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Building a Better Marvel

(This  Stripped column originally appeared in the November 13-19, 1997, Long Island Voice.Click on the artwork for a larger image.)

by Beth Hannan Rimmels


"Good Lord... I'm standing between two Hulks. What am I, nuts?"

— Spider-Man in Heroes Reborn:
The Return

Marvel’s been bashed a lot the past couple of years — and for good reason. But making it the industry’s permanent piñata would be stupid. It’s way too soon to say that we’re on the cusp of another Marvel revolution, but sending some flowers now that it’s out of intensive care couldn’t hurt. After all, if we don’t buy the good things Marvel produces, we have no right to bitch if they’re canceled

Thankfully, the one-year experiment with Rob Liefield and Jim Lee is over. I accept that giving heroes a fresh start to reinvigorate a series — and hopefully, bring in new readers — is a fact of life in the comics’ biz, but "Heroes Reborn" was a bad idea executed in the worst way possible. But what can you expect from a "writer" — I use the term loosely here — who portrays Harry Truman as a cowardly scoundrel willing to sacrifice Captain America because Cap didn’t approve of dropping the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, and Richard Nixon as a hero who truly resigned to keep Cap a secret. I’m not saying Liefield has to like Truman, but Nixon a hero? Besides being a lousy artist, Liefield also flunked history, obviously.

If you missed it (smart people!), in "Heroes Reborn" all of Marvel’s non-mutant heroes [read: non-mutant heroes whose books weren’t selling great] threw themselves into Onslaught (turning Professor X into that villain was another brilliant move) in a last-ditch attempt to stop him. The heroes — The Fantastic Four, Captain America, Iron Man and Avengers Thor, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Vision and Ant-Man — seemed to die, but were really were spirited away to another Earth through the power of young Franklin Richards, son of Fantastic Four members Reed and Sue. None of the heroes remembered their lives on our Earth. Trust me, the execution of the storyline was much worse than I’m making it sound.

Digging out of this mess was not an easy task, but Peter David, writer of the miniseries, Heroes Reborn: The Return has been doing a fine job with the outline devised by Kurt Busiek, Scott Lobdell, Ralph Macchio, Chris Claremont, James Robinson, Mark Waid, John Romita Sr., David and others. Amazing, isn’t it, that it takes so many people to fix something screwed up by only two people.

The miniseries is definitely worth a read if you’re fond of these characters and are tempted to jump on board once they’re restored to their rightful places in the Marvel Universe. The story brings you up to speed with what has come before quickly and coherently. While you know part of the outcome — do you really think Franklin will destroy the "real" Earth? — exactly how it gets there is fun.

I’m really looking forward to the new creative teams. Fans howled in protest when Mark Waid was dumped from Captain America. It made no sense considering its increasing sales, but justice has been served with Waid’s imminent return to Cap and, drumroll please, the Avengers. The only thing better is George Perez taking over the Avengers’ art. Now if only he would also do Wonder Woman again (please, Zeus?). Kurt Busiek on Iron Man and Scott Lobdell on the Fantastic Four are also reasons to celebrate. The teasers in the back of Return show promise. If nothing else, they can’t be any worse.

Also on my recommended list is Men in Black: Retribution, a one-shot follow up to the film. Being a few months late earns it a few demerits, but it’s a good transitional story to lead to future (I hope) MIB projects. Written by MIB creator Lowell Cunningham, it’s not quite as cynical as the original miniseries nor as funny as the film, but it has its moments. As usual, the MIB have really cool transportation and Cunningham has fun with the organization’s skewed agent names and headquarters.


Column © 1997 Long Island Voice. Heroes Reborn: The Return artwork © 1997 Marvel Comics.