It's with a heavy heart that I inform you that Marvel and I are going through a bit of a rough patch. We need some space to figure out if we can make this relationship work. If I'm honest about it, the problems go as far back as 2005, when Marvel released a huge, company-wide story dubbed House of M, a type of uber-story that is known in the industry as an "Event."
On the surface, Events appear to be good news for fanboys and editors alike.
An "Event" is a story that spans all the flagship titles of Marvel (i.e. X-men, Spider-Man, The Avengers, etc). Each individual title shares a portion of the action relating to the Event, and a stand-alone miniseries does the bulk of the story telling for the main plot.
Since 2005, Marvel has churned out Event after Event, almost annually. On the surface, Events appear to be good news for fanboys and editors alike. Telling new, intrepid tales of derring-do while simultaneously boosting sales - it's win/win! Unfortunately, it's not that perfect a picture. Comic books are only published at the rate of one issue per month and events take anywhere from two to six months to wrap up. Factor in prologue and aftermath issues to bookend the plot, and we're looking at the better part of a year. It hampers a writer's ability to focus on the plot of any one title for long. One day, Spider-man is stopping Doctor Octopus from knocking over a bank, when along comes an Event and Spidey's suddenly tangling with shape-shifting aliens invading the planet. Rather abruptly, the Event has hijacked the story before we learn why Doc Ock was robbing a bank in the first place. Perhaps the villain was merely supporting his crippling kolache addiction. We may never know.
Still, these mega-comics are hard to ignore. Events are marketed to be tantalizing to readers, often promising to drastically shake up the Marvel Universe. In the last six years, it's been rare that an ad for an upcoming comic book that didn't employ phrases like "NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME" or "THE ISSUE THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING...FOREVER!!!" Everything is EXTREME and TO THE MAX! I'm starting to worry that the editorial staff at Marvel are being fed nothing than Slim Jims and Mountain Dew.
Marvel wasn't always like this. Just look at the scientific breakthrough of harnessing the energy of pure awesome and converting it to film (otherwise known as any Marvel movie made since 2008's Iron Man). Marvel Studios' films demonstrate a masterful balance of pulse-pounding action and special effects with rich, original stories housing characters so believably real, we want buy these masked men a beer once the credits roll. This success stems from Marvel Studios paring down the normally gargantuan scope of the comics. Only the essence of the characters, their best parts, makes it to the big screen. Also, Marvel concentrates on one character, one story, and one film at a time. The painstaking attention to detail, building a palpable and engaging environment, convincing us to care about the purely fictional people like Thor or Steve Rogers - these are cornerstones of consummate storytelling.