Last month Marvel announced a new title, The Champions. The cover featured Nova, Ms. Marvel, Young Cyclops, Spider-Man (Miles Morales), and The Hulk (Cho) walking through the subway together (Why are these heroes are taking trains in uniforms? Cyclops is the only one who doesn't have some method to move quicker, and the other four would ditch him before cramming into public transportation next to the guy... Cyclops sucks.). There was one more character with them, and if you're familiar with the cover image I speak of (or if you looked at the article image), then you may see where this article is going. For everyone else, let's take a moment to talk about Marvel's critically acclaimed title The Vision. Spoilers for the aforementioned title will follow.
The Vision has been called "Marvel's Breaking Bad," and in my opinion that is an apt description for the series. This title is a tragedy in which Ultron's greatest creation, Vision, fails to maintain a family, all while the threat looms that he is more dangerous than the reader can imagine. So far the story has occurred in a suburb outside Washington D.C. Despite its innocuous setting the threat of death and tragedy is persistent. In the first issue we watch a panicked Victoria, Vision's wife bash in the head of Wonderman's brother, Grim Reaper. A few issues later we watch as a boy who Viv, Vision's daughter, loves is gunned down by his own father. The father in question, was actuall trying to shoot Victoria. Finally in the ninth issue Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Jordie Bellaire expertly present the death of Vin, Vision's son, over 20 gut-wrenching pages. This series' acclaim has been predicated on its unpredictable nature. Anyone, even the titular android family, is at risk of dying in this series.
And so it was with great aggravation that I saw this:
The fifth member is Viv. Meaning that Vision's daughter escapes the story. All remnants of suspense readers may have surrounding the character in The Vision are crushed. There is no uncertainty regarding her future, and that takes a lot of the fun from a title which is founded on its suspense.
In saying this I do not mean it is bad for Marvel to promote their books. I understand why Marvel advertises their product, but what I do not understand is why they promote books in a way that spoils the story of ongoing titles. This is not an isolated incident either. Marvel has blatantly done this with Spider-Man #700, Inhumanity, and Civil War II multiple times. They have also inadvertently done this with the cover of Squadron Supreme and the release of Iron Man #1 prior to their delay prone Super-Mega Crossover Event Secret Wars. This isn't including major events to announce character deaths, like Death of Wolverine.
There is very little surprising or shocking about Marvel anymore. With no real threat, or rather no real threat that isn't announced in an EXXXCLUSIVE interview three months in advanced, the books feel more like a habit than experience. You read Spider-Man because you have always read Spider-Man, not because you don't know what will happen to Spider-Man. Some may argue that the death of Hulk is a clear counter argument to this, and in a way they would be right. The problem there is that Marvel spent so much time telling readers that someone would die and shoving the image of Hulk being a threat in everyone's face (and Hawkeye being the culprit) that some readers were able to figure out who would die before the book's release. Even if we do credit Marvel as surprising us with Hulk's death we must immediately blame them for spoiling the result of Hawkeye's trial the very next week!
These tactics are also hurting businesses. In last week's Tilting at Windmills retailer Brian Hibbs explains how Marvel's previews for Marvel Now Again are useless to retailers. Hibbs states that when Marvel announces all of these new series there is no means for retailers to order these books.*
Why does Marvel do this to themselves? They don't. They do it to you. Simply put, Marvel cares more about promoting the next book for sale than creating their current book with quality. If the current book mattered, the book would be out on time. If the next book wasn't more important, Axel Alonso would talk more about what has happened instead of what's going to happen. If Marvel truly cared about their stories, then they would let them progress over more than ten issues.
"Marvel Now" may be the most ironic initiative ever, because all their actions are about what's coming next.
*I should note that this is not just a Marvel problem. Many publishers do this. Ask your retailer to put a newly announced book on your list after the Image Expo. There's a good chance (s)he will write it down on paper or in an Excel document.