It has been around 45 years since mainstream comics have blossomed within American Literature. I spent a good amount of time following major series published by Marvel Comics. The appeal of comics for me is that they bridge the gap between the limitations of film, where there is a need for budgets and camera tricks, and the vague imagery within text, which is completely dependent on the reader’s imagination. It allows insight into a writer’s and artist’s imagination where anything can happen.
I stopped reading comics for a long while and recently discovered that the Marvel Multiverse, a bunch of parallel dimensions, has been destroyed and the aftermath is completely insane.
Apparently, Dr. Doom from “The Fantastic Four” stole a bunch of higher-dimension powers to create a patchwork planet called Battleworld, annihilated everything else and promoted himself to god and dictator of the realm.
I enjoy the use of the literary concept of parallel universes like in Mark Millar’s “Wanted” to tell stories, but it was clear that it was getting out of hand. I can see why Marvel Comics needed some exit strategy though. I stopped following the X-Men franchise because too many spin-offs were being created and the crossovers were making too many plot inconsistencies to keep track of. I was losing interest and I’m sure that the majority of the readership was too.
This isn’t the first time Battleworld was created, though. In 1984, the miniseries “Secret Wars” was released that featured a huge crossover of popular Marvel heroes fighting under common causes. They reintroduced it again in the 2006 miniseries “Beyond!” with a similar theme.
It made sense to make these types of crossover series for comic book fans. Seeing their favorite heroes fight in an attempt to save reality as they know it is a great selling point for Marvel Comics but the current Battleworld is on a whole different scale. Rather than just being a graphical treat for fans, Marvel seems to be discarding the previous story lines and realities to the metaphorical wastebasket and starting anew.
Since alternate universes are all mixed together, hero teams and individual series are redefined with different character traits. Gender, race and origin are only a few aspects they mix and match. It gives an opportunity for heroes and villains to change allegiances and even species.
A lot of the plots have interesting premises and characters but some of them are bizarre. “Misfits” hardly describes the team consisting of strange alternate-reality versions of heroes and villains, such as wolf-like Captain America and Iron Man going crazy with Green Goblin’s technology.
Some series are gimmicky. “Thors” has protagonists that all vaguely have to do with the Norse god. There are Human Thors of different races, some are characters from other series with a Scandinavian theme. There’s an electric frog in a lab coat and a Groot Thor that just says “I am Thor” as his only line. At times like these, I wonder if the writers just wanted to push the limits of their creativity or merely just hash together a bunch of literary tropes together in order to satisfy our progressively shrinking attention spans.
The plots of previously existing and non-existing stories are all thrown into a blender. It certainly evokes emotional reaction from me when I read these new comics but my primary stance involves a hanging jaw and confusion.
I hope Marvel overcomes the literary turbulence soon because I think that some of the stories they release have good potential. I’m hopeful that it will succeed in reaching out to a wider demographic than white males within comics by breaking from the stereotypical values that outlined story telling in the previous century.