Quarterbin Follies #15: The View from the Cheap Seats

The_Marvel_UniverseWell, I suppose it was only a matter of time. Inevitable, really. 616 is no more. El finito. Deep Six'd. Garroted. Really, this is sort of a big deal, I suppose. So big, that Chris asked me to put my normal Quarterbin Follies column on hold (tune in next week for some thoughts on Gen13!) and give some thoughts on the END from the perspective of a continuity obsessed uber-nerd. Sure, it seems like the kind of thing to rankle the crochetey hackles of a middle-aged and loud-mouthed comic-book wash-out, right? Sounds like some “good TV.” And to be honest, when Chris first mentioned it, I was a little miffed. It is no secret that I HATE the New 52 and all it stands for. As a general rule I hate “the relaunch,” and all that it implies: the new ideas are better than the old ones, or that there is something wrong with how things were done. There's an inherent disrespect in that type of thinking. So, you'd expect that I would have some pointed opinions about what Marvel should do, or how it should or should not proceed, but I don't think I can care. I could go on about how the 616 began: about how Roy Thomas, the original Super Fan, saved the Marvel Golden Age, and how Marvel had formerly been one of the more reboot proof universes. I could do that, but I won't. As I said in the beginning, this move was inevitable. Hear that, Fan-Boys? If you didn't see it coming, you are fools (for the record, I didn't see it coming, either, damn it). It really has only been a matter of time, and no greater evidence should have been needed than Disney's sundry decrees over in the Lucas-Verse. The Star Wars Extended Universe was one of the most closely guarded and edited fictional universes in history, but it still was not safe from the mighty swing of the Great Axe of the Mouse. With a single swing, decades of side stories and timelines were undone. Now, I get the reasons, and I am even excited for the new Star Wars products (Star Wars: Rebels has been a ton of fun!), but there is a lot there for a nerd to lose sleep over. Nevertheless, why should that have an impact on Marvel? With Marvel's recent success as a movie studio, and recent acquisition by the Disney “conglom-co,” it is suddenly true that there is a reason for a single, interlocked product that can be MARVEL, under the umbrella of “House of Mouse.” However, the late 90's and the 00's were not kind to this kind of uniformity. Marvel began struggling for 'relevance' in the face of a shrinking comics industry, and so they tried to re-invent themselves with the Ultimate line. (Gah—how I hated the Ultimate line, but now is not the time for that). But even if they had not, this reboot was the doom required by the intrinsic assumption of Marvel. You see, Marvel – like many of their other mainstream counterparts – built a universe with a rotating timeline, where everything that happens in their comics is happening “now.” This constant present tense does make for easily engaging stories, but at the same time it ties the legs of the narrative. Comics take a while to come out, and because modern comics are telling complex, nuanced stories, this practice stretches days into months and years to the point that the whole hot mess eventually falls into itself. I am not going to bore you with the math here, but I trust you can see what I am talking about. Just how long can Peter Parker stay a teenager? Anyway, because comics refuse to tie their stories to any kind of realistic time frame, and yet refuse to leave themselves untouched by real-world events, the reboot becomes needful and, despite my impulse to hate it, well, that just doesn't matter. So this merger, which, as I understand it, will not be an entire reboot, will still leave few things unscathed. Only these things I hope:
  1. Captain America stays hopeful in spirit and believes in all the best of what America was meant to be. It worked in the movies, guys.
  2. Wolverine stays really short and really damned old. And that he is not a statutory rapist
  3. Nick Fury has his beginnings in the Golden Age. He is so much more interesting as a point-to-counter-point to Cap, and you miss a lot of that if they don't have the same roots.
  4. Bruce Banner is more Dr Jekyll and less Mr Hyde.
  5. Miles Morales finds a place and Peter finds MJ. The former deserves a chance, and the latter, a break.
Well, I suppose that's what I have to say. I don't know if it's because I really don't have an opinion, not being a die-hard Marvel fan, or I am just argued out, but, damn people, let Marvel do what they want. They were gonna do that anyway. Me, I am going to sit back and watch. From a respectful distance.
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Mathew D. Rhys

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