Someone started a massive rumor this weekend that Disney is planning to shut down Marvel Comics because the return of publishing the comics simply isn't worth the effort when the real money is to be made exploiting their intellectual properties in other mediums. And as it turns out, the person that started that rumor… was me?!
Okay, so as the internet continues to rage about this "rumor" and call for my head on a platter, let me assure all of you — I was just doing what I always do, which is to say, take a press release or puff piece story making the rounds in the comics media — in this case an announcement about Marvel's SXSW panel — and find an offbeat, exaggerated angle from which to approach it, hopefully getting some laughs and maybe making a few points in the process. Of course I know "a panel is just a panel" and Disney isn't looking to shut Marvel down (though they might one day in the future decide to just forego all the hassle and outsource the license to another publisher). I was joking about that, but being serious about the underlying criticisms of some of things Marvel does.
If you read the actual article, and not just the headline, or worse, another site's inaccurate summary of the article meant to further their political agenda, or just as bds as that, a Marvel Comics executive's equally inaccurate summary meant to promote their own corporate agenda, you'd see that the Marvel practices actually criticized therein were those same ones brought up in Brian Hibbs' righteous ComicsPRO speech calling out destructive business practices of Marvel such as flooding the market with similar product (like 14 Peter Parker Spider-Man books shipping in April alone), the overuse of super-mega-crossover events that try to compel retailers and readers to purchase dozens of comics based solely on the hype that they'll "change the Marvel universe forever" (such as $110 worth of War of the Realms tie-ins in May alone), and the reliance on gimmicks like variant covers to convince retailers to purchase more copies of a comic than they can sell just to get their hands on one rare variant they can sell on eBay for more than the cost of the unsold comics, thus artificially inflating sales numbers without actually getting more comics into the hands of readers, which should be Marvel's priority because comic books are meant to be read.
Dozens of incentive variant covers every month aren't helping to grow the comics industry, they're just helping to put more money into Marvel's pocket right now at the expense of frustrated fans in the future. Super-mega-crossover events and number one issue relaunches aren't solving the problem of attrition on the sales of ongoing series. They're just putting a band-aid on it, tricking people into buying these comics based purely on FOMO, on the idea that something "important" might happen in them which they don't want to miss out on. But when these constant promises to "change the Marvel Universe forever," killing off characters and resurrecting them a few years later, dramatically altering the status quo only to return things back to exactly how they started by the time the next super-mega-crossover event or number one issue relaunch comes around, ultimately prove to be empty hyperbole, eventually people stop buying into it.
These things may work for a short term sales boost, but they don't grow readership. In fact, they reduce readership while extracting more money from the readers that remain (just like price increases and "special" five-dollar or eight-dollar comics). That's not a good longterm strategy. This isn't done for the benefit of readers or retailers or creators or the industry as a whole. It's done for the benefit of the next quarterly financial report at Marvel, so they can say, "look how good our sales are!" This is something pretty much everyone who isn't a Marvel executive should be able to get on board with.
But in the context of the ongoing and increasingly polarizing "culture wars" currently making comics discourse utterly unbearable, Marvel has invested considerable public relations effort into conflating the financial success of Marvel Comics with the validity of progressive values. It's foolish to buy into this conflation, but people are doing it, and you can see all sorts of people on the internet this weekend zealously defending Marvel's honor, not one of them bringing up any of the legitimate points above. It's just "blah blah the comics industry isn't dying blah blah things are great blah blah only regressive right-wingers would ever criticize the magnanimous Marvel comics."
And that's a shame.
Marvel is not a progressive ally. They are a corporation whose primary motivation is to produce profits for their shareholders. Their biggest shareholder, by the way? Marvel Chairman Ike Perlmutter, a person who literally eats Thanksgiving dinner with Donald Trump, whose involvement in the Veterans Affairs department as part of Trump's administration is currently being investigated by Congress. Does that sound particularly progressive to you?
Of course, there are things that Marvel does that one could consider progressive, just as there are things Marvel does which are the opposite of that. Corporations do not have values. They are not people. Some good people work for them. Some bad people do too. You can give Marvel credit for the progressive things they do, things to reach outside the direct market audience and find new comics readers, broadening the comics readership. And at the same time, you can criticize the things they do which are not good, like relying on gimmicks for short term sales boosts at the expense of long term growth. The two are not mutually exclusive, and not liking incentive variant covers isn't a political thing.
That's pretty much all I have to say about this, though I'm sure the e-battle will rage on until the next big controversy captures the attention of the internet, which should be no later than Tuesday at the latest.
Sorry about that folks, had to get it off my chest. If you've gotten this far, you might be wondering what this column is about. Well, each week, I buy and read all of the X-Men comics published by Marvel, recap them, and talk about what happened in them, based on decades worth of love for the X-Men franchise. Yeah, I know, definitely the actions of someone who hates Marvel and wants them to fail, right?
Let's get down to the business of recapping this week's comics.
Sworn to sell comics for Marvel executives who feared and hated the fact that Fox owned their movie rights, The Uncanny X-Men suffered great indignities, but with a corporate merger on the way, the X-Men can finally get back to doing what they do best: being objectively the best franchise in all of comics.
Age of X-Man: X-Tremists #1
(W) Leah Williams (A) Georges Jeanty (CA) Rahzzah
ENTER THE AGE OF X-MAN!
A perfect world doesn't just…happen. It needs to be cultivated. That's where the X-Tremists come in. Psylocke, Iceman, Northstar, Blob, Jubilee and Moneta protect people from threats they won't even know existed, including the most insidious threat of all – love.
In Shops: Feb 27, 2019
X-Tremists was one of the Age of X-Man comics we were most looking for, based largely on the strength of Leah Williams' contribution to X-Men Black. Her Emma Frost one-shot was the second best (Claremont's Magneto one-shot, of course, taking the top spot). The issue opens with the Department X squad — a team of mutants tasked with taking down other mutants who break the rules of X-Man's "utopia" — hanging out in the kitchen. The team consists of Iceman, Jubilee, Northstar, Sexy Blob, Psylocke, and Moneta, a new character who extends tendrils from her fingertips that can read the memories of others. Jubilee and Iceman engage in a comedy routine about whether a baking sheet is the same thing as wax paper which, we have to admit, we don't get. This goes on throughout the issue.
The team gets a call to head out after some lawbreaking mutants, a woman named Nezumi who can transform into a rat and her boyfriend, Luke. It's illegal to have interpersonal relationships and especially to have the sex, but this couple have broken the rules three times. Department X subdues them in their house in a chase and battle that takes up most of the issue, but Nezumi reveals she is pregnant, a big no no because mutants are only allowed to be born in hatcheries with no sex involved. Department X are freaked out by this, not just because they've been conditioned to think sex is gross, but also because (except for Blob and Moneta) these are still the heroic X-Men we know and love at heart, and they're not entirely comfortable handing a pregnant mutant off to be brainwashed. They decide to take her back to their office and think about it, and the issue ends here.
This issue is mostly character focused, looking at how the X-Men react to this world where mutants are ostensibly free to be themselves, but a lot of what makes these characters who they are is being repressed. When forced to confront this through the pregnant Nezumi, we can already see the characters' resolve start to break down. It will be interesting to see where it goes.
(W) Ed Brisson (A) Dylan Burnett (CA) Pepe Larraz
• Ahab has returned to exterminate X-Force!
• What twisted schemes is Ahab conducting that has attracted the attention of X-Force?
• The team has begun to put the pieces together, but will they figure it out in time to stop mass genocide?
In Shops: Feb 27, 2019
As most of X-Force deals with defeating the Transian army's mech warriors and rescuing mutant refugees, Deathlok goes undercover with a captured Transian army traitor, Andrei, claiming to be on the side of mutants to infiltrate the Transian government headquarters. Unfortunately, the plan quickly goes off the rails when Deathlok doesn't have any id on him (what? he didn't think of that) and a firefight breaks out when Andrei turns double traitor and exposes Deathlok.
Back at the site of X-Force's battle with giant mechs, Boom Boom finally catches up with the team and helps save the day. Meanwhile, in the basement of the Transian base, Ahab, who had been imprisoned and forced to develop technology to rid the world of mutants, finishes repairing his own cyborg systems, murders all the mutant test subjects including the Transian General's son, and makes his own escape, saddened that though he ideologically agrees with these mutant hating soldiers, they messed with him and therefore they cannot work together. In another subbasement, Andrei, approaches the portal to the future where the Transians have been getting their military weaponry, kills a guard, and enters, apparently in league with whoever is on the other side.
Back at the X-Force battle site, after a heart-to-heart with Kid Cable, Cannonball decides to put his trust in him and the team heads off to to meet up with Deathlok, who has fought his way into the base and found the remaining mutant prisoners. Unfortunately, at that moment, Deathlok is confronted by Ahab, who seemingly kills him and prepares to harvest his body for parts.
This comic isn't the next great work of literature or anything like that, but if you want the nineties nostalgia of big guns, ultraviolent battles, and convoluted time-travel plots, it's definitely the comic for you. A lot of people don't like the art, which is definitely of-beat for a superhero comic, but I don't mind it.
Black Panther vs. Deadpool #5
(W) Daniel Kibblesmith (A) Ricardo Lopez Ortiz (CA) Ryan Benjamin, Rain Beredo
THE DRAMATIC CONCLUSION: EVERYONE DIES!
Or at least one person will come very, very close to dying! Probably! It's hard to tell with these team-up books! But one thing's for sure: This is the end. And there's a reason Wade Wilson is known as DEADpool. Will he obtain the Vibranium he needs to save Willie Lumpkin's life? Will the Black Panther chase immortality to stop him? Will Wade's teleporter ever work properly? Find out here!
In Shops: Feb 27, 2019
The comic book team-up mini-series that literally no one was asking for concludes in this issue. To recap, Deadpool wanted a tiny piece of vibranium to save the life of Willie Lumpkin, who was injured in a superhero battle Deadpool was involved in, so he heads to Wakanda, but when Black Panther won't give it to him, he accidentally steals the entire mountain housing Wakanda's vibranium supply and teleports it to New Jersey. In this issue, the Panther shows up, quite angry, and a battle with Deadpool ensues. Eventually, the Panther takes Deadpool into "the land of the dead" where Deadpool comes face to face with the original version of himself, as Black Panther explains that every time Deadpool teleports, his original self dies and a copy is made out of new matter. Deadpool defeats his original self, at which point the Panther reveals this was actually a holographic simulation. Deadpool breaks down and says he just wants to change and be a better person, which causes the Panther to have sympathy for him. Panther uses the immortality technology that Shuri invented to keep Willie Lumpkin alive until he can be restored to health, and Deadpool and the Panther part as sort-of friends.
We're just glad that's over.
Marvel Comics Presents #2
(W) Charles Soule, Maria Lapham, David Lapham, Mark Waid (A) Paulo Siqueira, David Lapham, More (CA) Arthur Adams
Three fantastic fables in one mighty magazine! First, a tale of Logan in the fabulous fifties! Then, a new swinging story of the jungle's cursed crusader, Gorilla-Man! Finally, Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom enter the space race as Sputnik takes orbit!
In Shops: Feb 27, 2019
In this issue, we find the second part of Wolverine's Vigil story. Back during World War 2, Wolverine saved a sorceress from some Nazis, but she died in the process, entrusting Wolverine to meet back up with her daughter every 10 years to stop a demon from taking over the Earth. This issue picks ip in 1964, with Wolverine riding through Kansas cornfields when he is suddenly transported to the Yangtze River Basin in China during the time of a great flood that killed 200,000 people. This is the site where the demon will return to the world once more.
Sylvie, the daughter of the witch Wolverine met in the first chapter, has teleported him here to fight off the demon, known as The Truth, while she casts the spells to banish it. But when The Truth shows up, Sylvie gets scared and runs away, leaving Wolverine to fight it on his own. It doesn't go too well. But then Sylvie comes back, and she and Wolverine decide to team up and try to kill the demon. But the story will be continued from here.
Seriously, that's all that happened. I like this story. It reminds me of the Wolverine stories that were serialized in the original Marvel Comics presents, pulpy tales that weren't reinventing the wheel or anything, just providing some classic Wolverine stabby action. The book also contains a story featuring Mr. Fantastic and one starring Gorilla-Man, but as those aren't X-Men stories, we're not going to recap them.
That's all for this week, folks. It's been an annoying weekend. See you back here in a week!
Read more X-ual Healing here: