Sunday, March 12, 2006

Comics: Cosmic Reset Button

And Friday morning I took a machete to a lot of my weekly comics purchases. I have a pull service with Bookworld where they set aside books for me, and to be frank, the amount has grown like kudzu, such that the nice folks there have a betting pool on what my total is eash week. A lot of the books are titles that I’ve been reading for, well, years, and now have to take a long hard look at it and figure out if I want to keep going with them.

Part of it has been motivated by the cosmic reset button employed by both major companies, Marvel and DC. These are “mega-events” which are supposed to charge up and freshen up their respective universes, attracting new readers and encouraging old ones to return. But every jumping on point is a jumping off point, and both hitting at the same time has given me a chance to jump.

The mainstream Marvel Universe, for example, has recently “de-powered” its mutants after unceremoniously driving the Scarlet Witch crazy. The resulting Marvel Universe seems to be in a muddle, and almost all the X-Books have left me with the question – who are these guys? So Excaliber, X-Men, New X-Men, Yet More X-Men and the rest are gone. The lone survivor among the mutants is Astonishing X-Men, by Joss Whedon, much like J. Michael Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man survives among numerous Spidery titles (they ALSO did a mega-event over in the Spider-Books that ended up with . . . a new costume (and not a lot of encouragement to pick up the other books)).

Over in the DC universe, they are in the throes of an Infinite Crisis, which (in story) threatens to return the multiple earths of thirty years ago, while (beyond the story) allows all the books to suddenly move One Year Later in their plotlines, supposedly allowing character depth and growth that you do not see onstage. But the trashy handling of the various plotlines leading up to this time-jump really left me seriously depressed. What “One Year Later” issues I have seen have either trashed previous work (Aquaman) or seemed to leave things in the same state that a change of writers normally would (Outsiders). So let’s put aside Aquaman, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Outsiders, and Hawkman. And that doesn’t count stuff that they canceled for the moment on their side – Wonder Woman, Flash, and JLA. JSA gets to stay but only because of Rags working on it. The only Super-title still on the list is Grant Morisson’s All Star Superman, which is non-continuity.

Oddly enough, there are still a lot of books still on the list. Almost all the Ultimate Marvel books (sort of a "Marvel Refocused" series taking the major characters back to their early days and running the universe with different specific outcomes) have stayed. Ditto Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers work, which is deeply involved in re-inventing a lot of DC low-level characters.

But the center? That no longer holds. And more will probably go away in the near future.