Trying a bit longer of a format this week because, well, I’ve got a lot to talk about. I spent most of the week trying to figure out the best way to go about this, and I’m not ashamed to admit that there was almost a “Worst Five Moments of Children’s Crusade” feature this week. Really, I’ve been restraining myself at what I perceive to be Marvel demonstrating an insistence to keep making the same mistakes.
A few weeks ago Glazer and I did a Two Guys column that will go live one of these days (editing it is a pain in the ass for a variety of reasons) where we did a New 52 style relaunch with Marvel titles. Now, I’ll say from the start that the list wasn’t easy to make, and we stretched at times, but DC’s New 52 has some of that too. O.M.A.C. anyone? But it’s a different situation here. The struggle to fill the final tier of books was nothing compared to my continued astonishment at how hard it was to draft books featuring teenage characters and female leads. For as much as I’ve spoken in the past about the need for them at Marvel, even I couldn’t help but ignore all of them.
Lets pause for just a second and I want all of you readers to do me a favor. Think up four female comic book characters. Any four. First four that come to mind. Remember them, I’ll get back to them in just a moment.
Ms. Marvel and She Hulk were our marquee female characters, in a line of books that had a Captain Marvel and two different Hulk titles. We tossed in a Black Widow book, and I pushed for another attempt at Spider-Girl, and Cloak and Dagger is close but…that’s just Marvel. When I think of women in comics I think of Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Catwoman, and The Invisible Woman. Think about that for a minute. And really, think about four female characters…the four I just told you to remember. Who are they? How many are from DC? How many from Marvel? How many have their own book and not just part of a team? Chances are any of the women at DC are in their own titles, and any from Marvel are either in a team, dead, or in limbo.
For all the talk about a lack of female creators in mainstream comics, people should shift their focus to the fact that Marvel has no prominent female characters. At least none prominent enough that Marvel will force a solo title to survive in the market place until it gets enough readers to survive on its own.
What’s worse than that though is that female characters aren’t the only ones they are lacking. Whatever happened to the teenagers? Sure, Avengers Academy is one of my favorite titles out of Marvel, and I can’t recall the last time Marvel didn’t have a book featuring teenage X kids, but it’s utterly weak. What teenage character is able to carry their own solo title other than Ultimate Spider-Man? X-23 just got canned, the rarest of all its kind in comics. A solo title featuring a teenaged girl, written by a female creator. The book didn’t sell through the roof, but it was a fantastic read that suffered from the back-burner Marvel leaves anything not getting a movie on. After all, why promote X-23 when Captain America and Thor are both getting movies? Or, to move it to present, why not just cancel it and double ship every other X book?
Remember the New Warriors? It was so much more than Marvel’s answer to the Teen Titans, it was a bunch of younger heroes that more readers could relate to than Marvel’s elite however-many. It was fun! The members even went on to bigger and better things; Nova was the biggest cosmic hero Marvel had for a few years, Justice and Firestar were Avengers….and then there’s what happened to the rest of them and the team as a whole. Marvel offered them up to death via Civil War, poisoned the team as a whole, and have more or less buried them ever since. Where are the New Warriors? Dead and buried for no apparent reason.
DC seems more primed and ready to go when it comes to delivering diversity in characters, and I mean, I’m not talking race. Not today. Marvel might not have as many seemingly spun off characters the way DC does (Superboy, Supergirl, Batgirl, etc), but they don’t really find a way to fill that void either. DC gives Power Girl 24 issues, Marvel cancels Spider-Girl at 6. Stephanie Brown’s time as Batgirl ran 24 issues. Black Widow’s most recent? Six. Zatanna just had a sixteen issue run, ZATANNA! Spider Woman and Ms. Marvel, on the other hand, are relegated to team duty. DC has an entire line of books featuring teenage characters in the lead, I couldn’t come up with six for Marvel while doing a fantasy draft.
It’s a priority thing. Marvel is insistent that Spider-Man is relatable enough for readers since they had him sell his marriage to the devil to be single again. He’s locked in place in his mid twenties and…wait, mid twenties? I’m sorry, that’s why he’s relevant to someone like me. How about someone like the Runaways? Obviously not just a someone, more of a some-people, but you’ve got kids who act like kids and have similar authority issues. It’s an easier sell than five mutants who can’t explain why they are joined at the hip being used like soldiers in Generation Hope.
But Marvel’s priority isn’t that at all. It’s the marquee characters. It’s whoever they can spin a movie or TV show out about. Which is mildly ironic since Runaways was optioned to be a movie, but that project went vapor ages ago. How do you make a property big enough to get Hollywood attention? Get it out there, market it, let people know it exists. In other words, don’t bury it under the promotion for the projects you’ve already sold, use those to help sell your next one! Instead of burying my books in ads for other media, or characters in other media, how about you use the books that already have movies to advertise things that don’t sell? Why not put X-23 ads in issues of Wolverine, or Black Widow in issues of Iron Man? Hell, why not bring back the backup story idea and launch these characters out of the back half of books that you already know will sell. It’s part of how DC kept Blue Beetle relevant between his book ending and him winding up in Generation Lost. He was a presence in Teen Titans, and he had the last eight pages of every issue of Booster Gold.
Which is another thing, Booster Gold. Yes, there is a metric crap ton of bias when it comes to me and Booster, but think about how long his solo series was. That book ran for years without a top tier push, probably selling in the bottom quarter of the top 100, and it only ended because DC relaunched. Booster is still the leader of the JLI, Dan Jurgens is still writing him, and he’s grown into the kind of character you just expect to see around. To put it in Marvel terms, he’s Luke Cage. He’s a character that spent a long time in limbo before being pulled out by an A list writer who was a fanboy. The only difference is that Booster was given the chance to carry a book on his own merit, while Luke is still always a part of a larger roster.
So what does all of this have to do with the Children’s Crusade? The Young Avengers debuted in April of 2005 in Young Avengers #1 by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung. Patriot, Asgardian, Hulkling, and Iron Lad. They were fanboys who became heroes. Ant Girl and Kate Bishop joined and Iron Lad was replaced with Kid Vision. Asgardian became Wiccan, Ant Girl became Stature, and Kate Bishop became Hawkeye…and this was just in the first twelve issues. It was an awesome launch, and it established a new team of teenage superheroes that readers wanted to know more about. The book sold well and it wasn’t because it was written by the guy who created The O.C., it was because it was a new concept that fans were interested by. So how does Marvel react?
Well, after the first twelve issues, Heinberg goes back to working on TV shows and the characters get limbo’d. Sure, they popped up here and there. Teaming up with the Runaways during Civil War and Secret Invasion, a mini series between those two, Stature and Vision joining the Mighty Avengers during Dark Reign…but really, nothing. Marvel shelved the characters so that when Allan had more time he could come in and do his followup arc. A popular and in-demand concept got shelved for four years to let a writer who doesn’t even have comics as his top priority come back and do a follow up. I’d have more sympathy for this situation if the follow up wasn’t a horrible mess.
I’m sorry, but letting Dr. Doom take the blame for everything the Scarlet Witch did during Disassembled and the House of M is as big of a cop out as One More Day. DC may have just rebooted with Flashpoint, but at least they didn’t run around screaming “LUTHOR DID IT!” Because really, honestly, what good comes out of blaming it on Doom? In Fantastic Four and FF under Jon Hickman he’s been a more subdued version of himself, not solely due to the brain damage, but also just…he’s Doom. I don’t even need to cite Hickman’s run here, I can cite almost any variation. This is using Doom just to use a name value bad guy. Nothing more, nothing less. And since the story supposedly takes place in the time before Fear Itself, and since Doom has been working with the FF since before then as well…does this mean we’re never going to see follow up? That could wind up being the best thing to ever happen here.
Gotta stay on topic, sorry, not easy to do. You would expect that, given the characters being limbo’d to wait for Heinberg, that his return to them would only further elevate them. After all, he has to have some amazing pitch to have these characters put aside for him, it’s not like he owns them. At no point in time did I ever expect him to cram the end of the story so heavily with wrap up moments. Yes, I saw Cassie’s death last issue coming, but Vision getting killed pretty much off panel (we see Iron Lad’s face and we see Vision’s body, but we easily could have seen him blasting Vision too), and since I’m already there, we see Iron Lad’s heel turn into Kang the Conqueror. The Young Avengers blow up, disbanding as fast as possible. Patriot makes it a point to move to Arizona, screw his friends, screw his girlfriend, his friend died so he’s moving away. Everyone else just quits. Stature and Vision are dead and Iron Lad is Kang. By that logic I don’t think any super team should stay together.
Sure, they’re kids, and that’s what I love about them, they’re kids, but the only way you get the real mileage out of kids is to explore the complicated range of emotions. Something you can’t do when you tie a bow on the concept with your last page and end it. Will we see the characters again? Most likely, yeah, we will, but it’ll never wash the horrible taste out of my mouth that comes from over four years of limbo so he could just break the team up and walk away. Why couldn’t they have had adventures in the mean time? Why was it so important that wait for this guy to come in and ruin it? I could have maybe understood it if the end of the issue directly led into Avengers vs. X-Men, but not even that. It was just crap.
I’d buy a Young Avengers ongoing series, it’s too bad I won’t get one. I could get a third Avengers team written by Bendis, that’s no problem, they have that. Just no Young Avengers. Or New Warriors. Or strong female characters.
But who cares, I just bought my third issue of Amazing Spider-Man in three weeks, this week I get a break, and then next week it’s back for more.
What I read this week:
- Action Comics #7
- Animal Man #7
- Detective Comics #7
- Green Arrow #7
- Hawk and Dove #7
- Justice League International #7
- Red Lanterns #7
- Stormwatch #7
- Manhattan Projects #1
- Age of Apocalypse #1
- Amazing Spider-Man #681
- Avengers Academy #27
- Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #9
- Defenders #4
- Uncanny X-Men #8
- Winter Soldier #3
- Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha and Omega #3
- The Boys #64
- Irredeemable #35
Top Five Books of the Week:
5. Irredeemable #35 (It’s the end of everything as know it and I have no idea what’s going to happen next)
4. Avengers Academy #27 (The Runaways return and are finally done a little justice!)
3. Animal Man #7 (Creepy, awesome, still my biggest surprise hit from the relaunch)
2. Manhattan Projects #1 (Freaking awesome first issue from the Fantastic Mr. Hickman)
1. The Boys #64 (So awesome as it rushes to the end)
Top Five Worst Things I Read This Week:
5. Hawk and Dove #7 (Canned)
4. Detective Comics #7 (Dropped)
3. Green Arrow #7 (Nocenti gets two issues out of me)
2. Age of Apocalypse #1 (Three issues)
1. Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #9 (Thank fuck it’s over)
Top Five Moments of the Week:
5. Doing what he puts his mind to – Action Comics #7
4. Love Hurts – Irredeemable #35
3. Kamikaze Killer Robots – Manhattan Projects #1
2. Coming out Striker style – Avengers Academy #27
1. Spidey you dumbass – Amazing Spider-Man #681
You know what, screw it, I’m gonna do it anyway!
The Worst Moments of Children’s Crusade #9
Once an Avenger
They couldn’t just say it happened before AvX
Kang turns, kills Vision.
Really? That’s how you end it?
The Gold Standard