What is Marvel doing? They seemed so set on a direction a few years ago. Of the big two, they were the one with its head on its shoulders. Marvel knew what it was and what it wanted to be. But now Marvel is lost, struggling with fan reactions and industry feedback that doesn’t appear to be as receptive to their future vision as they had hoped. So now as the House of Ideas tries to forge forward into the future, it’s still chained down by its reliance on the past.
Chained to the Past
Recently the Vanishing Point storyline was marketed. I’m sure it’s tied into the events of Secret Empire. Vanishing Point, by its promotion and description, seems to be a blink in time where our current legacy heroes( i.e. Sam Wilson Captain America, Ms. Marvel, X-23 Wolverine, etc.) Get to go back in time to fight along side their old classic counterpart in their hay-day. Is this an attempt to win over fans of those classic characters to the new legacy characters? I doubt that works. Is it a way to bring back those classic characters without worrying about the repercussions of their present selves (i.e. time displaced Xmen)? I hope not. What does Marvel wish to accomplish with Vanishing Point besides nostalgic misdirection?
Rebirth and Generations
Certainly the popularity of DC Rebirth event has effected the market as a whole. But it isn’t DC Comics return to the past so much as a respect of their history and characters that have fans glowing over Rebirth. Before DC tried to phase out characters like Wally West and really them with, well, Wally West. The New 52 distorted the history fans loved too much, and so fans rebelled. Marvel is undergoing some of the same growing pains as it tries to appeal to a younger, more diverse audience. Those efforts should be commended. But the backlash they are getting from fans is for reasons similar to the issues DC faced.
Legacy of Characters
One of the coolest parts of Marvel are these new characters they have created organically. Miles Morales is a good character and his reasons for being a Spider-Man are sound. Kamala Khan is an interesting and fresh character and her adaption of the Ms. Marvel name is relatable. X-23 is a female clone of Wolverine so of course she should call herself Wolverine. But all these legacy characters are starting to feel forced.
Now, I’m not saying I agree with all the new legacy characters. I wasn’t a fan of Sam Wilson as Captain America although Nick Spencer has worked wonders with that storyline and character. I wasn’t a fan of Jane Foster Thor originally either. Both of those character changes felt forced.
Fans don’t hate the legacy characters so much as the idea of their proliferation. There’s been how many Captain Americas in the past decade? They’re what, four Thors running around? Don’t get me started on the Xmen (There’s three Beasts in one universe). How many Spider-Man clone type characters are we up to now? Then compound fan frustration with the idea of these legacy characters, by killing off their counterparts or tainting the image of them. (Like with Hydra Captain America, although I really like all the storylines that have sprung from that heel-turn). To curb the rage that ensues, Marvel will just pluck the classic heroes from time and place them in the present. At least that’s what this Vanishing Point seems to possibly hint at.
Are the introduction of multiple legacy characters the only issue? No, it’s the storytelling and marketing strategy. It’s the gigantic blockbuster events. It’s the flooding of titles and overexposure of some of the teams. There’s like five avengers teams. Being an avenger used to mean something, not just in the Marvel Universe itself, but among the fans and the company in general. Making Luke Cage, Wolverine, and Spider-Man part of the New Avengers was a big deal nearly a decade and a half ago. Now everyone is an Avenger of some kind.
If anything from the past needs to be brought into the future, it’s Marvel grasp on gripping stories. It’s ok for teams to be exclusive and operate in their respective spheres of the universe. Characters and teams need a return to their core competencies without rehashing old storylines or eliminating new characters, or cherry picking a classic hero from the past and placing them in the present as a do-over. It feels like Marvel is too busy trying to move the future into the past that they can’t move the present forward.