Marvel Comics in 2018 have been a bit of a mixed bag. Perhaps that is being too kind to them. I have made no secret of my status as a Marvel zombie for life. Marvel properties, namely the animated Spider-Man and Friends cartoon and the live action Incredible Hulk television show, introduced me to those heroes. When I then started to collect comics, Marvel books were the first ones that I bought. In fact, until Image started as a company, Marvel were the only books that I bought.
I have since branched out from that narrow focus. As my wife can attest, I collect a variety of comic books from all three of the bigger publishers. Perhaps it is this branching out. Maybe I am just getting older. Hey, it could even just be that DC has focused more on comics. For whatever reason, this is the first time in my life that my top 5 comics are not Marvel books.
DC Comics famously rebooted their universe from the mess that was New 52 a few years ago. Marvel has tried the same a few times over the years, including their own version of the New 52. As a collector, this has caused some confusion with the sequence and numbering of their titles. They responded with their Legacy “not quite a reboot” reboot which also offered consistent and official numbering for their more recognizable books. Even this was met with some internet side eye as their numbering schemes were brought into question.
The Good (Marvel Comics in 2018 is back to basics)
We are on to the good section of the article, so let’s keep it positive. There has been some good to come out of this mess. I mentioned in the previous section that Marvel books might not have cracked my Top 5 last year. That’s a bit harsh. There are at least two books from Marvel that are near the top of my read list every month. Before I talk about them, I’ll mention the other books that I’ve been enjoying.
Dr. Strange is one of my favorite Marvel characters and the latest story of him losing his magic has been a fun story. The Extermination story grabbed and kept my interest. X-23 is written by one of my favorite writers. Captain America post Secret Empire is a cool exploration of the soul of the character and, to an extent, our country. Iron Man and Avengers are both decent. On to my two favorite Marvel books.
I was skeptical when I heard the announcement about The Immortal Hulk. A horror book? Starring Hulk? Okay, I’ll give it a shot. I’m glad that it did. The tone of the book is completely different, but it is back to the Jekyll and Hyde roots of the character. Highly recommended.
I am not as much of a Venom fan as Hulk, so I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this title. I had enjoyed the pre-Legacy story line of the symbiote being sick and Eddie needing to cure it. They have continued with that thread while also adding some of the same horror as in the Hulk title. I also recommend this book if you are just getting into comics.
The Bad (Marvel Comics in 2018 is inconsistent)
Perhaps the epitome of this inconsistency is Black Panther. While many have only discovered the character because of the mega blockbuster movie that came out last year, I have been a fan of Black Panther since the beginning of my comic collecting. After starting with the big boys, I moved on to some of the secondary characters and enjoyed their stories more. I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m not enjoying this book more, but it just has not felt as fun or interesting as some of the others. Admittedly, I haven’t read it in a few months, so maybe it has fleshed out the concept better in the meantime.
If you know me at all, you know that I will give any creative outlet a chance. I’m a frustrated writer myself (imagine that, a failed novelist as blogger), so I understand all too well the crushing defeat of something you spent 10 years of your life on failing completely. Sorry, fell into therapy mode there.
With all of that being said, I didn’t like Infinity Wars. I really wanted to. I liked the first comic series and I loved the movie. I collected all of this title and even got the connecting covers. Then, I started to read it and it is a confusing mess. I don’t understand any of the motivation of the characters or reason for the plot. It was so bad, that I reconsidered my collection of the Infinity Warps offshoot books. I still have yet to buy any of them. Maybe Marvel needs to take a break from events.
The Ugly (Marvel Comics in 2018 is frustrating)
While I don’t want to sound like one of those internet guys who hates on everything, I’m going to do exactly that. This also probably is not entirely the fault of 2018. Marvel Comics has felt like a rudderless ship for several years now. They introduce new heroes, build them up for years, and then cave to the whims of those internet grumps and kill off those heroes. I get it. Sales drive industry. Perhaps I’m more frustrated with the grumps who won’t give something new a chance than with Marvel.
Comic books need to grow and change from their lonely nerd boy roots if they are going to continue. Perhaps the New 52 was the worst thing to happen to DC. Maybe Totally Awesome Hulk and Miles Morales Spider-Man were an anathema in the Marvel Universe. Spoiler Alert: I read both titles. They weren’t. Even so, comic sales have not kept up with the reality. Comic books are very popular except for the comics themselves. Maybe that is the reality. People that don’t buy comics never will. But, I commend the companies for continuing to try to find a new audience.
The Verdict (Marvel Comics in 2018 is in transition)
It’s been no secret that Marvel’s focus is more on its cinematic and television properties over the last decade. They have been building an integrated storyline over that time that they used to invest in their comics. Chris and I have had the conversation numerous times and I was under the impression that comics had become more or less a loss leader for the company under their Disney overlords. While that might be true to some extent, Marvel Comics still considers itself an integral part of the family.
It remains to be seen if that is actually true. When I go to comic shows, I do see people younger than me there. My kids are all into comics and read at least one title a month that I buy. Aiden likes Flash. Liam reads Batman. Quinn’s favorite is Teen Titans. I don’t know if they are going to continue to read comics past childhood. Maybe they’ll be like me and go into comics hibernation for a time until nostalgia brings them back.
Overall, I’m happy with what Marvel is doing with their comic books. If they can sustain this for a few years like DC has done with their Rebirth line, which has become the new DC universe, then I think they’ll be able to build their audience a little bit more. So far, so good. Quite an unsatisfying conclusion perhaps, but that’s the state of comics in 2018.