On my lunch break today, I decided to catch up on a few books I had fallen behind on. Among them was Silk. I picked up the latest issue, branded with the “Last Days of…” banner given to all Marvel mainline Secret Wars tie-ins, and while I missed the cleanliness of regular artist Stacy Lee’s lines, I found fill in Tana Ford’s slightly edgier style to be a good fit for a world supposedly on the brink of collapse. [Spoiler Alert] I just didn’t expect the world to actually end by the end of the issue. While I’m sure things will be back to “normal” in Silk‘s world by the end of Secret Wars at latest, as someone not actively reading the event series, stunts like this one make me feel cheated.
By all accounts, Secret Wars has been a fantastic crossover. I loved the first issue, and only haven’t kept up on it because I fell too far behind and had too many other books to pull. I’m following a number of the stellar “Battleworld” crossovers like Noelle Stevenson’s and Sanford Greene’s Runaways as well as Jason Aaron’s and Mike Del Mundo’s Weirdworld. However, by and large, I’m not really a Marvel guy. The floppies I read from their main roster are those that come from the nouveau style of Marvel Comics, or what DC might refer to as the books that Batgirl. These titles include Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, and the aforementioned Silk. All of these books more or less exist on their own terms, and barring the irregular Spider-Man or Wolverine cameo, stay on the outer edges of Marvel continuity. That’s how I liked it, and that’s why “Last Days of…” has been so jarring to me.
As a reader, I’m not big on a lot of the things current direct market industry professionals consider to be the backbone of comics sales. I understand the reason why Marvel and DC rope entire universes into event series and why we release floppies while trades slowly but surely contribute a greater percentage to company revenue streams than floppies do. They boost sales. Pure and simple. Slapping a “Last Days of…” or “Battleworld” banner across every title titlates spend-happy collectors like almost nothing else these days.
However, these collectors don’t necessarily translate into new readers, and shoehorning Kamala Khan, Gwen Stacy, or Cindy Moon into a potentially world-ending scenario just as readers, some of whom have never read a comic, are falling in love with them feels extremely damaging to current reader confidence. I remember feeling incredibly disappointed when Spider-Gwen went on hiatus a few months ago (after only making it to issue five!), and even though I know it’s coming back with its continuity intact, I can’t help but wonder why Marvel couldn’t allow the series to just run concurrently with, but parallel to, Secret Wars.
In my opinion, pulling this new style of superhero comic into a Crisis-style event like Secret Wars just doesn’t work. These series’ modus operandis are too different from those of more conventional modern superhero books. Ms. Marvel et al. are approachable specifically because they don’t rely on continuity. To use a DC metaphor, while I would be fine with seeing a book like Action Comics or Batman roped into the latest Convergence-style event, I would not like to see Brendan Fletcher’s and Babs Tarr’s Batgirl series getting roped into the thick of things. It’s just tonally inconsistent.
More importantly, I don’t think that the audiences for titles like Ms. Marvel and the audience for a book like Secret Wars overlap much, if at all. Comics are entering a new era of creative innovation, and while attempts to merge the new audience who came in through books like This One Summer or Scott Pilgrim with the decades-entrenched Wednesday Warriors who were raised on Crisis on Infinite Earths are admirable, they may be misguided. If nothing else, the practice feels reflective of the constant and growing battle between commercial viability and artistic success in comics.
Instead of attempting to subsume new comics devotees into old ways, why not let them have their niche and see what innovations they bring to the table through it?
Maybe I’m insane, but hey, it’s just my opinion. What do you think about line-wide crossovers in 2015 and their effects on new titles not steeped in continuity? Sound off on Twitter (I’m @waxenwings) or in the comments below.