Marvel: All-New, All-Different Does Not Necessarily Mean All-Better
After 75 years of comic books about iconic super-heroes, Marvel is ending its universe as we know it. Earth-616 (where the mainstream continuity takes place) and the Ultimate Marvel Universe collide, resulting in the destruction of both. This major event started in May and it is called Secret Wars. What lies ahead for our heroes and villains after the series is still shrouded in mystery. Who will live, who will die, and how have they been changed? Very few details have been released, but Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso has stated that they are not afraid to bring drastic changes. During a press event in January, he stated: “This is putting an endcap to decades of stories and starting a new era. When you see the scope of the event, [you will] see what we’re willing to do. This is a place where we’re going to be bringing new pieces onto the board and taking old pieces off. You guys will be yelling and screaming, loving and hating in equal measure.”
This might seem like an extreme step, but it is easy to come up with some theories about why Marvel would choose to do a reboot of sorts at this time. I believe that one of the most important reasons is as simple as attempting to increase sales. Marvel has been through ups and downs over the years, and even came close to bankruptcy in 1996. Their fortunes have certainly changed since then: their comics have regained popularity, and they have created an extremely popular cinematic universe. While the films based on the graphic novels have attracted a large new audience, it is a challenge to get them to read the comics. This is not because there is no interest in them, but probably because the Comic Universe is so large and complicated that it puts people off. I have personally been interested in the comics for years but have, until recently, always been put off by the challenge of understanding such a large universe. Rebooting the franchise is most likely the best way for Marvel to attract new readers. A brand new era with brand new characters and story-lines will make it a lot easier for people to start reading from the (new) beginning without having to bother with the 75 years of old material.
The strategy is not without problems though. While it is simple to hit a reset button and start the stories over again for the characters, Marvel cannot simply tell the same origin stories over again. That way they are sure to lose their old and loyal fanbase. Why should they be spending time and money reading the same stories over again? In order to appeal to both the new and old fans Marvel had to compromise. They destroy the universe as we know it, drastically changing everything and everyone. That way the new era will be fresh and unexplored to everyone. But at what cost?
So far Marvel has played their cards close to their chest. We still don’t know which characters will live and which will die during Secret Wars. Some characters have been revealed as survivors, and some storylines have been hinted at. My impression so far is that Marvel is aiming to make their line-up of characters more diverse, both when it comes to genders and ethnicity. X-23 (Laura) is taking over as a new Wolverine, Sam Wilson becomes Captain America, we have a new female Thor, and one of the few characters that have been revealed as survivors is a Native-American (Red Wolf). I understand and respect that Marvel is putting effort into making its universe more including. In the 60s, when the comics were first created, the world had a very different view on genders and race. It is no surprise that a company centered in America at that time would mainly feature male Caucasian heroes. While they were sometimes supported by female Caucasian heroes, the women were designed to be visually pleasing for the male readers (no women reads comics, right?). That Marvel is trying to stay relevant to the times is clear: they have introduced heroes with different ethnicity, religions, and sexualities. My only issue with these changes is that Marvel is making changes to the established characters instead of creating new ones. While it is great to see African-Americans becoming more represented, I’m not a fan of Sam Wilson becoming Captain America. Steve Rogers’ Captain America has such a long spanning history and is such an established character that is seems wrong to me that that anyone else takes over that name. Before any of you play the race card I want to say that I would have felt this way regardless of the skin-tone of the person taking over. Wilson is great as Falcon. When he takes over after Cap, I would have liked to see him do it under a new name. I’d like to see him do his own thing instead of mimicking the previous Cap. The same goes for new Wolverine and new Thor. I like seeing more women on the front lines, but I would have preferred it if they made their own identities instead of just following in the footsteps of others. Why must Marvel change the loved and established cast, and possibly putting off the current readers? Captain America will always be Steve Rogers to me. When I see Wilson donning the costume I can’t help but think: “That is not my Captain America.”
Meanwhile there are many characters that we haven’t heard anything about yet.The Fantastic Four comics were recently canceled prior to Secret Wars. What will happen to the team that has been a central force since the very start of Marvel? We have seen one image of Thing in a Guardians of the Galaxy uniform, suggesting he will move to the cosmic storylines. But what about the rest of the FF family? And what will this mean for the current GoG line-up? Marvel has also dropped some hints about Hulk. While they have confirmed that Bruce Banner will be present, they haven’t stated that he is going to be the Hulk. Alons said that “The all-new Hulk … this character is certain to cause debate. The same people who went crazy with female Thor will have a field day with this one.” While we don’t know anything more than that, I am worried about what all these changes could mean for the Universe that we know and love. I wonder if Marvel is trying to create controversy on purpose so that the new era will get more attention.
Is the All-New, All-Different brand really for the better? I dislike that the new changes are at the expense of the established universe. I don’t know about other Marvel fans, but I’m not All-Happy to see characters that I am invested in being drastically changed. It is not only about them changing, but seeing other characters taking over their place. While some central characters are still present, we don’t know to what extent. The old fans seem to draw the short straw as the universe they have been following is suddenly destroyed and replaced by something new. While the new universe won’t necessarily be bad, it still won’t be ‘my universe’. The new fans that are picking up the comics after seeing the movies might be in for a nasty surprise too. After seeing the Avengers in action on the big screen, they became interested in the characters that they were introduced to in the cinema. Picking up the new era of comics might put them off as the characters they have connected to don’t exist anymore. The characters are there to some extent, but they have given up their names and taken new roles. Will that encourage new readers to keep reading?
In the end, we won’t really know what Marvel has planned until the first issues of the new comics are launched. I don’t think Marvel will go into a lot of details about anything. Right now they are building hype so that people will buy the new issues as soon as they are released. While I do understand that Marvel is doing a reboot to accommodate for new readers while creating brand new material at the same time, I feel a bit skeptical about how this will affect the characters that I have an attachment to. I hope that Marvel proves me wrong. I hope that the new universe comes together in a great way that stays true to the things that made us fans in the first place. I would hate to open a new issue and think: “This is not my Marvel.”