Last week, Marvel held a press conference at Midtown Comics in New York City to announce the next big summer event, something titled Fear Itself. According to Marvel executive editor Axel Alonso, Fear Itself will “tap into the zeitgeist of the day”, speaking to the world we live in today. Anxiety, fear, mob mentality… it these days, it seems that the country is on edge more than ever before, and apparently that’s exactly what Marvel hopes to tap into with this crossover event, described by Tom Brevoort as comparable to Secret Invasion in terms of its size and scope across the Marvel Universe.
You remember Secret Invasion, don’t you? The multi-title epic that crossed through nearly the entire Marvel Universe? The one that was preceded by multi-book, cross-title epics like Civil War and House of M (with a little World War Hulk thrown in for good measure)? The very same Secret Invasion that led to Dark Reign, a multi-issue, cross-series epic that Marvel swore up and down would be the last companywide crossover for the foreseeable future, heralding a return to the good old fashioned superhero stories that only required the purchase of one title per month to follow and understand? Well folks, the foreseeable future will be coming to an end in the summer of 2011 and all that talk about a Heroic Age featuring a brighter Marvel Universe and a bold new era for heroes emerging from darkness with a renewed sense of purpose? Looks like that was a joke too, as the heroes of the Marvel U will be plunged into a world of darkness and fear that according to the bigwigs at Marvel, will be darker and scarier than anything they’ve ever faced before.
Okay, to be completely fair, superheroes are always up against a threat that’s allegedly worse than anything they’ve ever faced before, so we can’t really slam Marvel for hyping a story with a little exaggeration. And just because they’re facing down their greatest fears doesn’t mean that the Heroic Age will be coming to an end; in fact, we’re assuming that this whole thing will end with everyone facing their fears and coming out even stronger. If they didn’t… well, they wouldn’t be very good superheroes, would they? But what we can and will slam Marvel for is the return of the never ending crossover! Sweet Christmas, it’s only been one year! Actually, it hasn’t even been one year, as Marvel launched the Heroic Age in May of 2010 and Fear Itself will kick off in March of 2011. What’s the deal, Marvel? Apparently raising prices by a dollar wasn’t working so they’ve gone back to their old tactics of trying to force fans to buy multiple titles in order to have any concept of what’s going on. Did we mention this series will be $3.99?
And for that matter, did the never ending crossover really ever end? Sure, Dark Reign was the last true companywide event, but since it wrapped up, the X-Men have been involved in that whole Second Coming thing as well as all that business with Dracula. Do those not count as official crossovers since they only ran through the 15 X-titles on the stands and didn’t feature the New Avengers, Secret Avengers, Mighty Avengers, West Coast Avengers, French Toast Avengers and the Island of Misfit Avengers? What constitutes as an event or crossover these days anyway? We’ve been reading Green Lantern regularly for the past couple of years and these days, it seems that the Flash is pretty much a supporting character in the book. Granted, Flash’s own title seems to hit the stands once every two to seven months, so we figure he’s gotta feature prominently somewhere, but when is the last time you’ve picked up an issue of Iron Man that didn’t feature Captain America, Thor or Steve Rogers?
Back in the day, it was cool when you read Captain America and they dropped a reference to Spider-Man, but you could read the book for a year or more without ever seeing the Shield-Slinger team up with the Webhead. These days, it seems like you’re lucky to make it three months without a guest appearance from another hero –and this is on top of the other heroes who are part of the supporting cast! Falcon, Steve Rogers and Black Widow are all featured prominently in Captain America while Green Lantern features not only Barry Allen (or is he still considered a guest star?) but Sinestro, Star Sapphire, 43,000 members of various-colored Corps and a handful of entities that serve as the source of their power. Now… we don’t want to complain about these supporting characters; obviously these heroes don’t live in a bubble and it’s cool to see a community of heroes working together, hanging out and shooting the bull at a local tavern. But at what point is it no longer a “guest appearance”? At what point can we assume that yes, Wolverine actually does appear in every book in the Marvel Universe?
Ahhh, we’re just rambling now. But you get the point: don’t bemoan the return of the never ending crossover when Fear Itself kicks off this summer. After all, it never really ended in the first place.
We love complaining about Marvel, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t run down some sort of list of our favorite comics of the year. This is the last Comicscape of 2010, after all. We certainly don’t claim that these are the best comics of 2010, as we can’t claim to have read every comic released this year. But we can tell you that these are the ones we liked best.
Captain America (Marvel Comics) Though we weren’t terribly impressed with the Return of Steve Rogers, we’re still loving the adventures of his former sidekick who has taken his place. It manages to tread familiar paths while breaking new ground and we’ll go ahead and say it again: we don’t want Steve back as Cap.
RASL (Cartoon Books) Jeff Smith has been showcasing his dark side with this tale of alternate realities, art theft, the Manhattan Project and the theories of Nikola Tesla. It’s another masterpiece from the guy who gave us the gift of Bone and… oh wait, that didn’t sound quite right. Anyway, we just wish this book either came out more often or was released in a larger format, less often.
Chew (Image Comics) John Layman and Rob Guillory continue to serve up great stories and brilliant artwork in this story of cibopaths, detectives and conspiracy. Able to blend genres and styles and constantly upping the ante with each storyline, Chew is a title that constantly reinvents itself and keeps readers on their toes.
Tiny Titans/Little Archie crossover (DC Comics/Archie Comics) Now this is a crossover we can get behind! Art Baltazar and Franco have been delivering the goods and pleasing fans of all ages with Tiny Titans, but they’ve actually managed to top themselves with this story. If you’re into silly little things like FUN, you might just enjoy this title.
Franken-Castle (Marvel Comics) Yeah, we know – some of you actually don’t like fun. You’re probably scratching your heads over our inclusion of Tiny Titans on this list. You’ve been very vocal about your dislike of this title. Well, we respect your opinion, even if you’re wrong. We’ve been just as vocal this year about our love of the book, so we’ll keep it short and simple: does Two-Fisted Creepy Tales From the Vault of Eerie Science Fantasy sound appealing? If so, pick up the collected Franken-Castle.
Echo (Abstract Studio) Terry Moore continues to provide excellent characterization and beautiful, expressive artwork with his latest offering. Hard science fiction, drama and action can all be found in this title. Our only wish is that Francine and Katchoo will make an appearance sometime in 2011. Just because.
American Vampire (Vertigo) We’re embarrased to say that we didn’t read this book until the first collection was released, but we’ve been singing its praises from the highest mountaintop ever since. Remember when vampires were the scariest thing in the world? Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque do, and they’re doing their best to dispel those rumors you’ve been hearing of shimmery teenage soap opera vampires. Oh yeah, and some guy named Stephen King wrote a few backup stories too.
Sweet Tooth (Vertigo) A post-apocalyptic scenario, animal/children hybrids, an ex-hockey player and indie sensibilities add up to a terrifyingly tense comic that continually breaks our hearts and keeps us on the edge of our seats with every issue. Jeff Lemire, we salute you.
Fantastic Four (Marvel) Jonathan Hickman has put the “fantastic” back in the four and made the title worthy of being called “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine”. New worlds, new friends and enemies and dizzying new concepts proliferate this title, recapturing the magic and wonder of the Lee/Kirby era while creating an altogether new animal.
Daytripper (Vertigo) Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá have given us a gift. A look inside their minds and a look at their philosophies on life and death. That gift is called Daytripper and if you didn’t read it when it came out monthly, you absolutely must read the collection upon its release. Each issue functioned as a complete story in itself but when read as a whole, this story gave us a unique look at life. Like snapshots viewed out of order, Daytripper was a walk through a man’s memories, both good and bad, and a reminder of how beautiful and magical every single second of life is. Not only that, it was absolutely breathtaking to look at. For our money, Moon and Bá are among the best creators working in comics today and Daytripper was hands-down the greatest book of the year.