Today Marvel had a big press conference about their latest Earth-Shattering crossover, Secret Wars, and it looks like it might actually live up to the hype. In said press conference they announced this crossover would be the climax for the story that's been running in Hickman's New Avengers about different Earths smashing into each other. And, surprising no one, said crossover would involve the Ultimate and 616 Marvel Universe smashing into each other and becoming something new.
To quote Tom Brevoort himself, "The Marvel Universe as you know it is done."
To say I am unhappy with this is an understatement.
I get what they're trying to do. They (Marvel) wants to make the Marvel Universe a place that's accessible to everyone (and especially the younger set) by doing away with the years and years of awesome, weird, and ugly stories that they've accumulated throughout the years. They're probably thinking that by streamlining everything they'll get more readers because they won't feel as daunted by the vast history staring them in the face.
It's a noble goal, to be sure, but it's crazy flawed. Continuity isn't a hold up for kids, it's a hold up for adults.
Way back when I started reading, I jumped into the middle of the most continuity driven era of X-Men ever and I loved it. I didn't really know who all the players were or what was really going on, but I was excited to discover it all. I would pour over manuals, guides, trading cards, you name it so I could learn who all these weird characters were. And then that expanded to the multiverse, then to other universes and whatever new fun continuity popped up. It left me with all kinds of weird trivial knowledge that I'll never really need outside of terrible Geek gameshows.
It was my hobby, and like all good hobbies when you're younger, it kinda took all my attention.
But, as I got older and my attention was needed elsewhere - like paying rent, getting a girlfriend, and hanging out with real people - my focus became diffused and I didn't have time to worry about all the ancillary comic stories and continuities. I knew what I liked (the 616) and I only wanted to read the stories set in that universe and not waste my precious brain resources on anything else(sorry Ultimates, MC2, and 2099). And that's not to mention my outright refusal to try to learn any new universes (sorry Valiant, I'm sure you're awesome).
Anecdotal? Maybe. Just consider this: When was a last time a kid didn't think they were ready for, say, the latest issue of Avengers because they hadn't read the 50 years of books leading up to it? You know who does that? Adults.
If Marvel really wanted to appeal more to a younger set, they ought to refocus their books to be more about the big fights and less about conversations. Maybe if they stopped doing 6 issue arcs for everything, tightened up the storytelling, and just started having more fun with the stuff they can do they'd get that audience they want. But as it stands, they're courting an audience who won't care at the expense of the ones who do.
I really hope I'm blowing this announcement out of proportion. I very much wish that this crossover ends up being like all the rest with minor cosmetic changes to the 616 and maybe a few new characters hanging around (I'm looking at you, Miles.)
Otherwise, it's been a good run Marvel, but I'm too old to learn a whole new history.