Some things just go well together, like: macaroni and cheese, beer and football, and — for comic book fans — writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic. You might remember them from their wildly successful run on Thor: God of Thunder. This time they're back and shaking up the entire Marvel Universe with their one-shot called Marvel Legacy. Before we dive into the ramifications of Legacy, you need to know what brought us to this point, and why Marvel Comics (and Marvel Studios) is desperate to bring back lapsed fans, and find new ones.
Marvel Comics Has Been Bleeding Talent For Years
It's no secret that Marvel Comics has been bleeding talented writers since about 2012. Big name writers such as Ed Brubaker (Captain America), Jonathan Hickman (Avengers, Fantastic Four), and Matt Fraction (Hawkeye) are gone. Additionally, Marvel's own Editor-in-Chief, Axel Alonzo, lamented earlier this year that Marvel doesn't employ artists that can drive sales.
Looking at the August 2017 sales chart, it's easy to see that Marvel Comics isn't selling well. Fans and retailers have been clambering for Marvel to reboot its universe much like DC Comics did with its one-shot DC Universe: Rebirth. Instead, Marvel Comics has decided to renumber their comics using legacy numbers, and introduce new storylines that follow what happened in Legacy.
Longtime and successful retailer Brian Hibbs sees Marvel's Legacy as nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I can see Brian's point because Legacy does not have the commercial appeal of a reboot, and as a result, new readers and disheartened fans are less likely to get hooked by it.
On a positive note, the stories that will follow Legacy are supposed to get Marvel's classic characters back to form, something that has been missing for some time and is definitely needed. I believe that if #Marvel Comics can bring back talent it lost, and keep its hand on the pulse of up-and-coming talent, it will be able to regain readers. A step in the right direction was getting Mark Waid to write Captain America and pair him up with artist Chris Samnee.
Marvel's Classic Characters Haven't Been Very Classic
Marvel Comics has to overcome some pretty big obstacles, and a lot of it has to do with the direction Marvel has taken its classic characters within the last couple of years. For example, Jonathan Hickman confirmed that the Fantastic Four were ultimately removed from the Marvel Universe via Secret Wars (2015) because editorial wanted it so. Why would editorial want to remove such classic characters from its lineup? Jonathan went on to explain that it had to do with 20th Century Fox having the rights to make Fantastic Four movies. In short, Marvel did not want to promote a property that a competitor was going to potentially make money from.
The decision was very much a cut-your-nose-to-spite-your-face move on the part of Marvel as comic book fans suffered the consequences. Keep in mind that when you watch a Marvel Studios movie you are basically watching a story that was (for the most part) told in the pages of a comic. By eliminating the comic book end of things, you are eliminating the potential for further movies to build on them.
Interestingly, Legacy has opened the door for the Fantastic Four to return, which begs the question: Are Marvel Studios and Fox working on a Fantastic Four movie together much like Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures did with Spider-Man: Homecoming? I pose this question because so much of Marvel Comics is being influenced by Marvel Studios.
Captain America Works For Mickey Mouse, Not HYDRA
Let's not fool ourselves, of course it makes business sense for Marvel (which is owned by the Walt Disney Company) to make decisions that will allow Mickey Mouse to run to the bank with loads of money. So far, Disney's success has been riding on the back of stories that were told by longtime comic book creators such as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Chris Claremont, Jim Starlin and so many more. What happens when the stories that resonate with fans run out?
Case in point, Marvel Studios is headed towards its next big movie, Avengers: Infinity War, which appears to be loosely based on Infinity Gauntlet and the other Infinity-related events that followed. What then? I could see Marvel Studios trying to work Secret Invasion into the MCU, but after that Marvel Studios is going to have a tough time coming up with nostalgic material based on big comic events to drive fans to the theater.
Successful comic book events such as House of M (2005) and AVX (2012) can't be done because they involve the X-Men, a property that 20th Century Fox has the movie rights to. Marvel Studios can't do Hickman's Secret Wars (2015) because it heavily features the Fantastic Four. More recent Marvel comic book events such as Fear Itself (2011), Original Sin (2014), Civil War II (2016), and Secret Empire (2017) have been lackluster.
You don't have to look much further than the decline in Marvel Studio's recent projects — such as: Marvel's Inhumans, The Defenders, and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. — to see that Marvel Studios is floundering for a hit. Right now, Marvel's Inhumans has an 8 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If you can believe it, that's lower than Batman & Robin, which has a 10 percent rating. ABC tried to cancel Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. due to poor ratings and critics didn't particularly take to The Defenders.
I don't think slapping a Marvel logo on something automatically means its going to be a hit anymore. I also don't think the stories told in Marvel Comics within the last five or so years will ever be made into a movie. Fans lost their minds when they heard that Captain America was an agent of HYDRA. Do you really think we will ever see a movie based on that storyline? Probably not.
I think Avengers: Infinity War will be the shot in the arm that Marvel Studios needs, but Disney needs to pay closer attention to what Marvel Comics is doing. Disney needs to invest in the comics end of things if it wants to continue producing successful TV shows and movies.
'Legacy' Is A Small Step In The Right Direction
I found Legacy to be a small step in the right direction, but somewhat confusing. It's nice to see that Steve Rodgers is no longer an agent of HYDRA, James Howlett a.k.a. Wolverine is back from the dead, and the Fantastic Four might be coming back. However, there are a lot of loose ends in the Marvel Universe that Legacy fails to address. Thor Odison is still unworthy to wield Mjolnir, Peter Parker is still the CEO of global corporation, Tony Stark is nowhere to be found, the X-Men are still a complete mess, and the Avengers aren't who you'd think.
Rumors are circulating that Legacy was never meant to reboot the Marvel Universe, but that something big is going to happen next year to reboot Marvel Comics. If Marvel Comics plans on rebooting its universe it will probably rival the success that DC Comics had with New 52 and Rebirth. At this point, with its legacy at stake, I think Marvel Comics needs to do something huge to get the attention of lapsed fans and new readers, and by doing so, it will only benefit Marvel Studios further.