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Wednesday, February 28, 2018 

Of course they have to prove a ton, but who knows if they will?

One of IGN's main comics columnists went into discussion of their "Fresh Start initiative" which, for all we know, could just as easily turn out to be stale. There are some interesting points made, but also some predictable sugarcoatings and shortcomings:
This week Marvel Comics revealed the latest in a long line of annual relaunches. Unofficially dubbed "Fresh Start," this relaunch is conveniently timed with the release of May's Avengers: Infinity War, aiming to give readers a clean, easy gateway into Marvel's comic book line. The idea is to offer plenty of new #1 issues, new creative teams and new status quos. In short, basically the same thing Marvel has done with every other relaunch dating back to 2012's Marvel NOW. If Marvel truly wants to reach out to new readers and achieve a more lasting success with this relaunch, they need to prove that Fresh Start is fundamentally different from what's come before.
Oh, on that, the feeling is mutual. But I've got a feeling that assigning one of the same writers they've been employing for the past several years isn't going to be enough to guarantee winning the audience's trust they're mending fences.
The most immediately striking thing about the Fresh Start announcement is how close it comes on the heels of Marvel's most recent relaunch, Marvel Legacy. Legacy only just kicked off this past Fall - recently enough that some books are only just now finishing their first Legacy-branded storylines. Even by Marvel's usual standard, that's a quick turnaround. This could be a result of recent changes in leadership at the company, including C.B. Cebulski becoming Marvel's new Editor-in-Chief and John Nee their new Publisher.
They could've avoided going for another million renumberings, so this marks a definite show of weakness. Hastiness never makes for a good direction. What they should've done was advertise the directions and a story synopsis for Avengers, in example, and that would've been enough, not the numberings.
That's to say nothing of the fact that both relaunches seem to have almost identical goals in mind. Like Fresh Start, Legacy was an attempt by Marvel to reach out to new and lapsed readers by offering clean jumping-on points and putting the spotlight back on classic heroes like Steve Rogers, Tony Stark and the original Wolverine. For the most part, Legacy doesn't seem to have found its intended audience. Sure, there was the same short-term sales boost that comes with every annual relaunch. But look at Diamond Comics' sales figures for January 2018, where Marvel suffered a rare loss to DC in terms of unit share (the total number of comics sold). Perhaps even more telling is the fact that Phoenix Resurrection - a story predicated on the long-awaited return of Jean Grey - couldn't even crack the top 15 that month. If Marvel can't draw in readers with a story that significant, something is clearly wrong.
Well if I noticed correctly, the artwork in that story might've been dumbed down in an insult to a lady's sexuality, but of course, such columnists can't be bothered to dwell on the possibilities. That aside, if it's more or less the same contributors doing the writing, then why should we be excited? I do know that Chris Claremont is apparently going to write part of a story where Colossus and Kitty Pryde tie the marriage knot, but he's been so washed up for a number of years now, there's no telling if it'll impress, and I think Marc Guggenheim may be the main writer.
At some point, Fresh Start begins to seem less like a bold shift in direction and more like a mulligan on what Marvel was attempting to do six months ago. Why should readers respond any differently this time around? Isn't Marvel just making things more confusing for new readers by flip-flopping on their approach to numbering? One of the selling points with Legacy was that a bunch of long-running series reverted to their classic numbering. That allowed Marvel (through a convoluted system of massaging numbers) to arrange it so that books like The Mighty Thor, Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America and Invincible Iron Man are all hitting big milestone numbers within a few months of each other. Yet no sooner are many of those books reaching said milestones than they're being relaunched all over again.

How does that not make things even more confusing for readers? What is a comic book newbie supposed to think when they head to a shop and see that Ta-Nehisi Coates' Black Panther skipped from issue #18 to issue #166 and then from issue #172 to a new issue #1? Good luck even trying to explain to a new reader the order in which to read Jason Aaron's Thor run. "Start with Thor: God of Thunder, then read Thor, then hop over to Thors for a few issues, then Thor gets relaunched as The Mighty Thor, then The Unworthy Thor comes along..."
On the back-and-forth numbering, they've got a valid point. But as expected, no dwellings on whether Coates - and his politics - spells failure for any title he's assigned to. If his work was abortive before, why should we expect it to be any better now?
In some ways, Fresh Start is encouraging. Marvel has only revealed a small handful of the books that will make up the relaunch, but every one of them looks promising. It's hard to imagine a better creative team to relaunch the flagship Avengers comic than Aaron and Ed McGuinness. The same goes for Venom and its new team, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman. And while Black Panther isn't switching writers, the addition of artist Daniel Acuna and a drastically different story direction should make that series an attractive proposition. And that's to say nothing of Dan Slott's impending Iron Man series, the inevitable relaunch of Amazing Spider-Man and whatever else Marvel might have planned for the summer.
So writers like Slott and Aaron are encouraging choices? And to think we wondered why this direction would be accompanied by so much uncertainty. If they can't admit Slott, if not Aaron, caused a PR disaster for Marvel with his hostile stance to customers, and argue new contributors should be sought out in his stead, they've accomplished nothing, and have no business working as industry observers. Besides, if these artists have mediocre talents as compared with better ones of yore like John Romita, that's one more reason why they won't encourage anybody to buy their work.
On the other hand, all of the Fresh Start books revealed so far involve relaunched versions of existing titles. Moreover, all of the creators involved so far are already well established at the company. Marvel is promising new creators and ideas as part of Fresh Start, but it remains to be seen how well they'll actually follow through on that pledge. The lack of any female creators in this initial lineup is troubling enough on its own.
Ah, now this is getting somewhere. With the exception of selective choices, politics or otherwise, it's telling that there's no ladies assigned to their most notable books as writers. And it pretty much sums up how both Marvel and DC aren't all that different from before - there may be several women working in editing and such, but no female freelancers assigned to their books. It's doubtless been like this for a long time, and don't be shocked if any women who lean to the right in their politics are blacklisted by the higher echelons, should they dare make their standings known. Maybe that's something all concerned should note - that women could be among the biggest victims of the left-wing blacklisting in comicdom. Just don't expect the flubbers at IGN to back us up. Especially when they bring up some of the worst choices made in more than a decade:
...They need to bolster their talent pool and make up for the recent loss of big-name creators like Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Samnee and David F. Walker.
I don't know about Samnee, but Bendis, who bragged about breaking people's toys, and Walker, who displayed a terrible verbal conduct? They're far better off without them, and DC would be too, but no, they just had to make the mistake of choosing the former despite how cynical he really is, even if he knew how to avoid making himself look really bad on Twitter. Those are not the kind of people I would consider "big" names in the typical sense.

And above all, let's not forget, Joe Quesada is surely doing everything to manipulate Marvel's conduct behind the scenes, and that above all is why we can't be optimistic about where they're going with this "event".

Update: ah, and another bad sign in this whole affair is the appointment of Coates as the latest writer for Captain America! A divisive figure like him is definitely a mistake alright. So, no need to be upbeat about where Steve Rogers is headed in the whole mess either.

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"And it pretty much sums up how both Marvel and DC aren't all that different from before - there may be several women working in editing and such, but no female freelancers assigned to their books."

Women writers working for Marvel now include Rainbow Rowell, Kelly Thompson, Margaret Stohl, Gabby Rivera and Mariko Tamaki. And who can forget G Willow Wilson? Almost all of them are well known for their novel-writing (Rowell, Wilson, Rivera most prominently, but also Tamaki and Thompson) and Tamaki is a star for her graphic novel Skim. The first woman to write for Marvel was probably Tarpe Mills, back in the 1940s.

Amanda Conner is the star female writer over at DC.

That is not even getting into the number of female artists, like Erica Henderson, Amanda Conner again, Gurihiru, and others.

Looks like the "Nick Spencer writing for Spider-Man after Slott leaves" rumor floating for months is true:


"Do Not Want" is the least of my reactions. Although, I can say the same for Coates writing Cap. Can't wait for the issues where Cap discusses "Black bodies" or "why gentrification sucks" at length.

I'll be getting around to writing about the subject soon too. I realized that Cebulski's appointment to editor wasn't bound to lead anywhere.

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