Five Questions Facing Marvel In 2016

"Avengers #25" variant cover by Salvador Larroca
Credit: Marvel Comics

In 2016, Marvel will finally bring Secret Wars to a close and continue its “All-New, All-Different” relaunch, taking the company further into the direction it started this fall. But with the new year come new questions that Marvel will have to address as 2016 progresses. As done withDC Comics earlier this week, Newsarama are now ready to pose these questions to Marvel – and to fans. 

Credit: Steve McNiven (Marvel Comics)

5) After reviving Secret Wars and Civil War, where can Marvel go next?

2015 saw the return of one of the first – and biggest – Marvel events ever in Secret Wars, and 2016 will herald a sequel to its biggest success of the last decade, Civil War. But once the dust settles, and it’s time for new content, how will Marvel top themselves?

Just how much can Marvel rev its engine before it redlines? Are there other past events they can revisit, or is that well gone dry? With revivals of its two biggest events under its belt, will Marvel try to break new ground in its quest to go big, or will it refocus its energy on individual titles for the time being?

The Marvel event machine is the biggest in the business, with their annual crossovers setting the stage for the next big story in the line. Will that continue post Civil War II, or will we finally get some down time as Marvel regroups?    

Credit: Marvel Comics

4) How will Marvel curtail massive delays on important titles?

The delays of the last few issues of Secret Wars threw a major wrench in Marvel’s late 2015 plans, the affects of which are still being felt across the line. Not only did it mean that the end of Secret Wars – which still hasn’t dropped – will hit months after most of Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different” line has incorporated the changes rippling out of the event, but that many Secret Wars tie-in books have been delayed so as not to spoil the finale before it hits shelves.

Secret Wars isn't the first late book, nor will it be the last. While DC and Marvel have other books on their docket that are much later (remember Shield and All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder), Secret Wars affected its entire line -- so much that other books were held back from release as to not spoil the main book given its delays.

So how can Marvel ensure that this doesn’t happen again? Marvel has been hesistant to say what exactly the wrench was in the Secret Wars SNAFU, so the path forward isn’t entirely clear. Allowing Secret Wars to displace its entire line even further simply wasn’t an option, but whether the decision to simply move forward with the line was a good one remains to be seen.

Sales figures will reveal if the move was successful, but it will take time to see if readers and retailers will be more wary of future Marvel events.

Credit: Lucasfilm

3) Will the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens open the field for more varied Star Wars titles?

So far, Marvel’s successful Star Wars comic books have been primarily set in the time between the films of the original trilogy, with a few forays into the future with Star Wars: Shattered Empire and the upcoming Obi-Wan & Anakin. But now that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been released – and left many fans endlessly speculating about its biggest mysteries – will Marvel’s titles begin open those gaps wider, or explore the larger world of the new Star Wars canon?

It’s doubtful that answers to any of the major questions of The Force Awakens will find answers in comic books, but there’s a lot of galaxy to explore. Marvel Senior VP of Publishing Tom Brevoort recently expressed hesitation at delving too deeply into the world of The Force Awakens, saying on his Tumblr “I think there’s a limit to just how much we can and should do. One of the reasons that line is so strong is that we have maintained it as a tight small number of books. So other characters may get their chance in turn eventually.”

Still, even considering the need to downplay potential movie spoilers, there’s a lot of possible ground to cover, such as the political climate of the Republic and the First Legion, the history of characters like Maz Kanata and Lor San Tekka, or maybe even some conclusive life story of Yoda, or all the things that happened in the 30 years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Could Marvel’s comic books become the bastion of backmatter and expanded content that the Star Wars novels once were?    

'Captain America: Civil War' Official Poster
'Captain America: Civil War' Official Poster
Credit: Marvel Studios

2) How can Marvel’s comic books reflect the world of their films without simply feeling like tie-in books?    

There’s no denying the phenomenal success of Marvel’s films. Their shared universe has done more to duplicate the intent and feel of comic books than any other attempt at adapting them, and set the standard for modern superhero movies. We've also seen Marvel Comics make changes to better reflect the movies and television they original inspired... but how can you balance that?

Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso has made it clear that Marvel Studios doesn’t mandate the trajectory of Marvel Comics, but given the track record with the introduction of Nick Fury, Jr. (who often times loses the Jr.), and others, as well as the upcoming Civil War II being set to hit at the same time Captain America: Civil War hits theaters, the synergy is clear.

So how can Marvel appeal to the fans of its film world while staying true to its creative vision? It will likely fall largely on the shoulders of the editors and the individual creators, though it’s hard to imagine that some of the biggest differences between the film world and the comic book universe will go unresolved once Marvel’s Phase 3 films kick off in earnest.

1) Is there room for "classic" Marvel concepts in “All-New, All-Different Marvel"?

Credit: Marvel Comics

Perhaps the biggest gulf between Marvel’s film universe and its comic book world is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe unsurprisingly focuses on the most identifiable and, some would say, classic versions of their biggest characters. In the films, Steve Rogers is Captain America, Thor is still the son of Odin, and the Avengers have a line-up that reflects the team’s most classic years. But in comic books, Cap, Thor, the Hulk, and Nick Fury have been replaced by successors, and the Avengers, like the rest of the Marvel Universe, are “All-New, All-Different.”

And that’s saying nothing of the properties not tied to Marvel Studios films. Even the X-Men have had their share of shake-ups, with two Wolverines running around – neither of which is the classic version - and some of the teams biggest names, like Cyclops and Jean Grey, having been replaced by younger, time-displaced counterparts. And then there’s the Fantastic Four, absent since the launch of the new line.

But with Marvel breaking ground with new characters in legacy names, could there be room for Marvel to also revisit its classic heroes? While the very fact that this is a question should make it clear that the comic books are not beholden to what happens on film, there must be some desire to capitalize on the success of the films – especially when a movie like Captain America: Civil War will bring these versions of the characters to the forefront arguably even more than Avengers: Age of Ultron.

More importantly, if Marvel does bring back Steve, Odinson, and the rest, is there room for both the old guard and the all-new, all-different status quo? Marvel has not been shy in recent years of allowing multiple characters to inhabit the same wheelhouse. Could we see a “classic” Avengers line-up and a “new” Avengers line-up saving the same world again?

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