A Look Back: Marvel 2006 Part 2

Not Civil War

Astonishing 17While Civil War was raging throughout the Marvel Universe, there were a few titles that miraculously were able to steer clear of the subject. Maybe it was because they weren’t selling well enough for Marvel to care, or maybe it’s because the Marvel Illuminati had enough respect for the creators to leave them to their own devices. Regardless of the reason, these titles were more often than not the best of the year.

Astonishing X-Men and Runaways were safe from Civil War because Astonishing is set in a non-specific time period and Runaways is set on the west coast. Both titles have a grand overarching plotline that could have been destroyed by forcing them to work in a crossover. And really, who has the talent to tell Joss Whedon or Brian K. Vaughn how to tell a great story?

X-Factor and She-Hulk were two great titles that addressed Civil War right at the beginning of the crossover and then moved on. X-Factor really didn’t even address the situation despite displaying the Civil War emblem on its front cover. They took a stand on the Registration Act, but not once was the team forced to defend that stance to anyone other than the Astonishing X-Men. She-Hulk the title moved on from Civil War even though She-Hulk the character was still deeply embroiled in the action. While X-Factor is a noir serial and She-Hulk is pure superhero fun in a time that there isn’t much of it, the two titles are similar because the dialogue produced by writers Peter David and Dan Slott (respectively) is some of the best being printed in comics today. Unfortunately, both of these titles probably fall under the “don’t sell enough for us to care” umbrella.

Yet Another X-Men Relaunch

uncannyxmen-478All year long seemed to be one big X-Men relaunch, which has become an annual tradition for the House of Ideas.

Probably the biggest change was the removal of long-time X-scribe Chris Claremont from the characters after a second lengthy run on Uncanny X-Men (and X-Treme X-Men before that). Due to health issues, Claremont wasn’t even able to finish his run on Uncanny, and was forced to hand off New Excalibur to Frank Tieri and delay his run on Exiles.

In May, Uncanny X-Men and X-Men got major facelifts with new creative teams and new rosters. Ed Brubaker and Billy Tan took over Uncanny, which featured Professor X, Darwin, Havok, Polaris, Nightcrawler, Marvel Girl and Warpath following Vulcan to the Shi’ar Empire. Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo teamed up on X-Men, with a roster consisting of Rogue, Iceman, Mystique, Cable, Cannonball, Lady Mastermind and Karima something-or-other (please give here a codename!). Both titles were immediately better than they had been in years.

Perhaps the best part of the X-Men relaunch meant all the X-books would be occupied elsewhere while the Civil War was going on. The Uncanny team was in space. The adjective-less team was globe-trotting. Astonishing was just too good. Instead of thrusting the already top-selling X-Men titles into an already over-crowded crossover to produce a slight sales jump, Marvel let them do their own thing and produce the best year for X-Men comics in recent memory.

Being Cosmic

annihilationIn 2006, Marvel for some reason felt the need to reinvigorate their cosmic characters that were so popular back in the 90s. You know, back when everything with a gold-foil cover was popular.

The result was Annihilation, a mega-crossover that seemed to matter even less than House of M and Civil War combined. From what I heard it’s been a good story, but I just can’t say I’ve ever cared enough about Ronan the Accuser and Drax to want to spend that much money to get the whole story. Marvel co-opted a proven formula when designing the crossover: a set of four mini-series focusing on smaller stories which all converge into one story in one big all-encompassing mini-series. It worked for DC, so you’d think it’d work for Marvel. Of course, DC promoted the heck out of the thing and didn’t just throw it out there to see if anyone would bite.

Marvel also sent the Hulk into outer space thanks to the Illuminati (the made-up one), for a year-long story I also don’t care about. And I probably still won’t care about it when 2007’s World War Hulk comes out.

Nostalgia Acts

newuniversal 1Marvel celebrated several of its best memories and worst blunders throughout 2006 in mini-series and specials.

First up was the New Universe, which saw a set of five specials released in March after a quick return to the universe in the pages of Exiles. Each special centered on one character from the New Universe, and featured writers such as Peter David and Tony Bedard. No one cared. At the end of the year, Warren Ellis and Salvador LaRocca updated the New Universe in newuniversal #1, placing all of the characters in one ongoing series.

Next up was the Clone Saga, the much maligned mid-90s Spider-Man crossover. For years Brian Michael Bendis joked that when he used the Clone Saga in Ultimate Spider-Man it would be the moment he ran out of ideas. Apparently he’s out of ideas.

Stan Lee got a nice salute in the series of Stan Lee Meets… specials which saw Stan Lee teaming up with A-list artists to tell stories of The Man himself meeting some of his greatest creations. Each issue also included a back-up story by creators like Joss Whedon, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness, as well as a nifty reprint of a classic comic written by Stan.

Marvel’s annual What If…? fifth-week event got stretched out over the course of two months this year. This time around Marvel decided to ask what would happen if the circumstances surrounding some of their biggest recent storylines were different, and they produced some damn good stories. The issues focusing on Avengers: Disassembled and Spider-Man: The Other were actually better than the originals.

And of course then there was Onslaught Reborn, by Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld. I didn’t read this one. I’m not sure if anyone did. In fact, according to the owner of my local comic book store, many customers were actively avoiding the mini-series. Not only that, but they felt the need to profess the fact that they were boycotting it. When is Marvel going to learn that there’s a reason they keep firing Liefeld?