Back in the day when it came to event comics, the possibilities were infinite and the excitement was palpable. Oh, there were cynics as there are for anything, sure, but their voice was not the dominant one; instead we would be excited at the prospect that our favorite heroes would band together to fight against insurmountable odds and a foe so grandiose and vile that their dastardly deeds could not be contained to a normal iteration of a monthly comic book. Events represented the pinnacle of being a superhero fan.
However, things at Marvel have come to a place where the word event holds a different form of value. While Marvel is home to some of my all time favorite events such as “Infinity Gauntlet,” “Annihilation” and “Secret Invasion,” the way that event comics have changed in the last five years seems to put the stories that made the big event comics of yesteryear so endearing on the backburner, replaced by books that helped fill a certain sales quota while pushing an editorial directive in a way that would hopefully be marketable as the equivalent to blockbuster summer entertainment in sync with the latest film iteration of the franchises. Not only that, but most of the regular comic storylines are so big in scope these days that you have to read the majority of them to appreciate the event anyway — and at that point, you don’t even really need the event anymore.
Which, in turn, brings us to “AXIS” by Rick Remender, Adam Kubert, Leinil Francis Yu, Terry Dodson and one more artist to be announced, with covers by Jim Cheung. A 9-issue event series with a massively talented creative team, the book sees various villains of the Marvel Universe banding together to go up against various heroes as everything becomes rather topsy turvy. What’s unique about “AXIS,” though, is that it condenses what would normally be nearly a year’s worth of storytelling down to three months, each with three issues of the series. Marvel has introduced a quickening pace to their events lately, with last year’s “Infinity” featuring six issues over three months and this year’s “Original Sin” condensing eight issues into two issues a month over four. “AXIS” is officially the biggest and quickest event we’ll have.
What’s interesting about this to me is that by the time “AXIS” #1 arrives in stores in October, we’ll essentially already know how it ends. Given that the solicits for the final issues of “AXIS” released in December will be available next month, we’ll know the basic premise of every issue of the event before it begins, including whatever press release and media announcement will coincide with this — and by the time we start actually reading it, we’ll already be hearing about the aftermath and what universal changes arrive when January solicits arrive in October alongside New York Comic Con inevitably featuring a bevy of new book announcements on their own. In fact, we already know some of the big ramifications involved in the event based on Marvel making press announcements to national media outlets, new books like “Superior Iron Man” spinning out of the series, and the increasing amount of teases for what is to come in April and May of 2015 when ‘Time Runs Out!’
So everything you could possibly want to know about “AXIS” will be delivered to you before you can actually read “AXIS” — and, you know what? It’s kind of genius! In fact, not only would I recommend that this be the norm for event comics for the future, but I would propose a modest adjustment to the idea: why bother making the comic? Why not just release all the relevant plot points of the story and call it a day?
It may be a bit of a shocking or controversial statement, but hear me out. When it comes down to it, I don’t think we actually need the comic books anymore. If anything, Marvel has effectively proven them to be useless and unnecessary. Sure, you can make the argument that there’s a “story” in there, that there’s artwork and writing and people doing hard work that takes months to produce and countless hours of blood sweat and tears before it gets to you and I, but does that matter anymore? Not in the sense of continuity and not even in the grander sense of the world, but if these events actually mattered to Marvel surely they would have some kind of breathing period between events for their ramifications to be felt — and that’s just not the case anymore. Everything comes down to marketing buzz and headlines anyway, and the stories do not matter so much as the little bits of information that you eventually pull off of Wikipedia about who did what, who survived and what was left of them. We don’t need a comic for that!Continued below
Thing is, what we’re reading right now, our current September pull list titles? They’re already all obsolete. Last week I read a new issue of “Avengers”, but I’m already mentally inundated with the notion that the book is hopping eight months in the future where everything is different and has been for several months. I may sit down later in the evening and read the latest issue of “Original Sin #5.4 – Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm,” but I already know that Thor is becoming a woman so the Odinson is yesterday’s news and I’m just plain bored of him. Steve Rogers as Captain America? Please; that’s so last year. We all know that Sam “Falcon” Wilson is Captain America already, so why can’t we just read about him?
And, to be completely forward with you: I’m fully expecting that between the time that I’ve written, reviewed, edited and re-written this piece to go live, that the information I’m sharing about who is who in the Marvel Universe could potentially already be outdated. And why shouldn’t it be? FalCap and Thor 2.0 are yesterday’s news today already, and it’s about time we just get onto the next big thing! The formerly eventful stories and changes to these age old IPs that are being created have been replaced, making them excessive, nonessential and otherwise superfluously unimportant and trivial pieces of ephemera rendered obsolete with the surfeit of information available. Our minds are already in the future, and the comics we’re reading need to catch up to our fast paced world and short attention spans. Come on, Marvel; pick up your own pace!
Because in the end, that’s all we really want. I may rush home to read an issue of some new comic the day it comes out, but I’m only doing so under the false pretense that I can somehow avoid “spoilers” online. But if we’re being honest here, we’ve already passed through the singularity of spoilers where spoilers are the story being told, so why not cut out the middle man? Everything comes down to little bits of information that become obsolete quickly so we need to properly monetize this shift in the way we appreciate narrative. Not only will it save us all a lot of time and energy, but it results in a win/win scenario where Marvel can give us the changes and shocking twists they want and we don’t have to spend fifteen minutes reading about them only to lose the physical copy of the story in a longbox.
The information is what we’re paying for, as it is such a unique privilege to know these priceless pieces of canonical information. As long as the crowd that is being catered to is one that feeds off the necessity of this trivial knowledge, then it’d only be smart to just offer up that information and forgo any pretense of story. Why waste the effort?
And, really, when you have a writer like Remender or talented artists like Dodson and Kubert and Yu working on a book like this, we put them in a precarious position. These talented creators are forced to seek out satisfaction in storytelling from other outlets, ones that will actually allow them to creatively grow instead of working on stories in which their ideas and contributions to the art form are muted and compressed. Time and energy is put towards a series that is destined for an overpriced hardcover book on a shelf moreso than something that will be continuously revered and appreciated by later generations; sure, you can hire these creators to make a story and put out some kind of collection if you really want to, but you could also save a lot of money by just calling them up to do a couple promo images and give you story ideas that you can announce in press releases! It’ll let these talented creators go on to do other, more rewarding things with their time, and you’ll still reap most of the benefits thanks to the market share held by your company that will almost certainly never be thwarted.Continued below
Since “AXIS” will inevitably get boiled down to a few sentences explaining ‘what you need to know’ in order to read the next big thing in January or in May, yet something like “Fear Agent” will likely stand the test of time in libraries everywhere, we should just jump ahead to that cultural climate now. This way everyone can spend their time worrying about the things that really matter: movie franchises!
Event comics were at one point spaced out over time so that the maximum impact could be gained out of such universe-shattering storylines and cliffhangers, but come on — it’s 2014. Who has time for a nine-month series when we should get it and treat it like fast food: disposable, throwaway things to temporarily satisfy us while we get actual substance elsewhere. If I want to read a comic book that I can relate to, I don’t need something like “AXIS” for that. We live in a world where entertainment should be packaged up into bite sized, quickly delivered morsels preferably via lists comprised of GIFs that I can read in five minutes and pass onto a friend to brighten their day temporarily. Streamlining the way these comics are created and produced could only be beneficial for all involved.
It won’t be an easy transition. There will be some resistance to the idea, I assure you. But as you’ll find with most fans, it’s not like their frequently vocalized opinions matter in any way because there are always enough people who don’t traverse the highly opinionated comics internet that are willing to put money down on something they have a passing interest in, which in turn helps justify the creation of these “essential” stories. We’re already voting with our dollar enough to help you push out these comics like paste into our feeding tubes, so just think about all the money you could save if you didn’t have to spend a portion on it on any form of production value. You could be Scrooge McDuck-ing your day away instead of fretting over getting 20 pages done on a heightened deadline!
Because, Marvel, when it’s becoming clear that your company has little to no interest in creating a product of actual value with long-lasting relevance and emotional resonance to it over creating something that is unimportant and disrespectful to your core audience who have placed time and investment into the properties, then it’s only fair to be honest that these are the new values that the company holds dear and remove the pretense that either party is being treated with any dignity.