Op/Ed: So What Was the Point of Marvel's POINT ONE Comics?

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With the solicitation for a Marvel Point One collection in the latest round of Marvel's solicits - collecting the .1 issues for Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, Captain America, Deadpool, Hulk, Invincible Iron Man, Secret Avengers, Thor, Uncanny X-Force, Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine - and sales figures in for the first month's worth of the promotion, it's a good time to look back and ask "So, what was that Point One thing all about, anyway?"

 

Back when it was first announced, Point One was described as "the perfect jumping on points for the biggest super hero series in the world" that would "[lay] the groundwork for the next year of storylines" in each title, while also providing the perfect jumping on point for the title and "seamlessly introducing new readers into the dynamic Marvel Universe." Whether each title in the promotion has actually managed to do that is open to interpretation - Amazing Spider-Man's issue, for example, in no way laid groundwork for the next year of that title, but did lay the groundwork for the launch of the Venom series by Rick Remender and Tony Moore, which is... something, I guess - but something that doesn't seem to have happened is much jumping on from new readers: Across the board, each .1 issue seems to have been ordered in similar amounts to regular issues of the series it comes from, with Paul O'Brien calling the minor sales bump as "anaemic," adding that "retailers just don't seem to have had much faith in these books bringing in new readers."

 

Maybe part of the problem was that new readers wouldn't have known Point One was even happening? For all the talk in the original release of "a huge marketing push," I can't think of much that actually happened beyond in-book ads, which... isn't that preaching to the converted? If you're trying to grab new readers, shouldn't you try and go where your readers currently aren't?

Mind you, what would they have found if they had picked the books up? The Point One issues so far have been amazingly varied in terms of quality and intent; for every Hulk or Invincible Iron Man - both of which worked well in terms of introductions, although Hulk is the clear winner in the "actually managing to set up the next storyline" stakes by, you know, actually managing to do that - there's been a Spider-Man or, worse, Thor, an issue that just didn't make any sense in terms of Point One at all. Not only did it read more like a fill-in entirely disconnected with what Matt Fraction has been doing with the series up until that point, but it came one issue before the end of the current storyline... which is also the last issue of the series before it switches to Journey Into Mystery again. Likewise, Uncanny X-Force's Point One issue was listed as #5.1. That puts it in-between the first and second issue of a new story arc, with nothing to do with either issue. If someone bought #5.1 and went to the stop for the logical next issue, #6, they'd be missing the first part of a story. So much for new reader friendly.

 

Of course, Thor wasn't the only book to have a .1 issue just before the announcement of a relaunch; Captain America got the same treatment. Clearly, first issues aren't enough of a jumping on point for new readers anymore - Something really rammed home by the solicitations of #0.1s for both Alpha Flight and Ghost Rider. So, is a .1 issue just the latest iteration of a zero issue?

Oddly enough, the addition of the Alpha Flight and Ghost Rider issues really underlines the problem for Point One; Namely, that it never really managed to fulfill its originally stated intention, nor find its own purpose outside of that. New readers didn't appear to jump on, groundwork wasn't always laid in place and, sometimes (Hi, Wolverine!), the issues felt more like playing for time between storylines than anything else. What was Point One all about? Based on the evidence, I'm not sure that the people working on the books could've answered that question any better than any fan who'd seen the original PR.

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