In the ever-evolving landscape of fandom, there are simply some things that should not have happened. In Retcon This!, we examine some of the more questionable aspects of our beloved geek properties.
I truly believe there’s never been a better time to be a comics fan. That said, there’s definitely some aspects of the shock and awe effect that have been diluted in recent years, thanks in part to advances in technology and (perhaps even more so), the new age of the Hype Machine. Of the Big Two, Marvel is definitely guiltier of the Hype Machine, and there’s no better example than this week’s announcement of the next big event for 2011, Fear Itself.
Speculation had been brewing on the PoP! Forums for awhile about the potential for something big in the works and forum members had been swapping theories and ideas for what that could be based off of clues sprinkled throughout Marvel comics the past year or so. Not long after, news came down of a big press conference and we got the announcement about Fear Itself, wherein the God of War (who, we don’t know) takes it upon himself to find the eight most worthy in the Marvel Universe (worthy of what, we don’t know). There have been clues in many of the books for quite some time, apparently (what these clues are, we don’t know). The main story will be written by Matt Fraction and will encompass a number of other titles starting in April of 2011 (what titles, we don’t know) and will feature the Avengers, the X-Men and Dracula (who they just killed “for super realsies forever” like 6 months ago), among others.
I’m not trying to badmouth Fear Itself as a story. It’s WAY too early to even start down that road (though the rest of the internet would disagree). Sure, the name is a little weak, but we’ve just been run through the gauntlet that is “The Heroic Age,” so we KNOW it could be worse. My main issue is that we know all of this information about an event four months out when most people hadn’t put the pieces together that there was anything brewing yet. I, as a guy who reads a LOT of Marvel comics, had forgotten about some of the things brought to light recently because they were so long ago and such (seemingly) throwaway bits. With this big announcement, we as readers weren’t given the proper opportunity to simply watch the story unfold organically and take in a surprise reveal.
The accelerated timeline has a lot to do with the retailer solicitations, as seen in Previews. Retailers order product months in advance and the solicitations and Previews catalog go a long way in helping them figure out what books to order and how many. The “problem” is that today anyone and everyone has access to that information, and not just the retailers. So publishers have to be mindful of what’s going into the catalogs while not resorting to withholding information from retailers (though Marvel especially has a habit of doing that, too, once an event is midstream). I appreciate the need to be preemptive, but taking a look back at recent events, Fear Itself already hasn’t been handled with QUITE the finesse of its predecessors.
Civil War in a lot of ways was a bit like this, we knew it was coming mostly because of the hype, but a lot of books in the Marvel line were clearly moving towards something big involving legislation on superheroes. Siege, too, was hyped and promoted, but the story behind that event was SO tied into what was happening in the overall Marvel Universe that there was no other place those stories COULD go. Siege HAD to happen. For it not to happen would have been a disservice to the stories being told. Of all the events in recent years, none have had as successful a lead-in as Secret Invasion. Bendis talked for over a year about the big plans for what was coming ahead, and that’s great, but what made it work was that we got to see that build-up for months after Elektra was revealed to be a Skrull. What did it mean? What was happening next? Who else was a green alien menace? When news of Secret Invasion came down, it added more fuel to the fire. This Fear Itself announcement is pretty much the whole fire at this point.
Maybe more things will make sense once the book launches and we’ll see where the hints have been left for us along the way, but right it feels like with less than an arc’s worth of issues across most of the top-tier books from Marvel, we should be seeing a pretty distinct path towards an “extinction-level” event, and I don’t feel like we’re there. The sad thing is that even if they do get it together and we do start seeing an alignment of sorts, it’s too late. They’ve given us “the prestige.” “The pledge” was so subtle it’s almost nonexistent and we’re muddling through what little “turn” we get (Thanks to Mr. Nolan for the metaphor opportunity). One thing’s for sure; the Hype machine hasn’t even begun on this thing yet. I’m sure we’ll all be sick of Fear Itself before it even starts, so strap on in and enjoy the ride.