You’re Doing it Wrong! – Avenging Spider-Man

In the midst of DC claiming the comics media cycle recently, Marvel made a “big new announcement”. Well, that’s what they said it was going to be. Except it’s really not. They announced a new book, which is nothing out of the ordinary. At all. Still, it was a new Spider-Man book, and so, that qualifies as really big news. Or not.

Avenging Spider-Man will be released in November, with Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira locked in as creators. According to Marvel, this book will be “a summer action movie in every issue”, and feature a rotating cast of guest stars, presumably coming from Spidey’s co-Avengers. Given he’s on both main teams, the New and Adjectiveless Avengers, that’s a lot of possible guest stars.

Basically then, this is Marvel Team-Up, released with a name that will sell better than Marvel Team-Up. And with someone who used to be a really big-name creator back in the day (although the pulling power of Madureira these days is questionable) (don’t mention Ultimates 3, don’t mention Ultimates 3). Sounds not bad so far. Not bad at all.

So what exactly is Marvel doing wrong with this book? Well, some of the issues I have are directly related to the book itself, and others are related to Spider-Man in general.

First off, a missed opportunity. If this book was going to be about blockbuster summer action type stories, then do just that. I’m very sceptical when a new book is announced with the words “the first arc”. Sure, Marvel have made a point that this new Spider-Man book  won’t have any of the soap-opera style sub-plots that Dan Slott is knocking out of the park on Amazing. So it sounds like it’s going to be all action. Fine. However, I don’t believe that you can plot a 3-issue story arc like a traditional 3-act structure for film. It doesn’t work.

This book, if it’s a summer action film, should be big. Super big. Forget having Madureira pencilling every issue for 6 months (I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt on schedule delays for the moment). Get Madureira, and two other artists, going big.

I’d be going for a 64 page comic every month. Rotate a team of three artists. But give us a blockbuster story every month. With a set beginning and an end. If needs be, tease us with something that might come up in a future issue. Whatever you do with this kind of book, make it a big enough event to match the marketing you’re giving it. Show us something large that we haven’t seen before in one hit, not over a few months. Give us something different for our money.

Next, see that preview artwork? That’s some of the marketing material for the book. Now it’s not all of the preview art available. You can find that on any news site if you want a look. I don’t understand this piece of art as a marketing tool though. It’s not particularly exciting at all. It’s an establishing shot, then a detailed sense-of-place shot. Then almost a repeat. Look at the penultimate panel. It’s sudden; there’s no sense of movement from the panel before, and no clue from any of the previous panels. Something that’s quite tall or has climbed up the poster (look at how high Jonah’s face is up the bridge in the second panel) in an instant between panels out of nowhere scratches the poster with a clawed hand. Then, finally, another claw has come in from the side and above. So at a guess another creature has climbed up past the original claw, or has climbed down from above.

In a nutshell, this goes back to what I talked about in my post about splash pages. Yes, dialogue is presumably going to be added. But there is a massive waste of story-telling space in this page. No momentum, and, for three panels, nothing new. And this is a page that is being used to sell the book. If someone can explain to me why this page is a selling point for a brand new series, when it doesn’t even feature the lead character, I’d be grateful. As it is, I’m baffled.

Finally, we know that Spider-Man is over-exposed right now. Since OMD, Amazing Spider-Man has been of the highest quality. Released three times a month, and now bi-weekly, with shorter arcs, the book has had a momentum (there’s that word again) found nowhere else in Marvel’s output. Nothing leaves you wanting more and then delivering so quickly and, importantly, satisfyingly. A blockbuster Spider-Man book could work. But you lessen the impact of this book, because you can also get more of Spider-Man in the pages of Avengers, New Avengers or FF.

If Marvel wanted to create a bigger wave with this book, it might have been worth pulling him away from the Avengers for a year beforehand. Then, with some honesty, Marvel could have had a big “Because You Demanded It” announcement, open the book up strongly with Spider-Man rejoining the Avengers, and pushing the importance factor of this story right to the top of the Marvel publishing schedule for that month.

Marvel have misfired with this. The announcement smacks of trying to compete with DC’s recent news, but Marvel’s news is seriously underwhelming, and the announcement has been swamped or met with a shrug of the shoulders. The marketing decisions have been poor. And the execution of the book, on the information they’ve given so far, looks misguided.

Marvel did have the chance to have a hit on their hands, and do something different here. But they’ve flubbed it, doing it wrong again.