Growing up, I didn’t have to make choices. My father let me enjoy Star Wars and Star Trek. My friends never made me choose a side in the Console Wars. No one ever made me choose between Batman and Iron Man. I was able to enjoy everything that came my way without feeling like I needed to pick a side in a much larger conflict, and it was glorious.
Late in my college career, I got back into comics with John Constantine: Hellblazer and the Sandman, both borrowed from friends who knew I’d love them (and they were right!). The final push for me to start reading them again and visiting comic shops on days outside of Free Comic Book Day was the release of the first Iron Man movie in April 2008. I remember joining a number of my fellow gamer geeks to see this on the big screen, and we fell in love with the new universe unfolding before us. It rekindled my love of the genius alcoholic in the suit, and I went right into reading Civil War that summer, and some smattering comics I could borrow from libraries.
Jump to a few years later. A new comic shop was opening not far from work, and I decided to become a regular there by starting a subscription for Hellblazer. I was considering getting into a few of the favorites from my childhood that were still around, like X-Men (as Generation X was no more), Batman, and Iron Man. I was warned that I was very out of date with the Marvel comics, as the last I read was the end of Civil War, and was told to wait for any from the DC line due to the New 52.
Once I heard about DC’s New 52, and that it was supposedly going to be a TRUE reboot, I wanted to take part in this. For once, I wouldn’t have to read ten or so years of comics to understand what was going on with a current comic, and I could pick up one of my favorites, Batman (what, I have a thing for heroes that actually think and “create” their own powers), from the beginning.
For some reason, I’ve always like how DC has the majority of heroes that were just normal people who either decided to step up and do something or were handed the means to do something without risking their humanity (at least not too much). I felt that Marvel had too many gods running around and not enough PEOPLE, so picking up DC was a win for me…at least in theory, at first.
After a few years, I stopped the subscription, disgusted by what was going on. I started with just two comics of the New 52: Justice League Dark and Batman: Detective Comics. Not far into Batman, I was thrown a curve with the Night of the Owls arc, which required me to read the other Batman lines to understand. Justice League Dark did the same with a crossover with I, Vampire. I shrugged these off as flukes and kept going, eventually adding Constantine to the docket (after Hellblazer ended, I still wanted that fix).
Then we finally hit the precursors to Trinity of Sin. I snagged Phantom Stranger on the suggestion of the comic shop owner, as I have always been a fan of occult-powered heroes, and it was a good suggestion since I needed to read it to grasp what was happening in JLD. Once we hit the arc of Forever Evil, I just…stopped.
Don’t get my wrong, I found the story engrossing; the idea of bringing in the Crime Syndicate was interesting, and seeing the fallout was intriguing. But at that point, to understand what was going on, I needed to read the majority of the comic lines, especially those of the other Justice League teams, just to comprehend the gravity of the situation and the events leading to it. There were also some crossover occurrences that involved a better understanding of characters, such as why Constantine would show an interest in Captain Marvel/Shazaam.
At this point, it just stopped being fun. I’m looking at picking up the trade paperbacks of Justice League Dark and Constantine eventually, but between odd character direction and poor writing, I’m wondering if it’s even worth it.
Then we get Marvel. Marvel has been dominating the theaters lately, trumping each of the new Batman films as well as Man of Steel, showing that Marvel knows the big screen better than the blokes over at DC. Sure, I saw the first two Batman films in theaters, but I didn’t go and see them two or three times, nor did I snag them on BluRay like I’ve been collecting the Marvel collection. Man of Steel just wasn’t that impressive to me, and I felt it was lacking. . .then again, I normally feel that way about Superman, so that could just be me.
Recently, Marvel has been getting my love in the comic department. The most recent line has been rather friendly to new readers, being a sort of soft reboot that doesn’t pull as much from the past outside of the teams and the names. We see some origin stories of new characters (Ms. Marvel), banding of teams (The Mighty Avengers), and a newbie friendly approach to already established heroes who get some explanations of who they are and what they do (Guardians of the Galaxy). It’s not ideal, but it’s a nice touch.
I think the best part, so far, is the few of crossovers. Yes, when reading Captain America and the Mighty Avengers, there were nods to an event, but when I read the trades of individual lines, there’s nothing from the other lines to interfere. You get nods to characters, or a character will make a guest appearance (like Lockjaw, Wolverine and Loki in Ms. Marvel, Iron Man in Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Guardians of the Galaxy in Ms. Marvel). Thanks to the library, I’ve been able to read the trade paperbacks of the first two Guardians of the Galaxy, the first All New X-Factor, The All-New Captain America, Captain America and the Mighty Avenger, Thor: Goddess of Thunder, the first Captain Marvel, and the first three volumes of Ms. Marvel. Due to my suggestions and nudging, we just got Iron Man, Hawkeye, and Loki: Agent of Asgard, all of which are out and accrued a waitlist faster than Tony Stark can drop a sexual innuendo (and before I could grab them up first). It’s…amazing. When I can pick up a comic and only focus on the ONE line until a major event occurs, I’m a happy camper. And our first event?
Secret Wars, which is sounding AMAZING. There’s nods to a lot of the past lines, but reviewers have been noting that you don’t really NEED to know them, because they are getting a new face and fleshed out again.
I’m not able to tell what the future of the lines will be, but I’m really stoked to see what’s going to happen. If I had the funding, I’d pick everything up, but as I don’t, I’ll just have to wait (im)patiently and see what happens.
Personally, I think my biggest seller isn’t just the films, but knowing that a number of characters are changing their ways, stepping back, or even passing on the mantle. In DC, we aren’t seeing many characters picking up a mantle (unless it’s Batman and his army of Robins or the induction of a new member of an army, like the Green Lanterns), yet in recent Marvel comics, that’s what we’re seeing.
Captain America is stepping down and handed the shield to Falcon. Thor is no longer worthy of the hammer, and now someone else has picked up the hammer to become the Goddess of Thunder. There’s a new Ms. Marvel on the block, and she’s an Inhuman. I’m sure there’ll be more in the future, but right now, three of the big names in Marvel just changed hands to a new generation, as well as others apparently picking up/borrowing the names of other heroes.
That’s the story for you: at this time, I think Marvel has the better grip of their franchises, a more coherent storytelling approach, and are taking steps to not only do more inclusion with regards to ethnicity (a Muslim teenager as Ms. Marvel trumps a Muslim criminal as Green Lantern) but to make their long-running characters more approachable. . .or pass the torch to the new generation, which is something I think is very much needed.