A Burgeoning Disillusionment With Modern Comic Books

Yesterday, DC Comics announced its "Rebirth" line-up, which, if I understand correctly, will relaunch a number of titles from the prior continuity that was scrapped by the New 52 reboot two years ago. the office

Marvel, hot off the heels of Secret Wars, recently re-kicked things off with a fresh batch of All-New #1s and is gearing up for Civil War II, since, you know, there's that whole Captain American: Civil War movie coming out in a couple months, and has been drumming up the hype for Dead No More and an Avengers cross-over between all the various Avengers books.

It's a lot to keep up with, and frankly I'm too tired to care much anymore. The Big 2 are large corporate enterprises geared toward making money. This is not a knock against them, mind you; that's what they do. It's just that it's so heavily geared toward events instead of the books themselves that I'm reaching a point of critical mass that boils down to nothing more than meh... You can't even start in on the latest event without hearing about the next event, or the next two or three events, coming down the pike. And it's only February. We haven't yet heard the drumbeat of what the big summer, fall, and winter BIG EVENTS will be. It's exhausting.

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I got back into comics about a decade ago after quite a long time away from them. I got lulled back by books like Preacher and Transmetropolitan. Those were my gateways back into the world of comic books. They were stand-alone titles, basically novels set to comic book format, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. They told a complete story. Damn good stories, at that.

I was always a Marvel boy, though, and I wanted to get back into Marvel. The Ultimate Universe was just starting up at that point and were advertised as being continuity-free. They were easy access points, free of twenty years of hoopla surrounding "Who Killed Xavier?" and spider-clone headaches that dominated a lot of my teenage comic reading. They were new worlds with familiar faces made fresh and interesting again. It was only after I'd immersed myself in these fairly self-contained stories that I began getting interested in the more mainstream Marvel stuff.

And jesus, what a chore getting caught up on some of that stuff was. I started off with X-Men: Messiah Complex, only to realize I'd missed a fair amount of lore, and went back to House of M. But there was a bunch of stuff Brian Michael Bendis was writing in Avengers, and what a giant fucking rabbit hole of relaunches, new titles, canceled titles, more relaunches, crossovers, new titles, and relaunches that was. I gave up even trying to sort through that mess. Forget it. Eventually, I found a niche I was comfortable in, found some old, familiar titles I could ease back into, but it was all just so event driven. I started to take note of the names, though. I found out I wasn't so interested in Captain America as much as I was interested in Ed Brubaker's Captain America, or Matt Fraction's Iron Man, and Garth Ennis's The Punisher. The content was king, and that content had creators worth recognizing and following. I'm just not interested in the events anymore. I'm interested in the books.

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Over the last few years, I've become way more invested and appreciative in the content creators and the work they bring to the table. Give me a talented writer and artist, and I'll follow them anywhere. I care more about the talent making these books than I do about the properties themselves. This is a bit of a sea change from how I used to approach comic books. Back in my youth, I'd buy every issue of Punisher and Batman and X-Men, regardless of who was getting their credits listed. Not so anymore. I wasn't impressed with the last volume of The Punisher and dropped it unfinished after giving a healthy chance. It didn't work for me. I'm still interested and invested in the character, but you know what excites me more about that book's return in May? Not Frank Castle. It's Becky Cloonan at the helm, and that's a huge draw for me. I'm following the creator, not the character.

I may be getting closer and closer to forsaking the Big 2, but my love of comics will certainly remain, and it's one of the reasons that Image excites me. That's a publisher for a reader like me. That's a company who recognizes that it's the books themselves that are the event. Check out the announcements for an Image Expo (there's another one happening in April) one of these days. You know what stands out? The talent. The ideas. The books. You won't hear a lot about crossovers and Big Events because the books themselves are the event. A new Warren Ellis title is the event. A new Rick Remender book is the event.

That's how I like it nowadays. I don't want to chase down event-driven titles anymore, or buy Iron Man because the first six issues are a prelude to AN EVENT THAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING FOREVER AGAIN FOR NOW and you have to buy those issues to fully understand and appreciate the depth of the event it all leads into, but wait - because before the event starts, here's an Alpha issue you have to buy to understand it all, and an Omega issue to see how it all ends, and in between we'll do an industry line-wide crossover of sixteen gajillion books with some more spin-off titles and tie-ins and .1 issues that you maybe wouldn't have bought otherwise because remember this is all about the money! I'm too old and too tired for that crap anymore. I don't have time. And with most of these individual titles costing anywhere from $4 to $6 or more, I don't have the money to keep up with it.

If anything, I'll wait for the trade. Most of modern comics is all about writing for the trade anyway, so why not? In the meantime, give me the creators and their content. Keep your BIG EVENT. I'm hungry for the creator-owned books now, and the big ideas that circulate inside those pages. I don't need another Civil War, but I do need Lazarus, or Pretty Deadly and Bitch Planet, Casanova, and Saga. That's where the really fun stuff is!

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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