Monday, June 04, 2012
#419. It's All A Vast Marvel Conspiracy...
Now, a few weeks ago I came out with one of those rare reviews that was actually critical of The Avengers. I'm about to do something that will sound like a retraction. It isn't, because my reservations remain, but now I've locked on a reason to think a little more positively about it.
It came about, it all started actually, at the start of the millennium. (Origin story!) I was entering college and had been forced for financial liquidity to quit reading comics (not the first and maybe not the last time), and my brother took pity on me, and on several occasions bought boxes of comics for me, which being the appreciative guy I am I didn't actually read for a very long time. My original reasoning was that these were comics I had not personally selected and so could not possibly interest me.
Well, long story short I was an idiot. Many years later I proved myself wrong (because of course I did not get rid of them), and the latest example of just how wrong I was came in my second reading of Conspiracy #2, from Marvel Comics.
Conspiracy looks like a book Marvel put out in the continuing giddiness over the success of Marvels, the Kurt Busiek/Alex Ross milestone that set the company's comics history in perspective (and was probably the reason Gwen Stacy's death remains relevant today). I have never actually read Marvels, but Conspiracy is something I can really get behind.
Written by Dan Abnett (who usually works with Andy Lanning on sci-fi adventures that can appear to be fairly generic) and featuring painted art, Conspiracy is exactly what its title suggests. I love conspiracy stories about as I scoff at actual conspiracy theories, mostly because they're more coherent, and Conspiracy attempts to weave a version of Marvel history that pretty much ties everything together.
It is surprisingly relevant to The Avengers. That was something I admired about the film at the time that I allowed to be overshadowed by the weaknesses portrayed as strengths by everyone else dazzled by spectacle. The movie's greatest strength is how it actually ties everything together, brilliantly, in less superficial ways than, "Hey! Nick Fury!" The comics, which featured all these characters either created or revived in a matter of years, were more or less done that way, with the Marvel age defined by a sense of continuity that was more shadowboxing than reality (much as these films have been), have never really approached this level of coherence, no matter how many crossover events are done.
Conspiracy is an early example for how exactly this sort of thing could be pulled off, and could only be viewed out of continuity because fans prefer to keep one version alive rather than anything else, at least as far as Marvel goes (DC is a different story, obviously). At least until The Avengers. I know that the Ultimates were a pointed inspiration for these films, but Conspiracy is the true father of this revolution that has now vaulted to the top of box office history.
The truth strength of the film is the mythology, as the mythology had its best showing in a forgotten masterwork. And I wouldn't have made that connection except for a fluke of a fluke of a fluke.
But that's just how these things sometimes work.