Dear Comic Books, What the Hell is Going On?

Uncanny X-Men Cyclops Cover

I don’t think I’m worthy enough to call myself a comic book aficionado, but I’m a fan of several comic books to say the least. I’m no stranger to brands beyond Marvel and DC since I’ll gobble up anything with a good story. My love for the medium has endured through the years. My dad would give me a variety of comics every time he would pick me up from my mom’s house. I read Archie, Tomb Raider, Witchblade, and of course DC and Marvel comics. However, there was a time when I took a break from comic books and I only recently started to get back into it back in 2011. This was a time when I started to rediscover my love for comic books.

I’ve always been a fan of one shots or storylines that have a definite beginning and an end. Is it called a miniseries? The best examples I can think of are Marvel’s Ultimate and DC’s Earth One publications. I’ve been following Uncanny X-men and All-New X-men presently, but I’ll admit that I was really lost before I jumped back in the scene in 2011. There were a lot of moments when I didn’t get the references or why this character hated the other. I’m still a bit lost now. Sure, Wikipedia is anyone’s friend but I don’t think anyone wants to read so much summaries if you’ve been inactive for a lot of years. It’s also not the same as experiencing the story through the comic book panels. Let’s face it, it’s not financially realistic to buy all the issues I missed.  This is why I largely tend to read more “contained” narratives.


When I was trying to have a “fresh” start with the X-men series, I resolved myself to follow at most two series which were the ones I mentioned earlier. I thought that I could survive with just reading one or two series. You could, but there are a couple of information and references left out. Like now, I have to purchase Guardians of the Galaxy in addition to All-New X-men to follow the “Trial of Jean Grey” story arc. I’ll probably do that (Let me apologize now to my wallet in advance) since I got lost with the previous story arc “Battle of the Atom.”

It’s quite interesting how the All-New X-men series is a part of the Marvel NOW effort to attract new readers. I think it’s fair to call myself a “new” reader under the circumstances. I do think that Marvel does succeed with All-New X-men since it deals with the X-men most mainstream audiences would know from popular culture. However, the story still heavily relies on past issues so it’s not really a complete relaunch. Sure, there’s like a mini summary in every issue but that doesn’t provide context to key scenes. If I get lost, what about the completely clueless person who is dipping into comic books for the very first time? You can’t tell them to read comics that are decades old.

DC also had their own relaunch campaign with The New 52 and it’s not exactly a walk in the park either for new readers. I’m not sure how both companies are getting new audiences. If you know, I’d really like to wrap my head around it. Now, I’m not saying that the best way to get new readers is to completely disregard everything that happened in the past because that’s a disservice to all the loyal readers. There’s got to be some way to go about this. If you think I am trashing comic books, you’re dead wrong. I love it so much that I want it to flourish again and connect with modern audiences.

I don’t think the comic book industry will ever go out of business since their IPs can make loads of money through blockbuster films, television shows, and video games. However, I do think the medium of comic books have become a novelty since there are so much other alternatives. On top of that, I think that comic books are wee bit too expensive. The price is relatively the same for decades, but it’s tough when audiences have other mediums to choose from. I mean you spend $3.99 for 20 pages that you can read in 10 minutes, while an hour long TV episode costs $2.99 on iTunes. The times are a changin, and this industry needs to adapt.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I think a clear distinction between miniseries and ongoing titles would be better for both of the Big 2. Most attempts to make ongoing titles more accessible either feel repetitive or become convoluted so quickly that the effort feels pointless and anyone that cares enough to figure things out by buying back issues, trades, or just surfing a wiki will eventually bask in the glory of the messy, large universe they’ve begun to chip away at. For those unwilling to do that, there are miniseries, or maybe mainstream monthlies just aren’t for you. Resets, on the other hand, are terrible. Always.

    • Brendan McAlinden

      Resets aren’t always terrible…

      The first 100 or so months of Ultimate Spider-man by Brian Michael Bendis was some of the best work Marvel put out in the 00’s(Brian K. Vaughan’s turn with Runaway’s was the best however. It’s right in line with Joss’s Astonishing X-Men) So ok, that might not have been a TRUE reset, because the standard Spidey in Universe 616 was still running.

      Let’s look at the fantastic job done in the new 52. There is no argument to be made that what was done with both Flash and Aquaman comics, were the best work done with either character in the last 20 years(That includes you, Flashpoint) And let’s not write off the Death in the Family story line across the Bat-family of comics. I am absolutely loving the re-imagination of year one for Batman presently going on in Detective Comics. The reboot has been fantastic for DC as a whole. The entire DC universe was an absolute CHORE to read through prior to the reset.

      I’m sorry but at some point you have to blow things up.It melts my brain when I try to explain the X-Men to people. With the ridiculous time line(Magneto is in his mid to late 80s FYI) and deaths that don’t mean anything, it’s next to impossible to explain a sensible timeline.

      • Adam R. Charpentier

        Discounting Ultimate Spider-Man for the same reason you did (not a true reboot)…

        Waid’s Flash was great and has yet to be bested in my opinion, New 52 Aquaman lost me after two issues, and Death In the Family failed to deliver any lasting implications after months of build up. I like the expanded, decade-plus Batfamily. I miss it.

        I can’t imagine explaining X-Men to anyone beyond saying, “Just go with it.” Magneto survived the Holocaust and is yet still somehow in his late 50’s and in Olympian shape is no more silly than he can control the toaster from across the room.

        But it’s nice to meet a fan of ongoing superhero comics, regardless. I knew they/you/me/we are/were out there!

        • Brendan McAlinden

          First off, I said 20 years on Flash, obviously as a homage to Mark Waid’s run in the early 90s!

          I’d argue that other than the loss of Oracle, the Batfamily has been mostly status quo. Oh, other than the whole Robin thing 😉

          I also think Jason Todd is a fantastic character now, while pre-new 52, he was obnoxious even has the red hood.

          As for the Death in the Family, I think it set a very important tone for distrust among the family.And really, go back to the moment you flipped the page and you saw everyone’s face on a platter. Tell me that didn’t blow your mind? That was right up there with issue 83 of walking dead(Carl!)

      • Matthew Wheeler

        I think any of the Ultimate Universe does a fine job of couching mainstays in a modern origin story and shedding some awful baggage. I’m reading my way through the collects from the beginning again and I’d say they do a better job than New 52 of shedding the old baggage (and let’s face it, Batman et al seem to ignore the concept). If I had my way, the Ultimate universe would be the only Marvel universe. Given how much they borrow from the Ultimate comics for modern Marvel movies, it would seem that the movie execs agree at least.

        • Brendan McAlinden

          Two things Matt. Have you read the Ultimatium crossover event yet? Have you read past Ultimate Spider-Man #160 yet?

          • Velku

            And I have three more words for you Brendan: Get-a-girl. I agree with most of what you say in all your comments, but damn!! you spend too many time on comics and correcting/criticizing everyone here.

          • Brendan McAlinden

            (: Married with a kid on the way. Comics are really just a 2 hour thing over the weekend to get caught up with the 5 or so titles I follow a week

          • Velku

            And I’m man enough to take back what I said jeje. By the way, congrats on your upcoming baby.

  • Tenacious_EJ

    If you want to keep reading, I recommend bypassing comic book stores completely. As much as I detest this, my son got a year’s subscription to Marvel Unlimited for $70 for Xmas. We have to wait a few months for new releases, but as there is roughly 50+ years of comics available to read, currently comprising over 15,000 Marvel books, there is plenty to read. If you can read 10 books in little more than an hour like me, its a no-brainer. Plus, since our ipads, iphones, and the like are linked, we can read from just about anywhere.

    • RipCity

      great tip! I’ve been out of comic books ever since I had my kid but this may be just the thing to get me back. Thanks!