Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chronic Rant: Continuity Crisis!

So here it is - New Avengers is actually a pretty fun read, and it's got some good ideas, and a lot of energy, and all that good stuff. Not enough good stuff to justify prying $4 from your wallet, but I got my copy of issue # 1 from DCBS for less than a dollar. Fine.

It's the blatant pissing in the salty face of continuity that really bugs the shit out of me, though.

I know what you're going to say, and I almost agree with you. "Is he really going to get upset that Wolverine appears in too many books after all these years? It's comic books, stupid! You don't like it, go read Jane Austen novels, douche bag!"

Sure, sure. I'm really not "that guy" who's going to lose sleep over comic book chronology bending the laws of time/space. But the thing of it is, there's bending it, and there's fashioning it into a full scale replica of Bronson Pinchot and ramming it into my asshole.

Look at the cover to New Avengers # 1. The Thing does not have time to be in the Fantastic Four and the New Avengers. Power Man is supposedly spearheading the newer new Thunderbolts and the new New Avengers? One of those teams is in Colorado, and one's on the east coast....are you shitting me? Spider-Man is in fewer books than his peak, but c'mon, man. Ms. Marvel, whatever. And then there's Wolverine, the king emperor of "fuck common sense, he's everywhere at every moment." That cover just sits there and laughs at you with 600 megatons of "we know you're stupid enough to buy this shit no matter HOW little sense it makes!" And that just doesn't feel good to me.

So yeah, I can exhibit a little suspension of disbelief. But this requires you to be a goddamn idiot, and then laughs at you for buying it! Tell me that isn't the point of this quip by Wolverine on the right. Brian Bendis is actively engaging you the reader and saying "Yeah, there's no fucking way this character could possibly do all of these things in a sensible universe - aren't we hilarious!" Well, no, actually you're not.

A big reason why I'm out of patience with this nonsense is the fact that so many of these books do not sell themselves on the artistic value of the stories or characters within. The selling point is always "Everything you've ever known and trusted about X is about to blow into a gajillion smithereens and change forever!!! BOOOOOOMMMM!!!!"

It may ninja up on you a little bit, but none of that matters without continuity. Changing a thing doesn't matter without a sense of attachment to what was. You need a history to engage with it intellectually and emotionally. You need the parts of the universe to be cohesive so you can believe in it, to trust it, to care about it.

This was part of the groundbreaking success of Marvel in the 1960s. Stories used to all be one-and-dones. What happened last month had no bearing on what you reading this month. Marvel came along and Stan Lee began to intermingle characters and events a bit. If Gwen Stacy fell off a building and died, that shit was going to matter next month. And Reed Richards might pop up and help out the X-Men for an issue. That continuity bred verisimilitude - sure, the action was over-the-top, but the universe was a place with shared experiences that felt like life.

And now Marvel is become a bit of a one trick pony that does nothing but trade on the illusion that it is "shaking up" that life-like shared universe. Nothing ever really matters. It's gone in a heartbeat. Where is any vestige of the "BBBOOOOOOOMMMM!" Civil War stuff? How 'bout Secret Invasion? Spider-Man: The Other? Or his stupid costume from Tony Stark? Will we even know Franken-Castle existed three weeks after his inevitable return to "normalcy?"

It doesn't matter, but the solicitations sure make it seem like it should. The entire marketing scheme is driven around a cohesive system that doesn't exist.

And you know what? I know that Brian Bendis has earned the keys to the car and all that. But why not make it make sense? Ben Grimm's reason for caving in and joining the Avengers is that his family is making him crazy??? No way. No goddamn way.

Read Hickman's Fantastic Four and tell me that makes any sense at all. The FF are dealing with galactic level threats, and when that's done with, he's got those moloid kids to take care of, and none of them are driving him crazy in the text. If you're going to break the social contract and press my disbelief on being in two places at once, can't the motivation seem plausible?

I feel no respect regarding the social contract between reader and publisher from New Avengers. The key to the "event" is to make the reader care about the house of cards. Not only is it difficult to give a shit about the house of cards after it's been threatened or supposedly knocked down 33 times in the past five years, but they don't even build the house correctly any more.

Where is the editorial mandate to protect the ship? Where is the voice of reason letting the field lie fallow for a bit so that the crops can grow again? Where is the captain with the discipline to say "Lucas Cage running two teams thousands of miles apart just doesn't make sense!" Because right now Marvel appears to be a thousand kids running around throwing dynamite to listen to it pop. Good luck with that.

Marvel needs a steward, and fast. They're pumping out 150 books of "canon" a month that nobody appears willing or able to keep track of, and their empire is currently built on the foundation of threatened continuity.

You can't have it both ways. If you're going to run your business on events....keep your shit straight. And if it just doesn't matter, then how are we supposed to care about the next big thing that will "never be the same"?

- Ryan

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