‘I Have An Issue’ is a regular opinion column from Kimberley Griffiths, with no fear or favour shown. If you’d like to suggest something for a future column, drop us a line. Also, check out Kimberley’s blog!
There’s this strange disconnect between Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios at the moment, and while I’m loathe to be critical of franchises I usually love almost in spite of their foibles, I’m certainly feeling some trepidation.
While Studios seems to be doing its utmost best to define the clear, vast, and very welcome difference that is the gap between 616 and the Cinematic Universe (MCU), some of the current comic writers seem to have missed that memo.
When looking at a film like Iron Man 3, you can see that Marvel Stuidos has placed a clear this is a completely different part of the multiverse stamp all over it. The changes to The Mandarin, and the Extremis storyline were, in my opinion, inspired. They bought a cheesy, more than a little bit racist villain into the 21st century and placed him in a context that made sense in the MCU. Extremis was adapted to fit far better into this less fantastical universe, and even then you only really need to look at Tony himself to recognise that Marvel has the right idea here.
On the other side of the coin, the increasing desire to bring elements of the MCU into the primary continuity is strange at best, and incredibly frustrating and a little creepy at worst. While I’m certainly no detractor to the occasional snippet of blatant fanservice, I found myself immediately uncomfortable with one book in particular.
Nick Spencer’s Secret Avengers is only four issues in, and within the first half of issue one, the tone is set for the aforementioned MCU capitalisation. Marvel has attempted to suck in fans of The Avengers movie, particularly those who latched on to one line in particular – You and I remember Budapest very differently – and in doing this have created one of the strangest books I’ve come across in the last few years.
The insinuation that MCU fans will require a clear path to follow as a way to bridge the films and the comics is frankly insulting. To those of us who are long time Marvel comics fans, the sudden and pointless addition of 1610/MCU ‘Nick Fury’, explained away as being the older model’s son with a nice matching eyepatch, and the clumsy introduction of Phil Coulson as a 616 character, is jarring and uncomfortable. While I understand the desire to get some of these fans to crossover into comics, the minimally advertised, low key release of SA Vol 2 meant that the concept is largely redundant. And many of those fans who did take notice, have been alienated by the creepy mind-wipe aspect of the storyline. That then begs the question: if you’re cashing in on a line like that, what’s the point of ensuring neither of the characters involved remember ‘Budapest’ at all?
So all in all, Secret Avengers is failing at all its attempted tasks. It’s not as edgy as it’s trying to be, it’s aiming at a market that it’s not reaching, and what lip service it does pay to those fans, it completely undermines by using illogical plot points and pointless references. Luke Ross’ art is patchy, and at points it’s obvious he’s tried to give Natasha the same look as Scarlett Johansson, but the inconsistency means this really doesn’t work. Coulson also, is obviously designed using Clark Gregg as a reference, but then we have Clint who is… something else entirely.
SA is a S.H.I.E.L.D. book, and shouldn’t be trying to masquerade as anything else, particularly with issue #3 having a focus on Daisy Johnson (Quake), who is the new yet still unconfirmed director of the organisation. A book focussing mostly on Johnson, Hill, and the rest of the SHIELD team would hold my attention far better than SA has managed just four issues in.
For those MCU fans wanting a great starting point in comics, Marvel already has the film tie ins. These have proven to be well put together, standalone stories. With some better marketing, these could really increase readership not just of the MCU titles, but of others featuring fan favourites too. Fraction’s Hawkeye has proven to be hugely popular with fans of the The Avengers who are new to comics, and thus far has stuck firmly in the existing primary continuity, with a couple of subtle nods to Cinematic Universe imagery.
With Avenging Spider-Man #20 also featuring the crack team of Widow, Hawkeye, and Coulson, it looks like this is a path Marvel is keen to pursue in multiple titles. I can only hope that other writers can give it a more refined treatment. SA #1 hit us over the head with about as much subtlety as Mjolnir travelling at terminal velocity.