Let's face it — so far, Marvel Comics has had a rough year. In the wake of dramatically declining sales and intense competition from rival DC Comics, the company is preparing the ground for a major relaunch. Unfortunately, Marvel's first attempt to get retailers on board resulted in something of a furore over diversity, and since then they suffered a frustrating scandal courtesy of an artist going rogue over in X-Men: Gold #1. It's not been a good year for the comics publisher so far.
The fightback begins now, though. This year's #SecretEmpire summer event is clearly being positioned as a sort of "last hurrah" for the current wave of politicized storytelling, and now Marvel's ready to give us details of the relaunched era that will follow. Get ready to explore Marvel's #Legacy!
What Is "Legacy"?
It's pretty traditional for a Summer Event to usher in a whole new era, but Marvel seem to have realized that the formula's gotten a little old. With no line-wide events planned for the next 18 months or so, Marvel's using Secret Empire to create a new status quo that they hope will make fans want to stick around.
The whole event will be launched in Marvel Legacy #1, an over-sized one-shot written by Jason Aaron and with art by Esad Ribic. Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso described the issue as "a preview of what's to come."
"It's chocked full of twists, surprises, Easter eggs, and let's just say, a last-page reveal that’s probably gonna break the internet," he said. "It's a big moment, something we continually get asked about. We are going to answer that question."
Clearly modeled on the remarkable success of DC's #Rebirth, Marvel is clearly going to try treading a fine line. On the one hand, they want to ensure their stories remain accessible to new readers; on the other, they also want to explore some classic relationships that they think have been forgotten in recent years. There's a sense in which the X-Men's current "ResurrXion" seems to be something of a first taste of the "Legacy" approach with its focus on old-school relationships, and hints of rekindled romance between Colossus and Kitty Pryde.
A Whole Raft Of Cosmetic Changes
It's pretty clear that 'Legacy' is an attempt to reach the old-school comic fans who seem to have abandoned Marvel since around last October. Just last month, Marvel began teasing 'Legacy' by calling the first-ever Marvel Retailer Summit of the millennium — a unique opportunity to get retailers on board with their future direction. Given retailers are the company's direct link to its customers, that move was as much symbolic as anything else.
Also symbolically, Marvel will be making a range of cosmetic changes to try to appeal to old-school comic book fans. You're talking the return of old-school numbering (fans have found constant relaunches to be frustrating), the return of the Marvel Value Stamps, and even a relaunch of Marvel's old fan-magazine FOOM, discontinued back in 1978!
What's Next For The 'Legacy Heroes'?
Over the last few years, Marvel has seen real success in a group of so-called 'Legacy Heroes': new, diverse characters who occupy the legacy role of a classic hero. The most successful have been Miles Morales's Ultimate Spider-Man and Kamala Khan's Ms. Marvel, and until last October they were a remarkable success.
Then, in a sales slump that shocked Marvel, fans simply abandoned the books. Marvel's David Gabriel (Senior Vice President – Sales and Marketing) told the Retailer Summit:
"What we heard was that people didn't want any more diversity. [...] We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked."
Marvel has dialed back a little on that statement, stressing that they're not abandoning diversity or Legacy Heroes. Instead, the "Generations" range will serve to draw the threads between the classic and Legacy Heroes closer together, ready for "Legacy." Axel Alonso explained to ABCNews that there are no old characters or new characters — there are just Marvel superheroes.
Resurrections And Great Returns
Traditionally, Marvel events have involved a character death; but if Axel Alonso is to be believed, that's not going to be the case in "Legacy." In fact, he hints that this era will be launched not by deaths, but rather by returns and resurrections.
"A lot of this may hinge on some resurrections. If there ever were a time to bring back characters, it would be during the 'Legacy' era."
It's actually the second time Alonso has hinted at resurrections in recent months. Back in January, he observed:
"Could "O.G." Thor be worthy again? How long can Hydra Cap keep his secret? Did Bruce Banner have a contingency plan for his contingency plan? How dead is Logan? Is the Marvel Universe better off with Tony Stark off the board? [Laughs] These are the questions we have been contemplating."
ABC promise that this new era will span the Marvel Universe, and will embrace characters like "Odinson, Squirrel Girl, Spider-Man, the Avengers, America Chavez, Iron Man, Moon Knight, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, Luke Cage, the X-Men and many others." That quote alone has set the Internet buzzing, not least because it refers to the classic Thor as the 'Odinson,' suggesting that Jane Foster may remain the wielder of Mjolnir. Of course, Jason Aaron (writer of Marvel Legacy #1) is the star-studded creator of Jane Foster's Thor, so we can expect the story to hinge on Marvel's mystical side. Just in time for the release of #ThorRagnarok in October...
- Ms. Marvel / Kamala Khan Creator G. Willow Wilson Adds Some Perspective To The Marvel Comics Diversity Debacle
- Diversity In Comics: It's Time To Change The Conversation
- From Riri Williams to Kamala Khan: Meet Marvel's 'Legacy Heroes'!
All in all, it's hard not to be excited for "Legacy." Marvel's clearly taking a leaf out of DC's "Rebirth" book, and they can't be faulted for that; the success of "Rebirth" has clearly proved that old-school fans still want their classic heroes. At the same time, I'm going to be intrigued to see how Marvel balance this out with their newer, fresher characters. It's not going to be easy to replicate DC's success, and in my view the company faces a very real challenge to regains fans' trust. Time will tell whether or not they succeed.
Are you excited for Marvel's "Legacy"?