In an unprecedented act of defiance, Newsarama gave a 2/10 review score to a Marvel NOW! book for which they received an advance review copy.
If there's one thing that can always be counted on in the comics media, it's the exchange of free review copies and exclusive access to talent from Marvel and DC for fawning reviews and promotion from ComicBookResources, Newsarama, IGN, and other giant corporate mega-sites. Without this payola, how could all of the major comic book news outlets act as an extension of the public relations departments of Disney and Warner Bros.? The end of this exchange would signal the breakdown of the entire framework of the comics media.
Despite the dangers, in a rare and unprecedented act of defiance against the status quo, Newsarama contributor George Marston has taken an advance review copy of Daniel Way and Steve Dillon's Thunderbolts #1 and given it a score of 2 out of 10, breaking the longstanding mainstream journalistic tradition of reviewing all Marvel and DC books on a scale of 8 to 10. Is Marston a rogue agent, working within the system to destroy it, or has Newsarama taken the initiative in a new fight to put journalistic integrity above the approval of corporate masters?
Here's what Marston had to say about the book:
There's a place for a book like this take on Thunderbolts in the Marvel Universe. A series about a hero uniting cold-blooded killers to do the jobs that most heroes can't is a concept with a lot of room for deep characterization, harrowing action, and emotional paydirt, as shown in books like Uncanny X-Force. Unfortunately, all of that slips immediately away from Thunderbolts like so much sand through fingers. There's an element of moral quandary and looming threat that has to exist to justify a team like this existing, and to make them compelling, but there's not much more here than an excuse to bring together Marvel's "Expendables" and let them run wild in every panel. And unlike the kind of popcorn-gobbling, cheap thrill action flicks this book aims to emulate, it just isn't much fun.
The words are chilling when one realizes just what such an act of defiance means. Like the civil rights heroes of the 1960s, Marston is likely putting himself at personal risk in order to fight for what he believes in. In retaliation, Marston could find himself facing the combined might of the entire comics establishment, and might never recieve a free advance review copy again! Even worse, Marston could find himself on the recieving end of a sustained passive-agressive assault by DC executives.
For example, witness this shocking exchange last month between Vaneta Rogers, a legitimate stalwart of journalistic integrity, and DC's Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham in an interview about DC's October sales numbers. In this interview, Rogers asks perfectly reasonable questions backed up by clear evidence, and is met with blatant avoidance, smug mockery, and borderline character assasination.
Here's an excerpt:
Nrama: I do notice though, and obviously, in the media, we try to look at trends in the industry. It's tough not to notice that a lot of the top-selling books each month are either relaunches or are involved in some type of big event. Your two bestselling books in October were the start of “events”. You’re one month removed from Zero Month. Rotworld and H’el on Earth and Death of the Family are on the table. Given your experience, is it fair to say the standard monthly, non-event comic book adventure is antiquated? Do you think retailers and perhaps readers need the signal of “event” or “relaunch” to hold or renew interest? If only once or twice a year?
Wayne: No, we don't. Otherwise, all the work we've done for the last two years to prepare for the New 52 initiative, we would feel as if we had wasted our time, and we don't feel that at all.
Cunningham: No, I think that sort of analysis is extremely surface and doesn't deal with the facts at all.
Nrama: What facts? What facts am I missing?
Cunningham: I don't know. I didn't hear enough of your thesis to know how that works. You're citing a couple of what you call "events," and then you're saying that that's the only thing that works in the marketplace. And I'm just not sure your what your evidence is to make that claim, so I'm not sure why I have to cite evidence to go against it.
Nrama: The top sellers for DC in October were the starts of events. And Marvel's top sellers are often either event-related comics or relaunches. Obviously, the relaunch was an event itself. And you had a lot of crossovers happening since then. I'm just wondering if, in the current marketplace, there isn't a need for an event-type label to really call out monthly comics and keep them fresh?
Cunningham: I think, again, Vaneta, you'd have to cite evidence from past months where that hasn't been the case. And I'm not sure what the Top 10 tells you about the overall marketplace in any statistical point of view.
Nrama: All right.
When taken together with today's review, it is looking plausible that we are seeing the rise of a new Newsarama, or Nu-Nurama, one that follows in the footsteps of the trail proudly blazed by The Outhouse in eschewing the bondage of corporate subservience for the exciting embrace of actual journalism.
"I was inspired when I watched my advance screening of Django Unchained," is something we imagine could have been said by Lucas Siegel, EiC of Newsarama. "I was unaware that one could rise up and say 'fuck you' to the cracker whiteys keeping journalists down in the cotton fields of fluff reviews and interviews."
Increasing the mystery, this reporter has not heard anything from George Marston since the interview was published. This could be because this reporter generally has no contact with Marston in the first place, but it could also be because Marston has been kidnapped and is being detained in a Disney theme park jail for his corporate treason. The Outhouse will not rest until Marston, a revolutionary hero, has been freed and is allowed to speak publicly about his ordeal, which probably involved severe beatings at the hands of Disney thugs wearing cute and colorful cartoon character costumes.
In the meantime, check out Marston's brave review over at Newsarama, and be sure to share links to the review and to this story on social media so that Marston does not disappear without a trace. The truth must be revealed! And then, it must be made fun of!