So, it’s after 4 am, and after fighting to try and get SOME sleep before this point, I started thinking about a current trend in Marvel Comics – the revitalization of characters. I’d been looking for something to write about, so I figured that this was as good a topic as any, and hey, maybe it’ll put me to sleep. Moving on.
As a quick explanation of what I mean, I’m going to use Marvel’s event from a couple of years ago, Annihilation. For those unfamiliar with this small-scale (and I mean that only in the sense of the number of comics involved) cosmic event, I’m going to give you the basic scoop. There’s this old villain, goes by the name of Annihilus. He’s a big ugly bug-lookin’ dude from the Negative Zone. His first appearance was as a Fantastic Four villain in 1968. Long story short, up until Annihilation, this guy was a chump. A lot of people forgot this guy even existed, which is why when he damn near destroyed our universe in Annihilation, just about everyone was surprised and taken aback. It took the combined forces of Drax the Destroyer, the Super Skrull, Ronan the Accuser, Nova (whom had received a significant power boost), several of Galactus’ Heralds, Galactus himself, and a few other prominent cosmic forces to stop Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave, an army of horrible bugs that he himself had fathered. In the end, the Skrull Empire was absolutely destroyed, the Kree were hurting significantly, several powerful cosmic entities were straight-up dead, and there was general unrest and unhappiness in the universe.
Annihilation seems to have ushered in a new age in Marvel, an age in which old, forgotten characters are dug up and given their times to shine. Names that are genuinely considered obscure are coming into the limelight. As often as you hear “Man, Wolverine wrecked those Hydra guys”, you may be hearing “Did you see how Rocket Raccoon shot up those Badoon!?” Is this a good thing? On the one hand, it’s great. Marvel is putting their rich creative history to good use, and it has lended itself to some interesting plot twists and devices – 3-D Man’s usefulness in the recent Skrull invasion, for example. However, at the same time, it could end up confusing or turning away newer readers. Not all of us have encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel hero roster. I myself have said once or twice, “Who is this guy and why is it a big deal?” The best example I can give of this is the most recent issue of Avengers:Initiative. Over the course of the book’s run, we’ve been shown a mysterious and powerful woman called Mutant Zero. We only ever see her in action once or twice, and we never, ever see her face. Nobody knew who she was, though we all had our theories. The recent issue reavealed who she was.
SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO MIGHT ACTUALLY KNOW WHO THIS IS, it was a character called Typhoid Mary. END SPOILER, GUYS. ITS COOL, YOU CAN COME OUT NOW.
This reveal was a bit of a disappointment to me, since I haven’t got a clue who the hell this character is. I’ve got three or four Hero Clix pieces of her, but I don’t even know what her powers are. Hell, I didn’t even know she was a mutant.
Over all though, Marvel’s current practice of revitalizing old characters seems to be working out well. Books are selling, readers are happy. That’s what they want, right? Excelsior!
Here’s a list of books to look into for more examples, off the top of my head:
Immortal Iron Fist
Guardians of the Galaxy
Annihilation (all involved books)
Annihilation: Conquest (All involved books, again)
Adam the Blue Marvel
Let me know if I missed any.