Quick (comics) update

After Disciple of the Dog I gave reading priority to The Way of Kings so that I can vary the tone before I continue with Bakker’s first fantasy book. It will take a while even if Sanderson’s book reads quickly.

In the last couple of days I’m also reading some comics. I was a dedicated comics reader when Claremont was hot on the X-Men (so almost 20 years ago, heh, the cover here is one of the first issues I read) and I used to read pretty much everything, also because in Italy comics are published in bundles of 3 or 5 in one issue, so it’s easier to cover everything. Then I stopped for a number of years and came back when Marvel decided to go back to fancy crossovers, with Avengers Disassembled. That was in 2004.

I still think that since Avenger Disassembled Marvel produced the very best stuff ever. Fuck the golden age. There is one grand plot that waved together all stories and all series for years. It’s simply awesome but you can only appreciate this if you really read everything published and get the Big Picture. Lots of the consequences and story directions also seem a reaction to the reign of Grant Morrison on the mutant series that lasted about three years. Morrison is one of my favorite writers in comics but I also like a lot everything that happens afterward even if it tries to take apart and reset all that Morrison did before. These big cycles of construction and then dismantling are what defines the Marvel universe at the core.

With Avengers Disassembled all Marvel series started to converge. That first crossover was actually just a big test in order to oil the cogs and practice. Lots of growing pains, stories that made no sense, but it got things definitely moving. It was basically about the story of Scarlet going nut and risking to take apart everything. It ended with Magneto coming from the sky and taking Scarlet away with him. It was all just in preparation for House of M, a proper crossover that started the year after. In the meanwhile a lot of preparatory work continued, including Claremont writing a rather bad series but that at least was doing a lot of laundry work and start to put all the pieces together. That’s the destiny of Claremont in (relatively) recent years. He passes a year carefully building, then a crossover comes and sweeps away everything he had done, and then he starts meticulously rebuilding again from scratch. While guys such as Bendis or Millar write great one-shot stories and cycles, with lots of immediate punch and fun value (and little care about who comes after and has to put things back together, they just blow up stuff in spectacular ways), Claremont instead builds things slowly and long term. Sadly it seems the market doesn’t allow that anymore.

Anyway, big sweeping plot that builds up to House of M, a well written crossover that has a great ending since it brings consequences for the whole Marvel universe. It doesn’t just end, but props up nicely all things to come. The mutant series get a number of separate storylines and miniseries that are well coordinated in a big story and written really well. The more all this goes on, the more all series start to work better in the unitarian context and Big Sweeping Story. Which all leads to Civil War, probably the best handled and biggest crossover Marvel ever realized considering all its consequences and deep impact on all series. That’s more or less where I stopped reading even if it was the highest point.

One huge story that goes from 2004 to 2007. After Civil War there was the Hulk Crossover and then Bendis continues his own reign. I lost track of things so I don’t know where are things now, but I got the impression that even this cycle passed and we’re back giving each writer autonomy and detach single series from big sweeping events that require everyone to adapt.

These days instead I’m catching up from the mutant side. I wanted to read just the latest mutant crossover, but then I discover that it’s the final part of a trilogy of crossovers: Massiah Complex, Messiah War, Second Coming. So I go to the first but I discover that it has a prelude crossover: Endangered species. So I go to this one and it makes no sense because it continues some previous story about the Summers (which was connected to the bigger consequence of Scarlet’s actions at the end of House of M). So I look up that story as well and I find out I’m exactly in the place where I left. And there’s Claremont (Uncanny X-Men #466). It’s January 2006, so events that start with Avengers Disassembled in 2004 and end up in Summer 2010. Quite a nice story arc :)

Comics definitely need renovation, but I don’t think it’s in the renewals and resets. Marvel stayed actual because it tacked mature themes and made super hero comics approach things more realistically. It acquired a lot of depth. A product of modernity: they continued to say things that are actual today. Even social commentary. I think all writers did a wonderful work these years. I miss the meticulous builders like Claremont, but in the end even Bendis built on his own the premises of all he realized today (starting with Alias and Devil, that was between 2001 and 2004, so you can see how things went on for a whole decade). And all this also had very positive impact because even DC got better even if it stays more faithful to the trope of the super-hero and super stories more shielded from modernity and reality.

20 years later and I still enjoy reading comics when I have the opportunity.

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