Sunday, January 25, 2009

Avengers - Diluting the franchise

While I rarely get comments on my comic book posts, I noticed on Google Analytics that those ones often bring the most traffic. For instance, my blog on what they should do for the next Spider-Man movie got 441 visits (on my blogsite page) and my Green Lantern one got a somewhat respectable 26. Hey, considering that I'm not a celebrity or anything, and my blog's topics range to whatever's on my mind, that's pretty nice.

So, without further ado, I'm going to write an entry that's shamelessly aimed at the comic book geeks - fans of The Avengers in particular (and no, I don't mean the TV show or even the movie version that came out years ago - this is totally unrelated). I will try and have it make sense for those of you who don't read comics, in case you're bored and have nothing better to do than read all of this.

A few years back, Marvel comics did a major shake-up with The Avengers, a superhero team book that dates back to the 1960s. Some of the more recognizable characters in the series (to non-comics fans) include Captain America, Iron Man, and The Hulk (although he barely lasted the first couple of issues). Basically, The Avengers were a government sponsored team of heroes who all lived in Avengers Mansion, and the roster would constantly change with all sorts of characters coming and going. Basically what happened with the shake-up was that the team broke up, the title was canceled, and then a new team emerged - one that didn't have the same sponsorship of the government that the previous team had - in a new series entitled New Avengers. This one had Captain America and Iron Man, but it also had characters who had never been on the team before, including Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Spider-Woman (and she actually became a pretty cool character instead of just a knock-off of her male counterpart).

Obviously, this was a popular book. I liked it quite a bit, enough to keep collecting and reading it, but I wouldn't have called it one of my favorite comics. Things started to get more interesting during the "Civil War" storyline, where the government instituted a superhuman registration act, and the team split up - with Captain America on the anti-registration side and Iron Man on the pro-registration side. When that whole storyline over, and Captain America dead (he'll come back eventually, I'm sure), a new title was created called Mighty Avengers. Basically, that one consisted of Iron Man and a group of registered heroes. However, New Avengers continued, as the heroes who stuck with Captain America continued to call themselves Avengers.

So, there were two books - one with an official team and the other with a rogue team. That made sense, considering the story, and this is when New Avengers became one of my favorite books. However, this is also when Marvel Comics, seizing an opportunity, started to dilute the franchise a bit.

What happens in comics sometimes is that if a series is popular, they will start to create all kinds of spinoff series. (Kinda like what they've done with the whole CSI series, I think.) The point is to make more money, obviously, as lots of people will buy these spinoff titles simply because they're fans of the original. Of course, I have no problem with this if they're all good, but ultimately, the concept gets stretched a little thin, and the entire line begins to suffer.

So, even though having two Avengers books makes sense, there was yet a third series called Avengers: The Initiative. The concept with this one is that various teams of Avengers were being created throughout the country, one for each of the fifty states. That's not too bad of a concept, but it didn't interest me enough to ever pick it up.

Things were shaken up again rather recently during the whole Secret Invasion storyline, where Earth was under attack from the Skrulls, a race of shape-shifting aliens. Turns out, a lot of heroes had been Skrulls in disguise for some time (including Spider-Woman from The New Avengers). When this whole mess was cleared up, the hero (in the eyes of the media, as he got the kill-shot on the Skrull Queen) turned out to be Norman Osborn, better known to Spider-Man fans as The Green Goblin. So, Osborne's a hero, and Tony "Iron Man" Stark takes the fall for the whole mess.

This leaves Osborn to create his own team of Avengers, and another new series is born - Dark Avengers. Don't get me wrong, I picked up the first issue, as the concept is strong. The thing is that Osborn is a hero to the public, and the government puts him in charge of The Avengers. Since he's really a slimeball, he takes a bunch of supervillains and dresses them up as heroes (including having Venom disguise himself as Spider-Man). And just like when Mighty Avengers first appeared, this title made sense and was born out of a logical progression of an existing, ongoing storyline.

But here's the thing - Mighty and Initiative continue on. I picked up the first post-Secret Invasion issue of Mighty, and I don't think that I'll be back for another. There doesn't seem to be any point to it, and there's simply another Avengers team for the sake of another Avengers team. Of course, New Avengers goes on, and that one still makes sense, and it's actually pretty cool since they're heroes who are considered to be villains, unlike Osborn's team. Don't even get me started on The Initiative. I don't even know what that could possibly be about right now, considering that Osborn's canceled the whole program.

Now, I'm not one of those lame comic book fans who complains about being "forced" to buy comics that I don't like. As I stated, I'm not getting the ones that I don't care for, and I'm sticking with the two that I enjoy. However, I am concerned that if they start making this whole Avengers concept too convoluted, it's eventually going to spill into the books that I like. Here's hoping that it won't.

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