Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Marvel Comics Season One

Comics used to be a passion of mine.  I read the occasional Marvel comic as a kid, and got really into them as a teenager to the point I ended up working at a comic shop in college.  At that point I switched over to DC comics and later indie comics before getting out of comics completely for about a decade.

The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game has me thinking about Marvel again.  Along with the new Marvel movies, it reminds me about what I've always liked about Marvel comics.  Unfortunately, Marvel comics themselves don't interest me too much anymore, for a couple of reasons.  One is that I'm not really a fan of the way they seem to be continuously having a big crossover storyline going on.  Stories like Secret Wars were special largely because they were special.  Now that they're the norm, why even have individual comics?  Why not just have one comic called "Marvel Universe?"  I could also go on about the state of several different iconic characters in the Marvel Universe, but it would just be "comic book guy" style ranting, so I'll refrain.

The other reason is Marvel's digital strategy, or lack thereof, but I'll go over that in another post.  

One exception to my general disappointment with Marvel is with the Season One comics.  There are obvious similarities to DCs Year One stories, but there are significant differences as well.  First, Year One stories are mostly original stories, covering stuff that was never really detailed in the original origin stories of the characters involved.  Marvel origin stories have always tended to be a bit more complete than those of DC, so instead of completely original stories, Season One stories are more re-tellings, or possibly re-imaginings.  One of the biggest differences is that they bring those stories into the modern age, a jump of almost 50 years for some of these stories.

For example, X-Men Season One opens with a teenage Jean Grey talking on an iPhone, and the Fantastic Four Season One has their initial flight being part of a plan to develop a space tourism business to raise money to support Reed Richards' other projects.  While details like that are changed, the broad outline of the original stories remain the same, and those broad outlines are great.

You can really see the potential of these characters, and see why they became so popular.  I'm left wanting to see what happens next, it's just too bad that's not really an option, but I'll get into that in a moment.  They're still good stories on their own, and the best outlet for scratching that nostalgic itch that I've found so far from modern Marvel.

Now the rant on wasted potential.  Where I want to continue the story from Season One, instead, each Season One ends with an issue of the comic that was current when the Season One story was first published, and they are a pretty mixed bag.  The X-Men one is just sad.  There's exactly two characters that are in Season One that are also in the "current" X-Men storyline:  Cyclops and Magneto.  If I was using Season One as a starting point, there would be nothing interesting to me in the current comic.  They might as well have included an Avengers comic for all it had to do with what I just read.  Most of the characters I was just introduced to (including the main point of view character) are gone.  It's even more jarring since Season One sets up the budding romance between Jean Grey and Scott Summers, only to have our introduction to the "current" X-Men showing Scott and Emma Frost as an item.

Fantastic Four is a bit better.  There are no changes in the lineup in the "current" storyline, but there have obviously been big changes elsewhere.  Season One ends with Sue Storm lamenting that Reed Richards will probably never marry her, but that she loves him anyway.  The "current" issue opens showing Val and Franklin Richards, Reed and Sue's kids.  

Thus, while good stories on their own, Season One also hi-lights just how badly the Marvel Universe is in need of a re-boot.  It's in worse condition than the DC Universe was prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths (there's even a multi-dimensional zombie apocalypse going on in the Marvel Universe at this point... some might find that cool, I just find it silly).  At least they can still make good possible starting points for my own Marvel Heroic Roleplay games.

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