10 Best Things About the Current MARVEL Universe

<i>By <a href=http://www.twitter.com/Newsarama/>Newsarama Staff</a></i> <p>Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/axel-alonso-avengers-vs-x-men.html>said to us rather plainly</a> last month: "The Marvel Universe is changed by <i>Avengers vs. X-Men</i>." <p>Though he also made clear that it's not a New 52-style reboot, what's still not clear and likely won't be until the fall is exactly how much of the Marvel Universe is being changed. But given that readers appear to be headed towards a <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/marvel-reevolution-next-big-thing.html>"ReEvolution"</a> involving several major creative team shifts, it's a good bet that something big is coming to the Marvel Universe. <p>So if the Marvel Universe is indeed changing in a dramatic way, we got together and devised this list of 10 things we definitely don't want to see go and you can figure that we'll be doing the opposite later in the week, looking at 10 things that could use some fixing if a revamp is in order. Click "start here" in the upper-left corner to begin the countdown. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p> <p>


It's somewhat fitting that, for a fictional universe created in the Atomic Age, the Marvel Universe is essentially one big love letter to science. It's not just that so many of its characters are scientists although, really, <a href=http://marvel.wikia.com/Category:Scientists>look at the size of that list</a> but that science is held in such an odd place of respect throughout the universe. <p>Marvel science avoids the "anything goes in service of the story" idea and instead tries to hold itself to consistent standards: Think about the fictional metals Vibranium and Adamantium, for one thing, or unstable molecules, Pym particles or even the Microverse; there are shared scientific concepts to the Marvel Universe that have enough rules to affect the stories being told and, somehow, make the impossible science seem both grounded and a little bit <em>more</em> believable than some scientific concepts that actually exist in the real world. <p>Plus, the Marvel Universe has A.I.M., an entire terrorist organization made up of evil scientists who see world domination as just one more science experiment to play around with. If nothing else, that's got to be worth <em>something</em>.


While the DC Universe primarily deals in wholly fictional cities, Marvel has always centered the bulk of their action in New York City. Sure, it's a drastically different version populated by superheroes and filled with places like the Baxter Building, Avengers Tower and Empire State University, but it retains enough real-world elements that it's still recognizable, and has played an important role in many stories. Last year's "Spider-Island" had an impact because it happened in a real city people being turned into spider monsters in New York is a decidedly different deal than if it happened in a less grounded locale. <p>In recent years, Marvel has been exploring other real cities further, with <i>Avengers Academy</i> moving to Los Angeles and <i>Scarlet Spider</i> landing in Houston. <p>At the same time, they've cultivated many made-up locales over the decades, like the Savage Land, Latveria, Wundagore, Wakanda and yet it all seems to work together rather seamlessly, against all odds.


Over the recent life of Marvel's Universe, the publisher has made several efforts at introducing young superhero teams that have strengthened the line. While other superhero universes have had many of their young heroes growing up so fast that they become redundant, the Marvel Universe has been able to introduce new heroes and teen superhero teams that have really caught on with readers. <p>With fresh, new approaches to teen superheroes like <i>Runaways</i>, <i>Young Avengers</i> and <i>Avengers Academy</i>, Marvel has reinvigorated the "next generation" of heroes in a way that doesn't feel like it's "been there, done that." And so far, there's hasn't had to be a "New Young Avengers" or "Next Generation Runaways." Those concepts are still young and viable without any kind of reboot.


Marvel has had a lot of big movies based on their characters over recent years. You may have heard. <p>Generally, the publishing side tends to do a good job of deciding what's smart to change when a movie's coming out like putting Steve Rogers back as Captain America last year, which was inevitable for a while at that point anyway while not pulling more dubious moves like say, bringing Gwen Stacy back because she's a prominent part of next week's <i>Amazing Spider-Man</i>. <p>And they genuinely don't appear to disrupt creator plans much sure, they launched <I>Avengers Assemble</i> to appeal to Avengers movie watchers, but the same month the movie was out there was a <i>New Avengers</i> issue by the same writer set entirely in ancient K'un L'un and containing virtually no characters recognizable to a mainstream audience. (Some fans will grouse over this point, but come on, the organic webshooters were a long time ago.)


While they have certainly evolved over the last 50 years, Marvel's mainstay characters have, by and large, stayed true to their original concept and theme. Each new interaction and issue doesn't raise unanswerable questions about how the story possibly relates to the history we've all become familiar with, or how the timeline fits together. That's not to say there isn't some of that monthly superhero comics are, by nature, chronologically loose but there's no question about which stories mattered to the character's evolution and current storyline. <p>It's an old trope, but it's nice to be able to pick up a <i>Captain America</i> comic and know what you're getting from month to month. It's reassuring to know that, somehow, Peter Parker is going to wind up struggling with his personal life, even when this familiarity breeds a hunger for more extreme stories to break the mold. Knowing who the characters are, and what they've been through provides context for every story in which the characters appear, and breeds a more consistent and captivating world for them to inhabit.


This is another extension of "Marvel hasn't rebooted yet," but it's another direct result of it. The main characters like Captain America and Iron Man, for instance have rich histories with each other, from best friends, to bitter enemies to (most) everything in between. <p>But there are even lesser-known dynamics that are fun this week's <i>X-Men Legacy</i> issue is about Ms. Marvel vs. Rogue, which is a rivalry stemming from a 31-year-old comic book. As long as it's not portrayed as inaccessible to new readers, it's neat to see things like the friendship between Luke Cage and Iron Fist and the familial bonds between Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. (And everyone seems to know Wolverine.) <p>One of DC's talking points last year when The New 52 was announced was that it was exciting for readers to see characters meet each other and interact for the first time, but for many fans, the opposite is true, and it's engaging to see how various relationships evolve over time.


More and more, it seems that Marvel is willing to not only take risks on creative talent, but to push the boundaries of mainstream art styles and characters. While some publishers see more sense in playing it safe and enlisting talent that confines itself to more tried and true house styles, Marvel consistently farms for creators like Cullen Bunn and Chris Samnee, who cut their teeth in independent comics before bringing their original voices to the mainstream; and is more and more willing to push established creators like Pasqual Ferry and Khoi Pham to explore new styles on the page. <p>Marvel is also more willing to allow its characters breathing room, even when it doesn't necessarily count, by giving fiercely independent creators a chance to play with classic characters through miniseries like <i>Strange Tales</i>, and numerous back-up features, and mini-comics over the years. It's refreshing to see a major publisher allow their characters to be used with the freedom of highly imaginative and independent creators.


What makes the Marvel Universe so distinct among other superhero universes and what has distinguished it for decades is the feeling that most of its icons are just everyday, normal people. <p>While there are aliens and rich playboys in the mix of Marvel's superhero universe, most of its icons have an "everyday" basis. Names like Peter Parker and Steve Rogers have a definite feeling of heroism attached to them, to be sure, and they have specific traits that make them stand out around their peers. But there's also a sense that they're not that much different from, well, "me." And there's something appealing about that as a reader, allowing an even deeper sense of identifying with the hero.


One of the hallmarks of Marvel's top franchises is the strength of the creative driving force behind each one. Writers like Mark Waid, Matt Fraction, Dan Slott, Ed Brubaker, Brian Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron have all made their mark on the major characters of Marvel's pantheon. Bendis and Brubaker have been with their respective franchises for nearly a decade, and while others like Slott and Waid don't have quite that tenure with their charges, the passion that they have for their characters is palpable in their work. <p>While there looks to be a major creative shift on the horizon with Bendis, Brubaker, Hickman and Fraction leaving behind the characters and franchises for which they've become best known that hardly amounts to the kind of shuffling between titles and creators that some companies seem to thrive on. Also, with most of those writers looking likely to remain on board on different series, the fact remains that there is a clear narrative vision at work with most of Marvel's top titles.


In the Marvel Universe, there's no such thing as a mistake. <p>Well, OK, that might not be exactly true, but the creation of the No-Prize formalized the idea that everything that happened in a Marvel comic actually "happened," even if it didn't even make sense and needed an inventive fan to come up with a convoluted explanation as to why that was actually the case. <p>While DC's shared superhero universe has become an ever-more-confusing soup of retcons and do-overs since 1985's <em>Crisis on Infinite Earths</em>, the Marvel Universe has stayed surprisingly consistent even with its sliding timescale that changes the locations of wars and the identities of presidents. <p>Despite the seriousness of today's MU with its heroes facing off against each other to stave off the latest end of the world event the Namor and Thing who find themselves fighting in <em>Avengers Vs. X-Men</em> are still characters who were <a href=http://marvelindexes.blogspot.com/2010/05/fantastic-four-9.html>once involved in a scam involving bankruptcy, a movie studio, and an ill-fated attempt to woo Sue Storm</a>. There's something wonderful about the faithfulness and stubbornness surrounding the history of each character and their fans.

10 Best Things About the Current MARVEL Universe

Date: 26 June 2012 Time: 07:46 PM ET