these Spider-Man related titles seems to be handing Sony (who currently owns the Spider-Man movie rights) plenty of opportunity to create quite a few other Spider-Man related movies.
So what are your thoughts? Is this too many Spider-Books? Or are you a die hard Spider-Man fan and this is nothing but a slice of Heaven for you? We want to hear your thoughts on our Facebook Page or Twitter.