Is it a return to form for the Marvel Universe or another misstep?
Marvel Legacy #1
Writer: Jason Aaron | Artist: Esad Ribic with Steve McNiven (and others)
Colorist: Matthew Wilson | Publisher: Marvel Comics
By Robert Marrujo:: Marvel Legacy #1 had a heck of a lot to accomplish. After all, with DC's own DC Rebirth #1 a year ago, the Distinguished Competition fired quite the shot across Marvel's bow. With that single issue DC was able to realign its publishing initiative to please both longtime and new readers, mixing the best of the New 52 revamp with elements from across the DC Universe's decades-long history. The result was an upswing in sales and renewed interest amongst consumers.
Marvel, meanwhile, has been in something of a rut as of late, with lower sales and many fans feeling alienated by endless relaunches and event series, along with numerous new characters filling in the shoes of classic ones. Marvel Legacy #1 needed to come in and inspire fans, to remind them that Marvel is as committed to its core characters and ideals as it is experimenting with new ideas and faces. Thankfully, writer Jason Aaron was able to do exactly that with a rousing one-shot that establishes both old and new status quos for countless Marvel characters and teams. It isn't perfect, but what Marvel Legacy #1 lacks in execution it more than makes up for with big ideas and a sense of fun.
I've been reading Marvel comic books since I was a kid in the early nineties. I've lived through the mediocrity of the Clone Saga and Heroes Reborn, as well as some of the true high points of the publisher, like the early days of the Ultimate line and Brian Michael Bendis's run on Daredevil. Yet, despite my long history as a reader through thick and thin, for the past five years or so I've found myself drifting away from Marvel. Peter Parker's turn as Tony Stark-lite, the countless Avengers team, the watering down of the X-Men, and many other shifts within the Marvel Universe have left me cold and uninterested.
The very fact that Marvel even got me interested enough to pick up Marvel Legacy #1 this past Wednesday is a testament to how solid a job the publisher has done in drumming up fan interest for it. Joe Quesada's massive foldout cover alone sends the message that Marvel seems to be trying to sell, which is that the characters fans love are finally coming back. The selection of heroes here is very telling; from Captain America to Daredevil, these are Marvel's classic characters back in the spotlight.
"Classic" being a bit controversial in the wake of comments made this past April by Marvel VP of print, sales, and marketing David Gabriel. At the time, Gabriel asserted that Marvel's push for diversity in its comics was turning away readers. Though Marvel has since done damage control to clarify Gabriel's statements, I'm of the opinion that it wasn't Marvel's diversity initiative that was hurting it, but rather the way that the publisher went about achieving it. So much of what Marvel has been doing for the past few years has felt forced, sometimes to the point of comedy.
Which brings us to Marvel Legacy #1. Jason Aaron has been a longtime contributor at Marvel, penning his epic spin on Thor for years now, as well as an outstanding run on Star Wars. Joined with Esad Ribic, the artist of Secret Wars a couple years back, this one-shot had an immediate sense of importance thanks to the star power of its creators. Though I would argue that the art isn't quite as strong as the writing, the pairing (along with an assortment of other artists) here is solid and got me fully invested in the story.
It was brilliant to make Valeria Richards the narrator. Though she isn't revealed until the end of the story, her presence after a prolonged absence spoke to me as a reader. To deliberately use a character with one of the richest legacies in the Marvel Universe was a solid way of assuring fans that the Marvel of yore will be, at least in part, making a comeback in the coming months and years. Her dialogue is perfectly borderline meta, speaking to readers' longing for the past without directly addressing it. Tonally, though it's clear that some very serious stuff is going down with the coming "Final Host" and the Celestials, Marvel Legacy #1 never feels bleak. Instead, the looming conflict seems rife with danger, but it's a threat that our heroes will be able to meet squarely as their ranks are replenished.
Part of that is of course thanks to the numerous returns that were revealed prior to this issue's release. Wolverine is back, with an Infinity Stone (Gem, to real Marvel fans) in hand, no less. Mr. and Mrs. Richards and the Future Foundation have yet to make a proper return, but with the reveal of Franklin and Valeria at the end of the issue it's clear that at some point down the line we'll be seeing the entirety of the Fantastic Four and their extended family. There are some characters whose statuses are very much up in the air, however. Is Banner alive? What happens to Old Man Logan and teenage Jean Grey now that the originals are back? Though I'm curious to find out the answers, these aren't mysteries that take away from the impact of Marvel Legacy #1.
Indeed, as the issue wraps and the Richards children make their way to the next unexplored universe, it's clear that all of these stories are ones that will be taking their time to be resolved. Rather than rush into the next event (something Marvel says its will be staying away from for the foreseeable future), Marvel's writers and artists will be able to be a bit more methodical in telling their tales without having to cater to the whims of a company-wide spectacle piece. That's the sort of breathing room that I think Marvel's publishing line has been in need of for years now. Hopefully, it proves to be a boon when all is said and done.
I mentioned earlier that the art was the weaker half of Marvel Legacy #1, but let me be clear, that's not to say the issue looks bad. Ribic is a solid storyteller, of course, but in this issue I felt like he was a little rushed. A lot of the character work looks great, especially the shot of Wolverine looking down right before he dispatches a Frost Giant, but overall much of the background work appears spartan. I did enjoy some of the other artists' contributions (especially that scene of Deadpool sitting on a toilet), but in general the art in Marvel Legacy #1 didn't blow me away.
Beyond the overarching story itself, there were other individual elements that really worked for me. The Avengers of 1,000,000 BC were far more interesting than I expected them to be. Seeing Odin struggle with Mjolnir was a particular joy, and I loved the idea of a Ghost Rider atop a mastodon. It was also delightful to see Johnny and Ben paired together in the run up to Marvel Two-in-One. While I can understand that from a story and publishing standpoint it was necessary to separate the two characters, there's no way that these two could ever be away from each other for long. These guys are family, and seeing them reunited was the highlight of the entire book, as far as I'm concerned.
Winning moments, great storytelling, and some solid art make Marvel Legacy #1 the perfect launching pad from which to spring into the new Marvel Legacy era. With a smattering of books returning to their original numbering, as well as some momentous returns of classic heroes, I'm actually excited for the first time to start reading about the exploits of many characters who I stopped caring about a while ago. If you've fallen by the wayside as a Marvel reader, I implore you to give Marvel Legacy #1 a shot. It just might surprise you how much Marvel gets right. Whether or not this good will can be sustained... well, let's keep reading and see what happens.
SCORE: 8.5/10 (GREAT)
Positives: Strong art with exceptional writing help give the story the gravitas that it deserves; wonderful individual moments; return of some great, classic characters; perfect tone
Negatives: Art feels rushed in spots; some major question marks about characters like Bruce Banner that might have deserved a little more spotlight than they got