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Mavel's HEROIC AGE

Is it two steps forward and two steps back?

By Chad Derdowski     June 09, 2010
Source: Mania


Comicscape: Marvel's Heroic Age
© Mania

Welcome to part two of Comicscape’s “State of the Union” of the Marvel and DC Universes. Last week, we took a look at the brighter days that are allegedly taking place in the DCU and this week we’ll check out the Marvel side of things.

Comics have been plastering slogans like “Everything changes here!” and “Nothing will ever be the same!” on their covers for a long time, but in reality, very little ever actually changes. A few of the players get shifted around the game board but status quo always rules and sooner or later, everything goes back to normal. To a certain extent, this is a necessary evil: if you wanna sell pajamas and bedsheets, you can’t have Spidey lose an arm or a new character under Captain America’s mask.

Or can you? Obviously, there’s a different Cap slinging the shield right now (though we all know Steve Rogers will be back in time for the movie), but this isn’t the only change that’s managed to stick. Superman has gotten married and if you ask any kid under 12 who Green Lantern is, odds are they’ll say John Stewart, not Hal Jordan – no matter what DC says about Hal being the icon. It is possible to introduce change to the traditional superhero universes and have it become part of the accepted status quo. With that in mind, we’re taking a look at the direction Marvel is taking post-Siege.

 

The Heroic Age

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat – there was a Golden Age, a Silver Age, a Bronze Age and a Modern Age, as well as whatever age we’re currently in. We’ll even go so far as to say that somewhere in the midst of the Silver and Bronze Ages, there was a very special event taking place known as the Marvel Age, during which the rules were rewritten and comic books went in some pretty amazing new directions. But no matter how Marvel’s marketing department wants to spin it, this “Heroic Age” isn’t going to go down in history as one of the great ages of comic book history.

If anything, it would seem that Marvel is following in DC’s footsteps with a return to Silver Age notions of superheroics. Siege was labled as “an event seven years in the making” and now that it’s all said and done, what are we left with? In some ways, it’s a Marvel Universe not unlike the Marvel of the 1960’s – having stood on opposing sides during the Civil War, the comraderie and friendships that have been cemented over the past few decades are on shakier ground these days. Thor may have shaken Tony Stark’s hand and offered his friendship last time they met, but by no means did he give him a “get out of jail free” card. Steve Rogers and Logan might be able to work together on a team despite their differences, but Bucky Barnes and the Ol’ Canucklehead are constantly at each other’s throats. The Heroic Age might be a brighter, shinier era just as it was in the 1960’s, but it’s also got all of those same blemishes that made Marvel so popular in the first place.

 

Everything Old is New Again… But Different

Yup, the old Avengers are back and Marvel’s Trinity of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man are once again the cornerstones of the Avengers team. The only difference being that Captain America is now Bucky and Steve Rogers is leading a team of black ops Avengers. Just a few years ago, it was outlandish to think that Spider-Man and Wolverine would be Avengers –these days, that’s the status quo. Not only is it perfectly acceptable, it would actually seem kind of odd to not have them on the team.

While it’s true that both Marvel and DC are, in many ways, just rehashing previous eras in comic book history, there are a lot of differences in the way it’s being done. Over on the DC side of things, Geoff Johns is plastering his love of the Silver Age all over everything he touches. Barry Allen is back and he’s brought his rogues gallery with him. Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris have reignited the flames of love and anybody who’s ever appeared in a 60’s DC comic is back.

Marvel? Well, they’re doing the same thing, only they’ve gone 10 or 15 years into the future. Brian Bendis has never made his love of the Bronze Age a secret and we’ve seen Power Man and Iron Fist play important roles in recent events, as well as other ‘70s characters like Nova and even Howard the Duck. While DC is reestablishing their cornerstones, guys like Bendis or the team of Abnett and Lanning are taking second-generation concepts and finally allowing them to get the credit they deserve. Remember last week when we suggested that a Geoff Johns-penned Bart Allen Flash could’ve been a hit or that Grant Morrison on Firestorm or JMS on Atom (Ryan Choi) might’ve allowed those characters the chance to grow? Marvel is actually doing it with their 1970’s-era characters.

 

The Return of the House of Ideas

But the growth isn’t just limited to the little guys or to the people behind the masks. Writers like Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman are taking classic Marvel concepts and updating them for modern audiences, never losing sight of what made these characters so beloved in the first place while turning them on their ears.

How about Reed Richards? Recent writers have spent more time focusing on his arrogance, but in the hands of Jonathan Hickman, Mr. Fantastic (as well as the rest of the team) has undergone a renaissance of sorts, with more emphasis on his dream of exploration and the betterment of humankind. And we’re not seeing Dr. Doom or the Sub Mariner for the 400th time; new characters and new civilizations are being introduced. Matt Fraction has given Tony Stark a new purpose, using repulsor technology as an alternative energy source and in an era when most comic reflect their big screen counterparts, Iron Man’s new armor looks throroughly modern, as though Tony bought it at the Apple store. Meanwhile, Ed Brubaker has done the unthinkable: he’s actually replaced an icon and not only has he made it work, he’s made it better. The stories he’s telling with Bucky Barnes are classically-styled Cap tales, but with the twist of seeing them through a new perspective.

And then there’s Frank Castle. Long thought to be the most paper-thin, one-dimensional character, Frank has experienced more definition and growth in the past 5 years than he has in his entire career. Oh yeah… and now he’s a FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER on top of all of it.

 

And In the Future…?

Marvel has long made a practice of giving the illusion of change while not actually changing anything. In many ways, that’s still going on right now. The Fantastic Four is still the same old FF; they just feel brand new because we haven’t seen them portrayed this way in so long. Captain America is still a man out of time carrying the hopes and dreams of a nation on his shoulders; he’s just a different man now. Same weight, new shoulders. And no matter what kind of financial crisis or change of heart he goes through, Tony Stark is always going to be bangin’ hot chicks and creating sweet new technology.

It’s true that Marvel may just be pulling the wool over our eyes with their recent changes. Just as DC is doing, they’re giving us Classic Coke, harkening back to a bygone era and playing on our sense of nostalgia. But unlike their distinguished competition, who seem to be taking two steps forward in terms of storytelling skill and grace while taking two steps back in terms of actual progress, Marvel is actually making at least a half-step forward. While DC injects personality into Hal Jordan and Barry Allen for the first time in history as a way to remind us that they are the foundation upon which the DCU was founded (and either kills off any fresh blood or relegates it to a team book), Marvel is keeping the spirit of Marvel alive by adding layers to their legends and introducing new players to the game.

Time will tell if any of it stands the test of time, and we know a good portion of it is smoke and mirrors (and one hell of a marketing department) but they at least seem to be on a path toward the future that honors the past instead of just looking backwards.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 28
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Roqueja 6/9/2010 6:07:13 AM

My hope is that the spotlight that shone so well on a few of the more interesting villians the past year or so is still there in the heroic age.  Bullseye in a team dynamic was entertaining, and I will most miss seeing Taskmaster every month.  His mug on a couple of mesmerizing covers was the highlight of walking into a comic shop for the past while.  To just throw some of these characters back into prison for the next prison break story seems a waste.  Taskmaster movie awaits doing this character some props.

okonomiyaki4000 6/9/2010 6:31:01 AM

 The whole premise of 'Heroic Age' seems pretty boring compared with the stuff that was going on throughout the 'Dark Reign'. But the X-books have got some good stuff happening lately and the Cosmic stuff is pretty fun. Except Nova, is there anything good about that guy?

jedibanner 6/9/2010 7:21:13 AM

I think the evolution of the Marvel's recent events have prepared this new Heroic age in a wonderful manner. Look at the past 7 years in the universe, the Marvel heroes have faced M-Day (loss of powers), Civil War (lloss of friends), WWH (loss of life), Secret Invasion (loss of trust), Dark Reign (loss of liberty) and finally Siege (loss of evil).

The heroes have been through so much emotional turmoil that it's great to see them ''going back to being heroes'' and do heroic stuff.

Now if only they could do the same thing with the Hulk, all that would be great in this world would be back to normal.

krakken 6/9/2010 7:56:14 AM

Jedibanner....did you really say "loss of evil" in context with your other losses. HAHAHAHA.  Cracked me up.

jedibanner 6/9/2010 8:15:53 AM

Well krakken...I would consider the loss of Norman Osborn as head of security as the loss of ''evil''. The idea of all the heroes fighting the bad guy and winning means the ''evil doers'' were eliminated and that's what I mean.

But hey, if it made you laugh, laugh away.

dbrock06 6/9/2010 8:28:56 AM

I guess you could say he was Krakken up..................I know it was bad...

Anyway,  with the bulk of the events behind us I hope we can just get back to some old fashioned storytelling for a while.  Maybe develop some characters and some relationships between them.  It would be a nice change of pace.  with that being said, the crossover in the X-books has been awesome so far.  Hopefully there will be some kind of payoff in the end.  Also if you get the chance..Thanos Rocks!  Cannot wait for this one either.  Looks like Galactus and Silver Surfer will be involved soon as well.

Spinner Rack

Light week for me this week.

Avengers Academy 1 I will give a whirl,  I believe Pym is in charge, so it is worth a look see.

Ultimate Spidey has been good month in and out.

Uncanny X-men, and X-men Hellbound continue the X-over that has been really delivering.

Batman 700   Grant Morrison takes over

Booster Gold   Quality every month.  Still unsure of this new creative team, but willing to stay on for the ride.

Transformers ongoing #8.  Reliving my 80's youth.  also enjoying the story.  Check it out if you can.

Hobbs 6/9/2010 9:04:35 AM

It's just proof comic book writers can't think of anything new and have to rip off the classics in order to be successful.

Wolverine that I read growing up never would have joined the Avengers and neither would have Spider-Man.

What a joke marvel has become. I'm glad they don't get anymore of my money and I will turn my kids away from them as well as they get to that age. 

Marvel= hack

jedibanner 6/9/2010 9:09:08 AM

Hobbs....Wolverine joined the X-Men way-back-when, why wouldn't he join the Avengers?

Sure back in the 70's Wolvi was new and his head was still screwed but, with the evolution of the character, it's logic he's in the Avengers now.

If marvel is such a joke, why are they on top of sales and over the competition year after year?

I don't know the reasons why you hate Marvel now but, it would be interesting to know them.

ponyboy76 6/9/2010 9:24:33 AM

Great article and everything you mentioned is why I still love Marvel and will always be a Marvel head. I am reading DC now again , so they did something right with  Darkest Night.

The Second Coming crossover in the X-books has been awesome. I think it took a lot of balls to kill off Nightcrawler and others considering there aren't many mutants left to work with. What I find with the X-books more than any other comic is that they are under constant threat of death. There is never a lull in danger. They went straight from Necrosha into Second Coming. What's cool about this Heroic Age, is it seems heroes are getting involved with mutant problems where as before besides a slect few no one cared. Having the Avengers show up in San Francisco to help is a big deal. That is one of the good things about Logan being an Avenger. Although how he has time to be in every Avengers comic and deal with all the stuff with Second Coming is beyond me.

My one problem with Marvel has been Spiderman. This Gaunlet thing has been okay, but at times really boring. The Kraven's need to reveal themselves already. Again, he supposedly being word down, but had enough time and energy to fight in the Siege.

And one more thing, the timeline with these events confuses the hell out of me. The FF are in Doomwar, FOTHs and WWHs. Wolverine has been in every event. Can someone give me some sort of timline ?

lister 6/9/2010 9:34:22 AM

dbrock:

With you on Avengers Academy. The new kids do NOTHING for me. But Pym is large and in charge so sign me up!

XTinction Agenda has been really good. I think they dropped the ball by not shipping an installment last week.

Booster Gold. Oh Booster. I mean, I have loved this book since issue #1. The premise is exquisite. It's one of the only DC titles I read. The entire last issue revolved around a little girl who looked 10 years old but was concerned about her "poop" like a 6-year old. Sigh.

 

 

Let me Spin the Rack once more:

Astonishing X-Men Xenogenesis  I liked part one. And Storm sports a version of her punk look. NOTHING better than that!

S.H.I.E.L.D.  The first issue was interesting. This would be better as a collected read, but I will check this out.

Young Allies? Well, I like Firestar... the rest? Meh for now.

I'll rack-read Dracula and Captain America and Iron Man, even though those last two have been boring me for about the last 6 months.

 

MY TOP PICK:

Heroic Age Prince of Power   Rock me Amadeus!

 

Lingering Doubts:

What is DC doing with Titans? Why are they doing this? This is one of the worst top tier titles EVER. Three years and they have done NOTHING with this book. What's the point, DC?

Must Zon Rimmerman debase both the Rawhide Kid and gays in general with his book? I guess it would be impossible for a homophobe like him (yup! my opinion) to imagine a gay cowboy who doesn't prance and swish. What a tool. If his jokes were funny, I might give him a pass... but it's cliche upon cliche. Who at Marvel is this guy blowing??

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