In connection with Marvel Now!, Marvel ended several of its best-selling series: New and “not new” Avengers, and The Amazing Spider-Man. The latter was a huge risk, because not only did Marvel cancel its longest-running series (with issue #700), but it completely changed the very premise of the book. Spider-Man went from the hopeful, youthful, comically sarcastic, web-spinning punster to becoming his own worst enemy. Literally. Otto Octavius’ possession of Peter Parker, though, has overcome intense fan skepticism and an incredibly stupid premise to become my favorite current Marvel monthly, hands down. Marvel took a huge risk, and it’s paid off in good reviews, great quality superhero stories, and, now expansion of the Spiderverse. But more on that in a moment.
At the same time, Marvel ended its Avengers’ titles, which had become their biggest cash cow titles, right when their fame was its highest mark. But unlike what they did with Spider-Man, Marvel didn’t keep the same creative team at the helm. Brian Michael Bendis was right to move on to another project—his work was starting to get stale—but rather than start small with one Avengers title and then expand, Marvel went big from the beginning with several different creative teams and no apparent single architect planning the fate of the intertwined Avengers groups. And this hasn’t paid off. The Avengers books, all of them, are worse than they were before. As a whole they lack any sense of cohesion or importance (which is the one I really need to read?), and as individual titles they lack tension. The foes in each of the books are too big, too new, and too “galactic.” We haven’t gotten to know the team dynamic yet, there’s no character work at all, it’s just “bigness.”
When Bendis blew up The Avengers over ten years ago, he didn’t relaunch the other Avengers’ titles at the same time (West Coast, Solo, etc.). In fact, he didn’t even relaunch Avengers. He started a “New Avengers” team, and the initial issues focused on team formation and development. That’s how you create a franchise. Don’t tell us it’s big, make it grow organically.
And they’re growing Avengers yet again.
In recent weeks, Marvel has announced three new books: Avengers A.I., Superior Carnage, and Superior Foes of Spider-Man. These add to a Marvel lineup that includes Uncanny Avengers, Avengers Assemble, Avengers, New Avengers, Secret Avengers, solo books about Avengers that often tie-in to Avengers titles, Superior Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider, Venom, and Avenging Spider-Man. Obviously, as long as Marvel Zombies keep buying them, Marvel will keep taking their money. But is this good for the brand in the long run?
First, let’s look at the most promising of the three: SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN. Yet another Spider-family title. The whole reason I bought into One More Day was because the three monthlies were collapsed into one title, and suddenly reading Spider-Man felt manageable (and affordable). But Superior Spidey is great, and Avenging Spidey is also often good. Plus, there’s no loss of focus here: Superior is still the “main” Spidey title, even though the character also appears in The Avengers books. Avenging Spider-Man is more of a “Marvel Team-Up,” and it tends to exist alongside Marvel Universe continuity, making it a book you can buy because you like it, not because you have to. The other Spider-Family books, Scarlet Spider and Venom, similarly don’t have much essential crossover or continuity information (note that Venom is also in Secret Avengers).
And the new Superior Foes, written by Nick “Morning Glories” Spencer and drawn by new(ish) hotshot and 2000 Eisner-winner Steve “Hawkeye/Whiteout” Lieber, will focus on the current Sinister Six lineup: Boomerang, Shocker, Speed Demon, Beetle and Overdrive. (And yes, that’s only five guys. The sixth, Doc Ock, is, of course, now Spider-Man.) It kind of sounds like the old “Tangled Web” anthology, which was fabulous—it told the story of Spider-Man’s influence on various people (usually villains). So this, too, seems nonessential for continuity, making it for fans only. Hence, I can dig it. This seems like a “good story to tell” book, not a money grab.
In short ,this makes sense.
As for Superior Carnage, most of Marvel’s Carnage stuff has been self contained, except for the horrid crossover with Venom and Scarlet Spider. So that book seems dispensable—it’s for symbiote lovers only. And I know that Venom/Carnage have a rabid fanbase, so sure, give them something. Again, it makes sense.
Not so with AVENGERS A.I. As noted above, the quality of the Avengers books has dropped dramatically since Bendis moved on. Rick Remender’s “Uncanny” is probably the best of the lot, but his writing is far more suited to “dark” and drawn out, which tend not to work in a team environment and, at a minimum, should be kept in check until readers are comfortable with the team. If we don’t know the team that well, then we simply don’t care enough about them yet to want to walk through the darkness. Remender’s best Marvel work was on Punisher and Venom. His Avengers book feels scattered, and not “fun” enough to be an Avengers title. And Hickman’s books are fine but also extremely scattered. In an effort to include every Marvel hero known to man, and while creating many new ones, he’s made an unfocused book that certainly feels “big” but, again, is not “fun.” The best Avengers runs in history have all had lots of “fun” with the size of the team and the various characters, whether it’s all the way back with Stan Lee, Bendis’ recent 10-year reign, or the wonder years with Roger Stern, Kurt Busiek, George Perez, Jim Shooter, etc.
The new A.I. book promises to be just as somber, coming out of Age of Ultron. The (fourth) Avengers monthly will be written by Sam Humphries and illustrated by Andre Lima Araujo, featuring Vision, Pym, Ultron’s son and former Runaway Victor, the Earth-616 version of Ultimate Marvel SHIELD director Monica Chang, and a Doombot that thinks it’s people. It just sounds tedious.
It’s a case of too much too fast.
And speaking of bad reboots, I hated Shadowland. To me, Marvel had a franchise that had been one of the best in its history, with Bendis and then Brubaker doing amazing things with Daredevil, and then Andy Diggle came along and literally blew it up and ended the series. But Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos blew up Amazing Spider-Man and ended the series, and went on to make it even better. So when Marvel announced that Superior Spidey would be going to Shadowland, it kind of made sense to me. This won’t happen until July , with Superior Spider-Man #14, but Otto-Spidey, in his effort to be a better Spider-Man that Peter Parker ever was, will go after Kingpin in the heart of his kingdom. And where there’s Shadowland, there’s probably ninjas.
And, best of all, no cross-overs or tie ins.