It’s been a rather intense week or two when it comes to announcements about super-hero comics, but obviously, DC Comics dominated the discussion with its rollout of details of its September line-wide relaunch. Over the weekend, Marvel Comics entered the fray with one of those announcements that it’ll announce something. It put the word out that it would deliver some big news Monday afternoon. The move seemed pretty clearly sparked by DC’s week-long PR campaign revealing the titles and creative teams that will serve as Marvel’s main competition in the marketplace in the fall. And even if it wasn’t a direct response to DC’s successful and well co-ordinated publicity moves, the perception certainly is that there’s a connection between the two.
When Marvel’s news finally arrived, it was word of a new ongoing Spider-Man title — Avenging Spider-Man — set to begin in November. Written by Zeb Wells and illustrated by Joe Madureira, the series will focus more on the title character’s super-heroic life (especially as a member of the Avengers, duh) rather than his personal life. Furthermore, it will feature repeated team-ups with other heroes.
Now here’s where Marvel went wrong.
Countering DC’s tsunami of upcoming new titles with news of a single title serves only to spotlight the imbalance between the two publishers. One is making a big daring move with its entire line (not to mention the same-date digital distribution), while the other is simply adding another title to its line featuring one of its most marketable properties.
Furthermore, Marvel seems to be ignoring a previous move it made that brought strength to its Spider-Man brand. A few years ago, it cancelled extraneous Spidey titles (set in its “mainstream” continuity) and consolidated its Spidey stories to one title, the original title, Amazing Spider-Man. That decision, along with the move to a thrice-monthly schedule (now twice), bolstered sales on Amazing and helped to make the book one of the publishers top and most consistent performers on the sales charts.
Now, Marvel is touting its decision to dilute its Spider-Man brand once again as a bold, exciting move.
I suppose the “big” part of Marvel’s “big news” isn’t that it’s adding a new Spidey title but rather who’s drawing it. Joe Madureira was one of the most popular artists working in comics in the mid- to late-1990s, developing a major fanbase with his exaggerated artwork on Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men and Image’s Battle Chasers. But aside from a much-maligned run on Ultimates 3 for Marvel a couple of years ago, “Mad” has been largely absent from the comics landscape for the past decade. I can’t help but wonder if Marvel is overestimating his appeal. And since Avenging Spider-Man is meant to be a monthly title, Marvel is definitely overestimating the artist’s speed. Madureira is to late comics what Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is workers’ comp claims: a plentiful source.
It’s quite possible that this was an announcement that Marvel was holding onto for con season, perhaps even as one of its big reveals during Comic-Con International in San Diego next month. If that’s the case and Marvel accerlated its PR plans in response to DC’s buzz about its new 52 titles, it was a mistake. And even if it wasn’t a direct response, it was still a mistake because it looks like a response all the same. Like I said earlier, there’s really no comparing the two, and since it’s highly unlikely Madureira can pick up the pencilling pace to get the book out earlier — like, say, in September — it’s trying to compete (or it looks like it) only to fail.
Finally, Marvel’s choice for the actual title of the new series… well, it leaves a lot to be desired. Clearly, the comic is meant to be bombastic, action-oriented fun; it doesn’t look as though the reader’s meant to take it too seriously. But the awkward attempt to connect Spidey with his membership in the Avengers falls flat. It sounds as though the book will feature a driven man in a spider-mask, skulking in the night, looking to exact bloody revenge. I don’t want to read that comic book. Of course, I don’t want to read a Joe Madureira comic book either.
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