Marvel’s film division is doing an amazing job with continuity from one movie to another. Even connecting to television, Marvel likes to point out to everyone how #itsallconnected. They’re embracing the shared continuity of the comics, where something that happens to a character in one movie has lasting effects across all of the other movies. It’s perhaps one reason comic fans are really loving what Marvel is doing with their movies, and why some are equally excited about DC taking the same approach.
But as someone who reads comics on a weekly basis it’s been bugging me that Marvel seems to have forgotten about continuity in their monthly books. It wasn’t always a problem, but it’s been growing worse since the Marvel Now! relaunches where it seems that certain writers are perfectly happy to live in their own little universe detached from the rest of Marvel.
This started to become noticeable during the big Avengers vs. X-Men event a couple of years ago. In the tie-in issues of Wolverine and the X-Men, they gave Logan some nice character development. Still haunted by killing Jean, he convinced himself that no matter what he wasn’t going to allow himself to kill Hope. Instead, he’ll protect her. This was a great bit of growth for Wolverine, which Bendis immediately discarded in his next issue of the main story where Wolverine decided he needed to “kill the bitch”.
A more recent example would be the Avengers and New Avengers books. I absolutely love the epic story Hickman is telling in those books, and he totally nailed the landing on Infinity making it one of the best Marvel events in years. But the problem comes with how detached those team books are from the character’s solo books. It seems like no matter what happens to Cap in his own title, it has no affect on Hickman’s version of Cap. A very recent example of what Mark Waid has done in Hulk. Where Banner basically is lobotomized in the solo book, there’s zero reference to him being in that state in the Avengers titles. In fact, he was just made a member of the Illuminati!
Some writers seem to try to pay attention to what others are doing, such as the mention of Electro being beat up by The Punisher in a secondary story in Amazing Spider-Man #1, which references the recent Punisher re-launch. But that’s still not good enough, as when other writers live in their own pocket Marvel Universe it hurts the continuity of the overall line.
People love to bash DC’s New 52 relaunch, but for the most part their continuity from book-to-book each month has been much better than what Marvel’s been doing. A big event in Batman’s life, such as the death of Damian or the Death in the Family storyline, has lasting effects across all the Bat-family books and is even referenced in other titles where Batman shows up. Right now the Superman storyline Doomed is going on, and it’s being dealt with in not only the other Superman titles but also the team-up books like Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman.
Justice League is obviously DC’s version of The Avengers, and that title remains to be the center of the DC comic universe where everything that happens with major events (such as Forever Evil that just ended) is felt in that title. It’s almost the exact opposite of Marvel, where Avengers and New Avengers seem like Hickman’s little superhero playground with no regard to what the solo books do to the characters.
I love the Marvel books and remember even within the last decade when they had great continuity on a month-to-month basis. The days of House of M and Civil War really showed the Marvel Universe as one shared continuity. Ever since Marvel Now! it feels like Marvel has lost that, while Marvel Studios has embraced it with the films. Maybe the comic side of things should look to their movie division, or even their corporate sibling Lucasfilm, for ways to unify the continuity once again.