The Avengers line is more over-saturated than the X-Men line.
I know, it may seem blasphemous, after all, the X-Men line consists of no less than ten books hitting the stands every month, in most cases twice a month. The Avengers line is about the same amount of books, but the majority of that line is still somewhat monthly. So why is it more over-saturated if the X-Men, with more books, isn’t? It’s all about what you get out of them.
The X-Men books currently feature Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen, Victor Gischler, Marjorie Liu, Rick Remender, Peter David, Christos Gage, Cullen Bunn (taking over Wolverine), James Asmus, Dan Abnett, and Andy Lanning as writers for the line. I may even be missing a few (I know I omitted Greg Pak since it’ll be a few months before he returns).
The Avengers books, on the other hand, feature Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Rick Remender, Christos Gage, Jeff Parker, and Cullen Bunn.
With the X-Men line of books, Jason Aaron is one of the writers who has multiple books, and he’s passing Wolverine off to rising star Cullen Bunn.
Look at Avengers, however, and Brian Bendis is writing Avengers, New Avengers, and Avengers Assemble. Matt Fraction is writing Invincible Iron Man, Thor, and Defenders. Ed Brubaker is writing Captain America and about to hand off Captain America & Bucky to Cullen Bunn (I won’t hold Winter Soldier against him here as it’s not so much an Avengers title as a neo-noir spy thriller). Remender, Gage, and Parker each currently write one book that I’d dub an Avengers books.
With the X-Men you have a wide variety of voices giving you a multitude of titles that don’t feel the same. There’s something for everyone. Want big time over the top super heroics? Read Uncanny. Want to see the X-Men team up with people? Read X-Men. Want to see high concept ideas and over the top characters? Wolverine and the X-Men. X-Men who kill? Uncanny X-Force. There is literally something for everyone in that line so long as your guidelines for what you want don’t include “anything but X-Men”.
But on the Avengers front, my current guideline is “an Avengers book by someone not Bendis”, which leaves me with Secret Avengers as the only title I’ve enjoyed from the line in months. I’m getting back into Captain America because Cullen Bunn is taking over a book from Ed Brubaker, whose best Captain America work I feel to be in the past. Matt Fraction has been writing Iron Man since audiences were sitting down to watch Robert Downey Jr. save his career, and while it was a great book (and some people tell me it still is), Fear Itself left such an ugly taste. So he also has Thor.
It’s the variety. Bendis writes three books and any and all of those books are interchangeable. The only thing that makes them at all able to be told apart is that each has a slightly different roster with Wolverine and Spider-Man on all of them. The last time I really enjoyed an Avengers title, that was in line with a classic Avengers title (I enjoyed Dark Avengers), was when Dan Slott wrote his criminally underrated run on Mighty Avengers. Avengers Academy is the current crown jewel of the franchise, but it’s also hardly an A-list book; it has name value of “Giant Man”. They are conditioning their Avengers readers to understand that unless it’s written by Bendis, Bru, or Frac, then chances are it doesn’t matter. The eggs are all entering the smallest of baskets.
It’s why things are so weak right now. Bendis has his strangle hold, despite the sales numbers collapsing over the years, and because there’s no chance he’ll see his books cancelled, he can continue turning in crappy stories. Same with Brubaker on Captain America, though less of the stranglehold and more of the fact that he reinvigorated the character and Marvel doesn’t want to yank him off…even if that reinvigoration was around eight years ago.
There’s a high turnover in the X-Office, at least where core titles are concerned. Sure, Mike Carey just ended one of the three longest runs in X-Men history, and Peter David has been on X-Factor for a while, but look at the rest. Jason Aaron is still in his first year of writing a team book with the X-Men, Kieron Gillen is the new big thing at Marvel and it’s because of the past year of him writing Uncanny. Frac and Bru both preceded Gillen on Uncanny, but both left before they outlasted their welcome. Rick Remender picked up X-Force from Craig Kyle and Chris Yost. Marjorie Liu is getting a freaking team book! The X-Office is all about change and new talent and building the profile of talent. There’s an abundance of characters, an abundance of titles, and an abundance of creators to handle them. It’s where stars are born.
The advantage to having different voices on every title is not something to be scoffed at, it really legitimately is an advantage. It means that a turned off reader won’t abandon the entire line because they are tired of one book, which, unfortunately, is what’s happening with Avengers. If you don’t like one book, you won’t like any of them because Bendis can’t mix it up. Fresh blood is what you need to revamp that line, not new number ones or catering to movies.
Look at what DC did with their relaunch. The Superman books are by Grant Morrison and George Perez. They didn’t give both books to Geoff Johns and tell him to make them better than Green Lantern. Brian Azzarello, a Vertigo writer first and foremost, was given Wonder Woman and has been doing a fantastic job with it. They took talent and put them on franchises that they were not already associated with (well, unless it was a Batman or Green Lantern book), and gave change a chance. For the most part, pretty successful.
Let Jonathan Hickman have an Avengers title, let Matt Fraction have another. Give Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man to a different brain trust. Bring in Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen and Nick Spencer. Move Bendis, Bru, and Frac, for the most part, move on to other books and other franchises. Franchises where their voices are new and fresh, and not just the ones we’ve been hearing for so long.
What I read this week:
Top Five Books of the Week:
5. Resurrection Man #7
4. Green Lantern #7
3. X-23 #21
2. Saga #1
1. Fantastic Four #604
Top Four Worst Things I Read This Week:
4. Superboy #7
3. Batgirl #7
2. Avengers Assemble #1
1. Avengers #24
The Worst Things I Saw On Shelves:
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade was released in hardcover. The nine issue mini that took entirely too long to come out, which wrapped up last week, is already in trade. Really? Already? Not even gonna wait a month on that?
The New Dark Avengers.
The Best News I Got All Week:
Top Five Moments of the Week:
5. “Not including her.” – Green Lantern #7
4. Wait, where did all the buildings go? – Scarlet Spider #3
3. Creepiest. Proposition. Ever. – Wolverine and the X-Men #7
2. Never try and call Amanda Waller on her bluff, you will lose your head. – Suicide Squad #7
1. Behold Galactus….herald of Franklin Richards. – Fantastic Four #604
The Gold Standard
Tags: Avengers, Avengers Assemble, Brian Michael Bendis, Fantastic Four, galactus, Green Lantern (DC Comics), Jonathan Hickman, Scarlet Spider, Suicide Squad, The Gold Standard, Wolverine and the X-Men