This month’s Previews carries an infrequent Marvel cover (now that they have their own Previews magazine), which one can read simply as a story development or as a signifier of the already heralded potential alternate reality to undo the damage delivered by Ultron.
Of course, Marvel is no stranger to alternate realities, or reality re-writes, as we saw in such pivotal stories as House of M. It has always had a habit of returning to the status quo however, such as any reality re-write that occurs within the confines of a singular title, rather than some great continuity-spanning event.
The Distinguished Competition however has always made a large event of such a refurbishment of their continuity; from way back in 1985 with the Crisis On Infinite Earths, to a decade later in Zero Hour, then Infinite Crisis and Flashpoint in quick succession, resulting in the current DCnU. Nor do I doubt that this will be the last such revamp we will see. DC has shown us a disturbing trend that it takes other universes the bankruptcy of their parent company to justify; that just as the universe has been fully established and things are flowing nicely, everything should be turned on its head in a manner demonstrated traditionally by TV executives.
Where does that leave us loyal, continuity-passionate (no, not obsessed, simply liking definition) geeks?
The better reboots are the ones that are part of the story, the subtler ones. DC has a habit of using such a blank slate to ignore all that came previously, although this has become more pronounced with each event. While much survived the original Crisis, an equal amount was swept away, while with Flashpoint a new brush did indeed sweep clean.
But if you were to look at the Legion Of Super-Heroes, the Five Year Gap series (volume 3) frequently revamped itself, due to the actions of the Time Trapper. Yet somehow this formed a cohesive whole, as this was plot-driven as opposed to sales-driven.
Marvel is hardly immune; one only has to look at the severe instant retcon of the Great Disappearance during the Infinity Gauntlet. But it has its subtle triumphs as well. Who actually remembers that Marvel: The End is (was) actually continuity, and the universe was remade with Thanos’ relinquishment of ultimate power and the destruction of the Celestial Order? Or how about when Reed Richards guided the evolution of the Big Bang with the Cosmic Ray Entity?
One thing Marvel has shown is its loyalty to its own internal narrative. I only pray that with the Age of Ultron, we are not going to see the abandonment of this philosophy. Let’s face it, the Ultimate universe, cool as it is, did not serve to create a Marvel Universe for the new generation, but the weight of Marvel history is exactly what pulls us in. And drives back issue sales, thus the stores, and the conventions. Oh, and the trade paperbacks.
Look after your geeks Marvel, for we are far from brainless. One wrong move here, and you can destroy the industry faster than any competition from gaming consoles or the Internet. Our fragile egos can only take so much abuse, and so much being taken for granted.
The fans with the spending power are the fans that are old enough to remember what has come before. THOSE are the customers that you should covet. You can have us for life, if you treat us right.