We’ve gotten too close to the creators. It’s the only conclusion I’m able to reach.
The Internet has proven to be the most powerful communication tool mankind has ever seen. It’s brought us closer together, even on a global scale, and it’s fostered the resurgence of written correspondence, mail-order shopping and access to unlimited amounts of information. It’s also provided each and every user with a powerful voice; one can reach an unimaginably large audience with little in the way of resources. That’s a great thing, but it’s also a curse. The divide between fans and celebrities, between readers/viewers and creators, is a lot smaller these days, and the Internet is what’s shrunk the gap.
With the comics industry, writers, artists and editors get immediate feedback from readers. There’s an ongoing conversation between the creators and the audience. Every day is a comic convention online, as we read the creators’ blogs and sites for insight into their craft and the business, and they in turn scan those of the readers. I’ve come to wonder if (a) the creators are paying too much attention, and (b) if they’re paying attention to the right people.
Case in point: recent Secret Invasion tie-in issues of New Avengers and Mighty Avengers.
Most of these issues haven’t featured Avengers stories, but rather explored the minutia of how the Skrulls have come to infiltrate the world of Marvel’s super-heroes. The main story is unfolding in Secret Invasion, obviously, but with the two main Avengers titles, it seems as though Brian Michael Bendis and his editors are endeavoring to anticipate every fanboyish question about Marvel continuity leading up to the event.
The straw that broke the camel’s back? The latest issue of New Avengers. I was uninterested in learning how and when Hank Pym was replaced. I was uninterested in learning how the Skrulls extracted the information they needed from Reed Richards to hide their true identities from Earth’s best scientists, telepaths and magicians. And I was damn uninterested in learning what secret alien agents were up to during another crossover. New Avengers #45 attempts to resolve the events leading up to Secret Invasion with the reality-warping plot elements of House of M. House of M? Who cares what the undercover Skrulls were doing during House of M? Who even cares about House of M? It was an altered-reality storyline. Is an explanation needed at all? The aftermath of that previous crossover has been pretty much undone. Delving on how it was affected by another crossover or vice versa seems like navel-gazing in the extreme.
I enjoy a big, splashy crossover event as much as any fan of the super-hero genre, but these tie-in issues read like fanfic penned by continuity-obsessed fanboys. It’s as though Marvel is trying to launch pre-emptive strikes on every nitpicky online message-board thread imaginable about Secret Invasion. Is there a no-prize shortage from which the publisher is trying to protect itself?
What’s even more puzzling is that this tedious, detail-driven approach comes from the same publisher that felt that the only explanation needed for its recent Spider-Man reboot/retcon was “it’s magic and it doesn’t have to make sense.”
I actually do get where Bendis, his editors and other Marvel writers are coming from with these tangential stories. The core concept of the event story clearly has sparked a lot of ideas, and there’s no way to explore them all in a single series. But there’s never going to be enough room in any publication or even an entire super-hero line to explore them all. At some point, you’ve got to bite the bullet and cap off the story and its subplots. It’s true in journalism. It’s true in novels. It’s true in film and so many more storytelling media. Comics doesn’t get a pass. Something has to stay on the cutting-room floor.