Marvel Comics have announced that more X-Men comics are due out this year, and a planned Crossover event is scheduled for December.
Yeah, massive X-citement for the X-Men.
With five titles currently on the roster (six if you include Fallen Angels, however, that is due to finish at issue 6 with no firm announcement of restarting) and more titles announced, that’s a lot of X-Men comics for fans to get their teeth into.
So why, then, am I canceling my orders after the sixth issues are released? Simply put: there are just too many.
As Eric Stephenson states in his interview with Newsarama, there are too many comics released every month. With each fighting for readers’ attention and money, this can ultimately be damaging to overall comic sales.
One X-Men comic will sell well, especially with the right creators on board. Add another into the mix, and the chances are that they will both have good sell-through. However, have six titles on the go, and start to add more, and all you are doing is diluting your audience or taking readers away from other titles.
An extra complication is that all of the new X-Books are linked. Not massively, for the most part, you can read Excalibur and not read New Mutants, but there is an underlying story running through it all because that is how Jonathan Hickman works. With no clear idea, at the moment, what that story-line is or which comics best serve what is coming, there is an urge to collect and read them all.
Which is precisely what Marvel wants you to do.
However, not everybody can go all in and buy everything. Financially, it’s a big spend every month, especially as the release rate is more than one issue a month. Since the House/Powers of X comics started last August, Marvel will have released 44 single comics before February. That’s over 7 per month, and it’s just going to increase. March Solicitations contain 12 single X-Men comics.
You could cut down to one or two titles, follow your favorite creator, which is always a good piece of advice, but what of this crossover that’s looming at the end of the year? Which comics do we need to read to follow that, or doesn’t it matter? At this stage, we don’t know, so it’s a risk if you don’t pick up every X-Men comic on the shelf.
In essence, what Marvel is doing with so many X-Men comics on the shelf is alienating a proportion of their readership. An elitist group of people who can, and will, buy all the titles will have an advantage over those who can’t. It also forces some people, like myself, to give up on the entire collection of comics because it is easier to do that than choose between them.
A number of times I’ve been committed to a comic only to get screwed over when it comes to the crossover event. Suddenly I have to buy 20 more comics and catch up on several other titles for the last 6 months to understand what is happening to the characters I enjoy.
Just ditching the event is an option, but one that usually doesn’t work with Marvel or DC because everything leads up to and is resolved in the event. For example, take DC’s New 52 Animal Man and Swamp Thing comics from 2012. Each title had critically acclaimed starts, with Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire proving there was life in the old Vertigo characters. After a year and a half, both titles came together in an overlong crossover event, Rotworld. It was a disaster.
But more than just being a terrible end to two excellent comics, it ruined potential re-reads. As everything was working towards the events in Rotworld, with the stories that started in issue one concluding in the crossover, the disappointing ending diminishes the prospect of re-reading. Why read so many comics when you know you’ll be disappointed at the end. You could stop reading before the end, but then everything is left open with no conclusions. Either way, you are less likely to pick them up over other comics. In fact, I recently gave my copies away because I doubt I will ever read them again.
Therein lies the worry with the current X-Men. If the crossover doesn’t satisfy, for any reason, then the 18 months of comics leading up to it will sit unwanted, on shelves or in boxes. And Marvel Crossover events have not been critical or satisfying successes in recent years, even the last one written by Jonathan Hickman.
With so many titles on offer, it may be better to trade wait, but that prospect isn’t necessarily any brighter. Based on current solicitations, Marvel is releasing the comics in two different ways. The first is the Dawn Of X collections, with each volume including one issue of each comic, and the second is individual trades collecting six issues of each title. So the choice, in essence, is still the same: All or nothing.
The X-Men comics are definitely the best they have been for years, content-wise, but the comics market is more than just content. The publishers have several other considerations, and the current trend for flooding the market with as many comics as possible can not continue. The quality of the comic becomes irrelevant if the audience struggles to buy them. A streamlining of the series might even create more demand, selling a higher number of a single title.
But then, maybe not. Maybe the majority of X-Men readers are reading the ‘main’ title and picking up only one or two of the others. This would mean that losing the outlaying titles won’t affect the sales of the leads. In some ways, the sales figures for November and December seem to suggest this. Therefore, Marvel will probably see this as losing out if they cut the number of titles.
If only the obsession with ‘shared universes’ and ‘crossover events’ wasn’t such a big thing. That way, each X-Men title could be its own thing and self-contained. Readers could then pick what they want without having to worry about missing out on essential story elements from other titles.
I do not doubt that this year is going to be a big hit for Marvel’s X-Men range, and part of me wants to be along for the ride. The quality of the comics being released are all of a high standard at the moment, with some very interesting ideas. Unfortunately, I can only buy and read so many comics. There are many other stories, from some other publishers, worth discovering, which is why I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.
Are you reading them all or picking and choosing? Why don’t you let us know how you do it in the comments below.