Marvel, Then: Intro

I'm hunkered down in my apartment*, waiting for Hurricane Sandy to pass me by. Happily, this means that I am catching up on months worth of reading I have piled up next to my mattress, but I also figured that it was a good time to quickly intro something I'm going to be doing over the next few months, in conjunction with the House of Ideas' Marvel NOW! yearly culling of established ongoing series in order for the company to replace them with new number ones in an attempt to temporarily raise sales relaunch, namely, the consideration, first, of the books whose era has just ended (Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca on Iron Man, Ed Brubaker on Captain America, Jonathan Hickman on the Fantastic Four, and so on) and then of the books that are replacing them.

In some ways, this series started last week, with my review of the initiative's not very good flagship title, Uncanny Avengers #1. That was sort of a false start, though, since the first few posts, which I've not very cleverly titled "Marvel, Then," are going to focus on what's ending, rather than what's new. Because of the staggered roll out of new titles, though, some of those posts will run concurrent with the posts, titled, again very cleverly, "Marvel When?" that deal with what's new NOW! that an era that's a decade old has come to a close.

That time frame, of course, is the same one in which Brian Bendis has been writing The Avengers. His work on that franchise over that span, while hardly the greatest superhero comics produced in the period, made possible the existence of some much better work. If he hadn't brought Luke Cage to the forefront of the Marvel universe through sheer force of will, for example, it seems unlikely that Immortal Iron Fist would have happened. I have a feeling, too, that his use of the Thing in New Avengers is partially responsible for the success of Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four. Bendis's move to other projects, which would have presaged a monumental change even if Marvel hadn't cloaked it in a line wide changing of the guard, presents by far the most important questions of this new era, at least when we think about Marvel as a business: can he replicate his Avengers success with All-New X-Men? Will his high word count writing style, the superhero board room approach, translate well to a much different kind of series? How about Guardians of the Galaxy? Is it going to be any good? Given that it mostly exists to gin up excitement for the movie adaptation, could it possibly be any good?

While Bendis's contributions are important, and while his arrival at Marvel marks the beginning of a renaissance for the publisher, I don't want to minimize how important, maybe even how much more important, I think Hickman, Fraction and Brubaker are to the company's artistic success over the last decade. Before them, too, were people like J. Michael Straczynski and beyond those three there are people like Kieron Gillen, each of whom helped to make Marvel's recent production stronger than anything from the Big Two comics companies in quite a long time. So, for the next few months, besides posts on the new Iron Man, Thor and Captain America series, you can expect commentary on the old ones, as well as whatever else piques my interest during this most fascinating moment in the history of the House of Ideas.

*Although this is posting Tuesday, I wrote it on Monday after I was sent home from work.

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