The Marvel Rundown: Analyzing Why Marvel’s ‘Fresh Start’ Isn’t Yet

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Marvel’s Fresh Start officially kicks off on May 2 with Avengers #1, meaning we’re only a month and  change away from the publisher’s latest overhaul and numbering switch. With the launch coming soon, readers now have a much better idea of what kinds of comics they are going to be reading from The House of Ideas in 2018. But what is the overall creative direction for those comics?

For the most part, each aspect of the launch seemed to be business-as-usual until the debut of Marvel’s new Fantastic Four series.

Marvel’s First Family makes a triumphant return to publishing!

Marvel’s self-proclaimed First Family has been missing for years, but on Thursday, Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski announced the brand new series featuring writing from Dan Slott and art from Sara Pichelli. This change felt like the first time in a long time Marvel fans had positively reacted to some of the announcements from the publisher. Slott has already proven he’s had a strong handle on the Marvel heroes, writing them in various other series in the past couple of years. Artist Sara Pichelli is one of the most expressive and creative artists currently in Marvel’s list of talent.

Having an announcement received as triumphant for Marvel’s publishing line is definitely worthy of praise. It’s a strong and assertive move that shows ‘A Fresh Start’ could be a sign of a new Marvel.

The new incarnation of Fantastic Four is far out from the shelves, only featuring a tentative August release date, but starting the journey to Fantastic Four with the Chip Zdarsky and Jim Cheung Marvel Two-in-Series was a clever move for the publisher, proving long-term planning in such a manner can pay off over time. For once an in a long while, it seems the House of Ideas has found a longterm direction.

Fight a safe publishing agenda.

What about the 13 other series in Marvel’s publishing line? In case you weren’t caught up to speed on the new publishing direction, Marvel has chosen to take their core Trinity of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man and take them largely back-to-basics. Steve Rogers is Captain America, Tony Stark is Iron Man and the Odinson is Thor, making this the meat-and-potatoes relaunch readers have been requesting. If you’re anything like me, you might be thinking: “maybe the wrong readers are being listened to here.” Some moves like this are much harder to commend the publisher for even if certain fans were asking for them. For example, taking the Thor mantle away from Jane Foster and giving it back to the Odinson is the most difficult pill to swallow in all of Marvel’s ‘A Fresh Start’. It’ll be a challenge that the incredibly creative team of Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo has to overcome as Thor begins again.

Even though the publisher started off on the right foot following the public relations disaster of Secret Empire with Mark Waid’s and Chris Samnee’s incredibly pleasant and endearing story arc, Captain America has a long road to redemption. Hopefully, political commentator Ta-Nehisi Coates and Marvel veteran Leinil Yu can invigorate the hero with a sense of direction I feel Coates is capable of, but hasn’t managed to deliver in his Black Panther run.

Tony Stark is a hero few writers have been able to get a solid grip on in the past couple years, resulting in his sudden death during Civil War II. Writer Dan Slott is tackling him now, but it’s unfortunate that Marvel didn’t properly take the time to explore some of the bold ideas they recently introduced to the Iron Man character such as giving Doctor Doom the armor. Thankfully no matter where Slott takes Tony, Tony: Stark Iron Man artist Valerio Schiti will make sure the title will look gorgeous.

If any Marvel writer is able to decode the enigma of the Hulk, Al Ewing is that writer. He’s a phenomenal choice with Joe Bennett being a solid collaborator. Bruce Banner is back as The Immortal Hulk, kicking Amadeus Cho off and continuing to propagate “Fresh Start” as a more meat-and-potatoes relaunch. Taking Banner back to his days of existential crisis is a limiting concept and thus a tough one to get behind, but Ewing’s name alone makes the title worth a look.

Is The Amazing Spider-Man going to be great again?

The next cornerstone of the line I would be remiss if we didn’t cover in some form or function would have to be Nick Spencer’s and Ryan Ottley’s The Amazing Spider-Man. If the past couple of years of Marvel could be washed away and Secret Empire could be forgotten, I would have been excited by this announcement as Spencer’s work in Superior Foes of Spider-Man proved the creator could possibly be the right fit for The Amazing Spider-Man– however, we live in a post-Secret Empire world. Nick Spencer has a very public opportunity to try and redeem himself on one of the biggest titles currently being published at Marvel and he’ll need to do a lot to prove himself. I hope he and Ottley really take the time to deliver quality stories that bring Peter Parker outside of the comfortable icon status he’s achieved and into a more relatable, simple place.

One of the far less difficult gambles for Marvel, creatively, is Doctor Strange’s new ongoing series from Mark Waid and Jesus Saiz– both creators are excellent at their craft and have been turning in excellent work. I see no reason why a Doctor Strange ongoing would be an exception to the rule.

I also expect nothing less than quality from the Ant-Man and the Wasp mini-series.

While we are talking about the rest of Marvel’s oddballs, the biggest ‘WTF’ announcement is The Sentry from Jeff Lemire and Kim Jacinto. This idea has been tried again and again and I would love for Marvel to find some angle to get it to work, but much like the majority of what they are publishing right now, I’m just not sure if this is the right idea for the time.

Infinite infinity wars!

Marvel’s busy couple months don’t end with their “Fresh Start” relaunch. The publisher’s next big event, Infinity Wars, kicks off in July with Infinity Wars: Prime #1. Thus far, the event storyline has had a wild, nonsensical sense of humor combined with earth-shattering moments in Infinity Countdown. With the publisher has seeded the story in an assortment of different comics as well, I definitely expect the payoff to the fun we’ve already been having when the series debuts in July. It is disappointing to see so many heroes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe littering the teaser image the publisher debuted as readers are already getting an Infinity War on the big screen and could use something different when it comes to the publishing line. Hopefully, the masked character and inclusion of the newly reborn Adam Warlock are the first of many oddballs we can expect to see in the story.

When it comes to the Infinity Gems, I don’t know that readers have gotten the chance to see anything involving the gems go much further than Thanos, so this is writer Gerry Duggan’s huge chance to show readers what lies beyond and hopefully widen the scope of Marvel’s Universe in a way we haven’t seen outside the Guardians of the Galaxy in the last couple of years. There is massive potential for the overall tone and direction of the title which has already driven straight into less explored characters like Kang the Conqueror and the aforementioned Warlock. Even with the enjoyable dedication to exploring the weird, I can only hope Duggan and Deodato are reminded to keep the focus needed when the actual event debuts.

A fresh start. More of the same.

At the end of the day, I can’t help but miss the insanity of Marvel NOW!’s absurd and strange ambitions and dedication to putting some of the strangest heroes in all of Marvel’s roster to their own series ala Ironheart, America, Hawkeye, and Iceman.

While we’re on the topic of those canceled books, have you noticed we have been talking about a bunch of white guys too or it just me? Out of over a dozen series currently announced, Marvel has less than a handful of female creators working on the titles and even fewer female heroes at the forefront of the line, which is a big part of some of the criticism currently being lobbed at them. I can only hope titles from Christina Strain, Kelly Thompson, and Chelsea Cain are coming soon.

26 COMMENTS

  1. The idea is to get all of the social justice Warrior b*******out of the comics because it has hurt the sales and it is hurt everything else with Marvel except for the movies so aside from the movies nobody wants to read social justice Warrior b******* from the Liberals at Marvel not everything has to be equal with women and men half of them doing this half of them doing that it’s whoever is best for the job.

  2. “If you’re anything like me, you might be thinking: “maybe the wrong readers are being listened to here.””

    Hasn’t listening to readers like you gotten Marvel to this point in the first place?

    Mike

  3. Rolling my eyes at Chris’ social justice scapegoating…

    …and at Marvel’s 958th relaunch and renumbering in the past four years; seriously, if you need to find a problem with them, there’s one right here.

  4. Looking at these illustrations makes me think: maybe Marvel Comics aren’t selling like they used to because Kirby, Romita Sr. and Starlin aren’t drawing them anymore.

  5. At 4.99 an issue I just can’t afford to be interested. Besides in the past decade marvel has made it clear time and time again that they didn’t want the older readers to stay, I find it hard to believe they suddenly want the old ones back.

  6. “…….marvel has made it clear time and time again that they didn’t want the older readers to stay, I find it hard to believe they suddenly want the old ones back.”

    Maybe it’s because the old ones actually buy the books. The new one read reviews online and listen to blogs but do not support the industry by buying the books. Ponder that for a few minutes.

  7. Actually, a big reason why comics print sales struggle is because it simply doesn’t align with how the mass public absorbs media anymore.

    Why pay 4.99 for the latest Captain America issue that will only provide about 10 minutes worth of entertainment when your 10 dollar streaming subscription gives you access to more shows and movies than you could possibly watch? It’s just a matter of getting the most bang for your buck.

    It’s the same reason movie theaters are on the decline as well. There’s a tidal wave of change that’s here thanks to binging culture and comics have been painfully slow to adapt. Marvel Unlimited helps, and DC aiming for a number of different markets in their new imprints is another smart move; but the direct market, with its need for readers to be active with pre-orders, and the price of comics themselves are just utterly incompatible with most of today’s readers.

  8. The death of floppies, like the death of movie theaters and the death of rock ‘n’ roll, has been predicted many times over the last few decades. Somehow they keep going, even if diminished. Sort of like Tom Cruise and Will Smith.

    After the last presidential election, I try to avoid making predictions about ANYTHING.

    I have little interest in going to a comic shop these days. For one thing, I already have a large collection and don’t have much room left in my apartment. I’ve replaced most of my floppies with reprint volumes (now on book shelves), which means I was able to get rid of those floor-space-hogging longboxes. Don’t want to get back into that.

    For another, I’m catching up on comics history on the public domain site Comic Book Plus. I just read every issue of Quality Comics’ “Military Comics” (1941-45, starring Blackhawk) for FREE. Why should I spend $5 on a pamphlet when I can get free entertainment online?

  9. I consider myself an older comic reader…primarily an x man fan…and i found myself buying thor, iron man, and hawk eye, BECAUSE they became female characters…I had never touched these characters before, thought they were boring and played out. But Riri, Jane, and Kate were awesome! not because they attempted to fill anyones shoes, but by standing alongside the original heroes and giving them perspective…It was genius honestly…
    But the steady sales of batman prove the market wants easy comfortable comics. Bang pow! muscles tights!
    Batman will sell simply because its our culture, regardless of quality of writing or art…
    marvel wants that with the Captian America, iron man, thor, fan base…a bunch of dodos who just look at the pictures and will drop $ every week for a comfort blanket

  10. “Fresh start” but no fresh story hooks about what they might be doing with these characters that hasn’t been done many times before and many times better. What Marvel was doing before was at least pushing their characters into interesting new directions. It didn’t always work, but it was something new and sometimes we got things like Jane Foster as Thor, which ends up being one of the best Thor storylines in a very long, long time. Going “back to basics” seems, well kind of boring.

    Also part of the problem is with digital and trades so easily available is they are in competition with themselves. I could get the new Hulk or I can continue finishing up the classic Peter David run on the Hulk (especially when they offer a massive volume digitally for 99 cents). There’s a lot of old classic Marvel that I haven’t read that seem better than another boring reboot.

    Plus so many other cool titles happening outside of Marvel.

  11. But my point is both that what they’ve done to the characters is turn me off the characters -once Reed starts building bombs to blow up worlds and the group he’s with not only murders worlds but also the heroes that defend those worlds, I really don’t think of Reed as a hero anymore, so I’m not going to care much about a Fantastic Four title with a mass murderer as leader of the group- and the 4.99 price tag has pushed me out of the casual buy. Marvel pursued a relentless marketing strategy to get more diverse -which I didn’t mind, some of the new characters are intriguing- but at the same time poking the older fans with a stick just to get them mad and get them to post online. The writers and editors made it a point time and again to slam the old fans. As good as the stories might or might not be, I have no incentive to pick them up.

  12. There is so much wrong with Marvel. Not just the extreme left-wing politics, but the constant events, the frequent renumbering of series, the gimmicks, the stunts, the price, cross-overs, the vast amount of material – much of it third rate, the list goes on and on.

    It will be a long time before I will ever be able to support them after the last few years but they would make a start by listening to real comic fans and not politically motivated weirdos who infest the on-line comics fandom like maggots, but who don’t appear to buy comics.

  13. “But the steady sales of batman prove the market wants easy comfortable comics.”

    If you think “Riri, Jane, and Kate” were challenging reading material, you need to get out of the house and pick up an actual book.

    Mike

  14. I’m fascinated by the comments about Marvel being so left wing and “social justice warriors”. I just don’t see it and wonder where these people are coming from. You won’t find anyone around who is a more lefty/socialist/equal-rights-rights/BLM supporter than I am. One might say I’m an original red diaper baby. I’d say, as an extreeeeemely long-time comics fan that the books coming out of Marvel in the early ’70’s were far more liberal in their stories and politics than anything they’re publishing now. In fact, I’d say that Marvel doesn’t really have any discernible politics these days; they throw product out there that they think will sell and if they think women characters or minority characters will do it, they publish that. But the stories themselves don’t seem to have a political bias. Riri Williams could just have easily been a white young woman and they wouldn’t have had to change the stories at all. I didn’t read more than a handful of Jane Foster/Thor, but her story arc had little to do with women’s issues as far as I could tell and everything to do with the mystery of who this new Thor was. For all of the delicate Trumpanista dew-drops out there, just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it >>horrors!<< Left Wing.

    Now, I left Marvel over a couple of very clear cut issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with politics:

    1) I want my heroes to be heroes and Marvel editorial seems to be at odds with that. Tony Stark is a jerk. Reed Richards blows up planets instead of finding a better way. Thor (I still can't call him 'Odinson') whines and mewls about his misfortunes. Nick Fury Sr. – ugh, don't even get me started. I could go on and on.
    2) Art that has no concept of storytelling. So much of Marvel's art is poor quality these days. Or, at least not to my taste. I am looking for clear, clean, dynamic, expressive art in comic books. It doesn't have to be a Kirby clone, but it should be readable.
    3) $4.99 a pop for 20 pages or less of story. There's no excuse for this beyond blatant gouging of the consumer. At this price, I won't try a new book and there are darned few writers or artists that would make me pay that much for anything they're doing.

    I'll give these new books a glance (probably digitally), but I don't see anything so far in the marketing campaign that makes me really want to get back on board the Marvel train.

  15. I don’t really care for either side of the diversity debate, but I do find the discussion of Jane Foster Thor interesting. Jason Aaron is precisely the person who put Foster in that position to wield Mjolnir, and he was the person to number her days due to the cancer-godhood conundrum. He’s more than capable of continuing to steer the next Thor series in the direction he’s chosen. While the last 2 series have been mostly enjoyable, it is nice to see Thor returning to his own series. Much grief could have been avoided by just giving Foster her own Aasgardian title and letting Thor be unworthy and out of sight.

  16. “If you think “Riri, Jane, and Kate” were challenging reading material, you need to get out of the house and pick up an actual book.”

    have you read any of those books? i can’t imagine that you have…

    has batmans sales fluctuated over the last four years? no…
    has it been consistently good? no…
    Not to dis on batman and single out his book…But i feel its a good representation of what the comic book market wants right now…familar heroes and passable art. Plenty of the books I’ve read fluctuate in quality the way Batman does, but the sales fall off tremendously.
    the only reason DC is doin well now is because people want generic heroes like Batman superman wonder woman … cops love batman

    DC is also canceling its only books worth reading…(teen titans/supersons)
    If anyone actually attempted to read Metal, they’d realize it was a bunch of gobbledygook… The narrative never even established any sort of continuity…I really don’t get all the hype…and yes, i have the whole stupid series, every stupid one shot, and some variants to boot…I really tried to like it… o well

    Marvel had a good thing going inspite of all the “universe changing events,” constant cross overs, and book prices, but I’m sure the will keep Characters relevant. I hope the won’t vanish the way Silk did…

    I don’t understand why Marvel and DC keep copying each others mistakes…

  17. Mark said: “The writers and editors made it a point time and again to slam the old fans.”

    Can you name some specific instances? And I mean actual quotes from writers and editors, not just Marvel publishing comics that don’t appeal to you because they’re not the comics you loved when you were 15.

    Like Sean, I also remember the Marvel comics of the ’70s, which were much more liberal in their political and social views than today’s output. People who complain about “extreme left-wing politics” in current Marvels are not living on Planet Earth. It seems that any protagonist who is not a straight white male is left-wing propaganda to these readers.

  18. “which were much more liberal in their political and social views than today’s output.”

    I don’t think you understand the difference between “political” and “partisan.” Check out that Mockingbird cover where she’s wearing a T-shirt that says “Ask me about my feminist agenda” and see if you can tell the difference between that and the “The leader of the Secret Empire is actually Nixon” storyline from 1970s Captain America.

    Mike

  19. Stephen Wacker once flat out told me on CBR that I wasn’t allowed to read any comic he edited. Dan Scott worked me over well too when I called him out on a few storylines. I’m not going back on CBR to dig those out, if you want to looked I used the Mark_S name when I posted there. It wasn’t that I objected to the storylines and pointed out the flaws in them that seemed to irritate as much as it was that I dared to post my opinions more than twice. I specifically argued about the portrayal of She-Hulk.

    I don’t really care about the political slant of the story so long as it is a good, affordable story. I can find Doonsbury funny without agreeing with the politics. The characters are going to reflect the views of their writers, I don’t think that there is any way around that. I don’t mind that someone like Carol Danvers might be left wing (if she is), I do mind that she revealed herself to be a fascist and a hypocrite during cw1 and continued on in that vein in cw2.

  20. “has batmans sales fluctuated over the last four years? no…”
    “the comic book market wants right now…familar heroes and passable art.”
    “DC is also canceling its only books worth reading…(teen titans/supersons)”

    By your own admission, the market doesn’t support your personal preferences. Not an attack but the point, I believe, is that Marvel and DC have certain expectations from fandom. Image and other companies are producing comics that, I assume, are what you would prefer. There’s enough for everyone and I think what gets lost in a lot of the back and forth between older fans and younger fans is that Marvel and DC’s characters specialize in a certain type of comic. If you loved Jane Foster Thor, then you have a nice run of comics with her and an ending to her story. Marvel and DC specialize in serialized comics starring their characters who have been around for years, always have. The Marvel and DC fan that was kind of left in the dust the last few years will buy those comics but the newer fan will not necessarily be as loyal. The originals have the staying power of decades, their replacements saw many sales drop. In one way, it is the new way of consuming entertainment but in another way, Marvel and DC have made decisions for arguably the 30 years that have led them down the road to where they are now. In my opinion, excluding younger readers because you want to write the next Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns starring Spider-Man or Iron Man gets away from what made those characters popular and long lasting. Replacing them with what is considered “all-ages” comics nowadays doesn’t necessarily create loyalty to the brand. In the late 70’s/early 80’s, I could read (or look at) my brother’s (mainly Marvel) comics when I was little and still enjoy them. As I got older, I stayed hooked. Marvel and DC, by creating “jumping-on” points, creates “jumping-off” points just as easily.

  21. It looks like Marvel will be publishing some comics I’ll want to read…but probably not enough to overcome my Marvel Unlimited-induced inertia. I hate to dis a service that I really enjoy, but I know there are some Marvel books I’d happily pick up if I weren’t assured of being able to read them for (essentially) free six months down the line. Once that adherence to the weekly continuity fix is broken, it’s really hard to reinstate it. The new FF book is the first Marvel title I’ve considered buying in print since Silver Surfer ended…and I’m probably going to pass. It will probably be an excellent book, but there’s other things I can spend $25 on while I wait for those first six issues to roll around on MU.

  22. “maybe the wrong readers are being listened to here.”

    What you mean is we don’t want those white straight guys who re all nazis buying our books. They don’t deserve any representation or culture.

    Sites like this are a cancer in the industry.

    Make America great again. Vote Trump.

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