Last month, the entire Marvel Comics line of books did a relaunch …of a sorts. The relaunch was dubbed, Marvel Legacy and introduced one very noticeable change.
Marvel makes arguably the best super-hero movies, and they dominate the movie theaters. But their domination of the comic shelves is less assured: Marvel Legacy has barely registered on peoples’ radars in the way that Marvel’s movies do. Had the Marvel Legacy relaunch happened at any other time, it likely would have been a huge deal. As always, to understand why requires some context.
- September 2011 – DC: The New 52: a story line called Flashpoint story ends the entire DC Universe and the universe is then “rebooted” …minus the last 70 years of the company’s in-story history. From the ashes, DC launches 52 new monthly comic book titles.
- October 2012 – Marvel NOW!: Following the Avengers vs X-Men miniseries and cross-company event, Marvel re-brands all its covers and cancels several titles just to relaunch them.
- January 2014 – All New Marvel NOW!: In the wake of Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity story line, Marvel re-brands all its covers and cancels several titles just to relaunch them.
- April-May 2015 – DC Convergence: DC stops all its titles for two months and launches 40 new titles, each is a two-issue limited series that’s part of an 80-segment over-arching story.
- July 2015 – All New, All Different Marvel: In the wake of Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars mini-series and giant cross-over event where the multiverse has been destroyed and then reconstituted (rebooted), Marvel cancels all its titles and relaunches their entire line of 65 titles.
- May 2016 – DC Rebirth: DC re-brands all its covers and relaunches all its titles with new #1 issues but opts to keep (for a large part) the continuity established by the last 5 years of The New 52.
That’s a rundown of the many relaunches, reboots and re-brandings Marvel and DC have done since Imaginary Wars opened its doors for business. If you’ve been paying attention to comic books over the last six years you know just how often monthly comic books (often many all at the same time) have been getting canceled, only to be quickly relaunched with a new #1 issue before the corpse of the old series has much of a chance to get cold.
To be fair, Marvel and/or DC stopping a book and then restarting it with a new first issue within a month or two has been in both companies’ playbooks since the nineties; and it has served them well: fans LOVE the chance to own a #1 issue of a comic series. And both companies have maintained relaunching and rebooting titles because the fans (and speculators) keep on loving the chance to own a #1 issue of a series.
But as the bullet points above show, that practice has hit epidemic proportions over the last six years–and no longer is it merely a few titles a year that might relaunch: Marvel and DC have been rebooting their entire universes over the last six years. Now, while I’m a fan of many books by both companies and I can honestly say, as a fan, while the reboots (or what have you) were happening, they felt like a fairly organic and logical progression for the most part; but the reboots now generate as much fan interest and excitement as do the “something went wrong on the holodeck” episodes of Star Trek. Reboots are no longer an exciting event; they have become an eye-roll-worthy trope.
Though I might sound like I’m disparaging these reboots, generally, I’ve been very on-board with all these relaunches. In my humble opinion, they’ve all had some real merit–either because they served a narrative purpose (like how All New, All Different Marvel followed Secret Wars–which was the complete destruction of the multi-verse, expertly crafted by Jonathan Hickman, and had been slowly building for over two years) or because they fixed a problem (as with DC’s Rebirth, where they axed all the ‘gritty’ New-52 versions of characters whose titles weren’t gaining any traction with the fans).
But reboot fatigue is real, and the comic companies’ sales were reflecting that. While DC’s Rebirth wasn’t initiated specifically to counter that fatigue, one facet of Rebirth decently countered the cynicism born of so many reboots: Action Comics and Detective Comics reverted to their original issue-counts (prior to The New 52 restart, both titles’ issue numbers were in the 900s). This is significant because it sent the message to the fans that DC was honouring the rich history that brought their books into the 21st century and that they had no intention of ignoring that history, vis-a-vis doing more reboots.
Enter: Marvel Legacy
Marvel Legacy took that idea and ran with it. Hard. The current stories and universe adhere to Marvel’s current post-Secret Wars continuity, but any current Marvel Legacy books being published now that have existed previously in other iterations are now reverting back to their original issue-number count. Sort of. Marvel has decided to not only honour the original issue count, but has decided to posthumously include all the reboots that have occurred over the years so as to show what the current issue number would be had the comic been released contiguously since the title’s inception. Hence, even though the last issue of Avengers (vol 1) printed was #402, Marvel has decided to include the seven different runs (volumes) of Avengers monthly since issue #402; this is why we’re seeing Avengers jump from issue #11 to #672.
Below is a list of the titles that came out on last week’s new comic day (Wednesday, December 6) and how Marvel derived their current ‘Legacy’ issue number.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be doing blog posts showing how that week’s Legacy titles derived their current issue numbers as well. If you want to read a little more into Marvel’s Legacy initiative, Comic Book Resources (cbr.com) wrote a decent article about it this summer and can be found here.