This might sound familiar.
After years of experimentation, a major comic book company launches an initiative to refocus on core characters and the aspects of their stories that fans love and miss the most (while retaining elements from the recent era that have worked). A line-wide relaunch with top creators ensues. And to kick it all off, a splashy, extra-sized special from A-list talent that promises major developments.
If you guessed “DC and Rebirth” you’re a year behind. It’s now Marvel’s turn, with Legacy.
Announced at the 2017 C2E2 convention, Legacy will put iconic characters back in the spotlight, mixing in newer iterations of heroes where appropriate. Characters who have been absent will make a big comeback, while others who’ve had a status quo very different from their heritage will get back to basics. All this without ditching the newer, often more diverse, characters that have drawn a lot of mainstream media attention to Marvel. To boot, after years of constant re-launches, with constant #1 issues of diminishing impact, Marvel aims to restore the historical numbering for many of its long-running characters and series.
While fans have reason to hope for the best, it’s also difficult not to be just a bit cynical. Certainly, the critical acclaim, fan buzz and (most importantly) sales success that Rebirth has brought to DC hasn’t been lost on Marvel. Marvel certainly has a lot of significant pieces off the board at the moment, or has familiar characters in very unfamiliar circumstances. Fan weariness with the constant re-launches can’t be underestimated.
Of course, the switch to historical numbering is, itself, a re-launch. But possibly one that the #1-crazed publisher might let stand for a bit. Legacy offers at least the potential that Marvel might not spew forth an unnecessary “new first” issue every time a creative team changes or its latest branded promotional initiative rolls around.
Getting core characters back to basics is simply good business. Marvel’s characters are appearing widely in other media these days. It benefits the company to have the most prominent versions of characters in its monthly series. If nothing else, the past couple of years has demonstrated that Marvel can successfully support multiple iterations of top characters at the same time.
With the return to historical numbering and Marvel pledging to swear off line-wide events for a good spell after Secret Empire, fans might be able to enjoy books that get to tell their own stories without the constant spate of upheavals and course changes. That can only benefit fans and creators.
Possibly Marvel might take a look at its badly bloated line and do some judicious trimming. For some time, Marvel’s terminology has rendered the term “ongoing” all but meaningless. More thought and better planning around which concepts can support a long-term series and which should be tried out as official limited series (instead of de facto limited series, when Marvel axes an underperformer after six to eight issues) could only result in a stronger line.
Marvel certainly has a large number of popular, iconic characters on the shelf, either because of death (or “death”) or circumstances mandating their absence from the MU. Tony Stark, the Richards family, Bruce Banner, Logan, James Rhodes, Hank Pym, Professor X and the adult versions of Scott Summers and Jean Grey are just a few of the prominent names that could make a comeback.
There are many months to go before the Legacy era arrives. If Marvel handles it the right way, it could be a strong opportunity to re-engage lapsed fans and possibly court some new ones.