Monday, January 17, 2011

Direct Market Casualty: FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREGO!!!

Thor the Mighty Avenger #8 (of 8?)
by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee


And so it ends. Marvel (rather laughably) tacked a “limited series” banner on the cover of this final issue of Thor the Mighty Avenger, I presume to somehow save face, but to no avail. This was an on-going series that was cancelled due to low sales. Which is sad, but (let’s face it) not entirely surprising. Because, while I think an all-ages Thor romance comic is a fantastic idea… The vast majority of the people who ever actually saw an issue of this thing on the rack for sale probably didn’t.

So maybe if Jane Foster had worn a thong more often…

Or if Thor had ripped more dudes in half…

Or if the artwork was uglier, with more bulging veins…

Or if the covers had featured a big ugly crossover banner for something called Banishment! or Godwar: the Aftermath…

… it might have moved more copies. Because that’s what sells to the comics shop market of men between the ages of 20 and 45. If it ain’t got tits, ass, brooding, and blood, it ain’t gonna sell in your average funnybook store.

That’s an over-statement, of course. I can’t take the comics shop market to task too harshly for its tastes, limited as they are. Comics don’t have to be bad, or feature such blatant appeals to the lowest common denominator, to sell in the specialty market. Lots of very good corporate spandex comics sell in very large numbers (or, you know, large numbers for things that are only offered for sale in comics shops). But the fact remains that this book, with its all-ages approach and female-friendly romantic core, seems uniquely ill-suited to sell to the market it was given. It’s the sort of book that might fare far better on-line, or in places frequented by women and children. So while I’m frustrated that it didn’t find enough readers to survive, that frustration must be aimed at the lack of viable funnybook markets beyond the funnybook stores rather than at the people who shop there.

Of course, on the other hand… This book also featured lots of hitting, which is always popular with spandex fans. And it did a nice job evoking the feel of early Marvel, something the most vocal and nostalgic of the comics shop fan-men are forever saying they want out of their super hero comics. So screw you guys for not buying this book! It’s exactly what you say you want, and you didn’t put your money where your mouth is!

Ahem.

At any rate, Thor the Mighty Avenger went out on the same sort of note it came in on: charming, romantic, and retro-cool. Roger Langridge once again makes Jane key to the story, as she calls on Ant Man, and he calls in Iron Man, who shows up to help Thor out against the (still-)mysterious “Mister K,” the series’ (still-)secret master villain. And Chris Samnee really shines on this final issue, with his best sequential art to date, and a knock-out “heavy industry” Iron Man design that I love more than the last ten variations on the armor combined. If Marvel doesn’t put this guy on another series immediately, they’re fools. It’s a nice final issue, though it’s obviously not intended as such. At most, it feels like Langridge tweaked some of Jane’s dialogue to put an emotional capper on things. But (as I not-so-subtly indicated above) the series’ on-going mysteries are not resolved, and we’re not given a satisfactory ending.

I’d love to see Marvel collect this book manga-sized (so as to better-attract people more likely to enjoy it), and keep the creative team on the hook to produce a couple of OGNs to wrap things up. But that’s unlikely to happen with the current funnybook publishing realities. The fate of books like this are still tied to the direct market, which apparently wants something very very specific in its spandex fiction, something that (if declining sales figures are any indication) appeals only to a very very narrow demographic. With its careful balance of super hero action, romance, and all-ages fun, this was a book that really did have something for everyone. Which of course meant that it didn't stand a chance.  

Grade: A-

3 comments:

  1. As every 'Rastler used to say: Amen, brother.

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