In synergetic anticipation for the “most ambitious crossover event ever,” Marvel Comics first gave Gerry Duggan the reins of Infinity Countdown and now Infinity Wars – a yearlong event replacing their regular monthly Guardians comic and bringing the Infinity Gems Infinity Stones back into existence in the Marvel Universe. I’m sure it was an attempt to make what was happening in the comics mirror their cinematic bonanza, Avengers: Infinity War, and thus hopefully attract new readers. However, unlike their literary masterpiece Secret Empire, this has been a HUGE miss for me.
One of the ways I gauge my enjoyment of any comic I read month-to-month is the recap page. If I find myself needing to read it, uncertain of where I last left the characters, then I consider the comic on the verge of being cut from my pull list. Yes, life gets busy, but a great story stays alive in my heart and mind. And, while it’s an admittedly pragmatic way of looking at things, I have a hard time justifying $3.99 a month hoping a forgettable title becomes interesting.
I never find myself struggling to remember what’s going on in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl or Ms. Marvel or Black Panther or The Amazing Spider-Man now that Nick Spencer has taken over. But for the life of me I can’t seem to remember what’s going on in Infinity Wars month-to-month let alone who has which Stone and what exactly their powers are now with their new limitations. And when I’m actively reading the comic I find the story boring and contrived. For those of you who aren’t reading Infinity Wars and/or didn’t read Infinity Countdown here’s a basic rundown of the plot. However, I’m not going back to reread anything before I write this nor am I googling a plot summary. We’re going from memory. Let’s see where it gets us…
So the Infinity Gems Infinity Stones reformed after…being destroyed, maybe? I’m not sure why they reformed (maybe it hasn’t been revealed yet) and their power levels were different than before. Anyway, they just sort of show up and random Marvel characters find themselves in possession of one. I know Captain Marvel found the Reality Stone, because I read (and love!) her monthly comic. The Guardians stumbled upon the Power Stone in their monthly title too. Black Widow (who died in Secret Empire but is back now because…?) has the Space Stone and Doctor Strange has the Time Stone (because Avengers: Infinity War). Adam Warlock (who I think came back to life) is looking for…or already had…the Soul Stone and he fights Ultron for…some reason…on some planet, maybe an Ultron planet? But that seems odd. Also some random crime lord has the Mind Stone. Strange summons them all together because someone is seeking the Stones and this person has killed Thanos and it turns out this person is Gamora because she’s bad now (or maybe she isn’t (or maybe it’s not her but the part of her that was trapped in the Soul Stone (or maybe the part of her outside the Soul Stone is corrupted without the part of her inside it (or maybe the part of her inside it corrupts the rest of her outside it once it comes out)))). Now the Stones float around her head and Thanos talks to her in her mind. Oh! Loki and an Asgardian (I think) librarian are cruising the cosmos because Loki is trying to figure out why he’s different across the multiverse…or something. Also, I think Gamora did something or is planning to do something to the population in the galaxy like Thanos did but different. Oh! She mushes everyone together or is planning to…maybe. Hmm, as summaries go, that was awkward.
Anyway, the whole thing bores me. It was a rough start but it’s completely bored me since the third issue of Infinity Countdown. I think I just don’t like Gerry Duggan as an author. Or rather, he starts strong but then loses me over time. Like with Deadpool, I think he did some great stuff (like the Secret Empire tie-ins) and his work with Brian Posen was brilliant. But the end of his run was faaaaaar too dark for me. It felt almost sadistic. It’s the same thing here. His opening year on Guardians Of The Galaxy were some of the first Guardians comics I found that I really liked! But then he started planting the seeds for this mess and he lost me. I’ve been thoroughly bored by this story since May yet I keep wasting $4.99 a month on it.
The obvious question is WHY??
I keep reading it because I’m hoping the story will get interesting again even though I know I can spend that money on at least a dozen other titles which will bring me more entertainment and joy in my reading. It’s madness! But I think it’s more than hope for a turn around in the story that keeps me buying it. I think it goes deeper than that; it’s something in my personality.
I remember reading (in a book I’m too tired to try and figure out so I can accurately cite it right now (although I may come back and edit this post sometime in the future (thus taking this whole exchance out))) a passage where Chuck Klosterman speculates about some of the differences in men and women’s buying habits when it comes to their music. He asserts women tend to buy albums based on what they like while men tend to buy albums based on loyalty, often purchasing a band’s records long after they stopped enjoying their music but because they used to love their stuff. While I wouldn’t agree with this across the board – it’s problematic to presume a universality to things like this – I certainly have anecdotal experience to validate it. (I think Klosterman would probably agree with this too, as far as being wary of accepting any sort of cultural generalization as fair and accurate across the board.) My anecdotal experience is rooted in my own buying habits.
Musically, I think he’s right. For example, I bought every Madonna album through 2008’s Hard Candy even though 2000’s Music was the last one I really listened to with regularity and 1989’s Like A Prayer may’ve been the last one I really loved. I do the same thing with my comic books. Some of them I buy out a sense of loyalty to the characters. I fell in love with James Gunn’s Guardians Of The Galaxy in 2014. Then I fell further in love with Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. I struggled to find a comic that felt like the films before embracing Gerry Duggan’s run. Then I tried (and LOVED) Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s run as well as Brian Michael Bendis’ too. So I keep reading Infinity Wars not because I like the story (I don’t (it’s the worst Infinity-related story I’ve ever read (which is saying something as I read Marvel’s 1993 Infinity Crusade with all the tie-ins too…))) nor because I love the author. I read it because I love the characters. And, if I’m being honest, that feels a little messed up.
I’m having a similar struggle with IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This one is far more complicated. While I love the Guardians’ films, I’ve only just met them in the comics. But the Turtles were one of the first titles I started to read when I came back to regular comic reading and I’ve loved them, as characters, forever. Sadly, what once felt insanely fresh, innovative, and emotionally complex now feels like it’s plodding along with no clear goal or purpose in mind. One out of every three arcs blows my mind and makes me hang in there…but the intervening arcs (as well as the miniseries) leave me bored. Unlike what happened with me and The Amazing Spider-Man a few months back though, in my gut I don’t see this getting any better.
While I’m airing my comic buying angst/guilt, I’m just going to come out and say this: I’m not in love with Dan Slott’s Fantastic Four. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it. But I also don’t love it. I sort of nothing it. It’s there. I read it. But if they weren’t my favorite team of all-time growing up, I wouldn’t have picked up issue #2. I’m reading it out of loyalty to the FF and the team I loved so much as a kid. The comic itself…I could take or leave. I grant, at only two issues in, it may be too soon to judge. But Slott’s Tony Stark: Iron Man #1 was so much fun it kept Iron Man on my pull list, something that’s never happened before without Riri Williams in the armor. I haven’t regretted an issue yet!
So, with just those three examples, that’s $13 a month I’m wasting. I could use that money for two or three other comics or a night out at the movies or put it towards a fun dinner out. Instead I’m wasting money reading stories I don’t enjoy because they feature characters I’ve loved for most of my life (well, in regard to the Turtles and the Fantastic Four, the Guardians are a new (albeit passionate) love). I don’t know how to get around this. I wish I could.
While I’m on the subject, I’ll join the chorus of EVERYONE WHO READS MARVEL COMICS and ask again for them to cut back with these major events. At their retailer summit in March of last year, Marvel promised, “Hopefully, you guys will be happy to know that at the end of Secret Empire, we do not have any big crossover event scheduled. We haven’t even talked about one for 18 months, at the very least. Those will be away for quite a while.” Obviously Secret Empire was followed by Generations and then Legacy and then Infinity Countdown and now Infinity Wars. Sooooo, I’m not sure what they meant by “we do not have any big crossover event scheduled…for 18 months, at the very least.”
But that’s all on Marvel’s end. If I don’t like what they’re putting out, it’s up to me to stop reading it. Which I do…except when I don’t. All I know is I need to sort this sooner rather than later because I’m not made of money and we’ve got Nnedi Okorafor’s new Shuri coming out in October, Eve L. Ewing’s new Ironheart coming out in November alongside G. Willow Wilson taking over Wonder Woman and they all seem like a better use of my money than Turtles, Guardians, and maybe an FF who – no matter how much I love them and how much history I have with them – are regularly letting me down.