1. Too. Many. Damn. Events.


Events are a very special thing in comic books. Or at least they should be. From the Secret Wars, to Crisis on Infinite Earths, to... The other Secret Wars and half a dozen other "Crises," events are usually designed to change the balance of power in Marvel and DC's shared universes. Superman might become less super, or The Fantastic Four could be whittled down to just three. That gives B-list heroes and villains more room to shine as well as comics creators new restrictions and inspiration to work between.

So what happens if these sea changes occur entirely too often? What if one new world order barely has time to settle before the next one completely undercuts it? The answer is: not a whole lot, actually. The short version is that few of the non-event books have the time or attention to tell a decent story in each new status quo before the next one goes around.

This is exactly what's been going on in Marvel for a good, long while now. Perhaps due to the success of 2006's Civil War -- as well as its direct follow-ups: Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, and Siege -- Marvel has caught event book fever. And it hasn't shown any signs of stopping since the company's soft, not-really-a-reboot-but-kind-of-a-reboot-but-don't-call-it-a-reboot, Secret Wars, in 2015 and 2016.


In fact, it's only been ramping up. After Secret Wars (the pseudo-reboot one, not the 1980s one) readers were met with Avengers: Standoff! Which led directly into Civil War II. Which has led into the tonally very different Monsters Unleashed. Which will lead into Secret Empire. Which will lead into... Something else, presumably. Meanwhile, smaller events are happening in more specific corners of the Marvel U. -- like the X-Men's Death of X and (the actually better than anyone expected) Inhumans vs. X-Men.

Even when the events themselves are good, such as IvX, they're exhausting to keep up with. Not to mention expensive, since reading the events means buying extra books you weren't already interested in reading. Not to mention that event issues oftentimes cost more than Marvel's usual $3.99 cover price. Of course, you could just skip the events, but that means losing sight of the inter-book connectivity. One of the most entertaining things about reading superhero books instead of just indies is seeing how your favorite characters impact and interact with the world they're a part of.

Admittedly, it's a tough row to hoe for Marvel, too. One advantage to "soft reboots" is that they let the company renumber series starting with issue one to match those new, aforementioned status quos (statuses quo?). Readers get a fresh, easily interpreted jumping-on point, and Marvel gets the influx of paying customers first issues usually bring. It's a bad game for long-time fans, and potential long-time fans, though. The stories and characters suffer for a lack of stability, and readers jump ship. Maybe permanently. So, in trying to correct one problem Marvel has just created another. And right now it's not clear where the sweet spot lays.

2. Your Extra Dollar Goes Where?


For the last half-decade and change, Marvel has done a pretty neat thing. With a few exceptions, all of the company's books that cost $3.99 and up have included an itty bitty sticker tucked between their pages. Removing these revealed not a scratch-and-sniff square formulated to smell like Hulk sweat, as we all originally assumed, but a redemption code good for one digital copy of the book in hand.

Since the codes only came with Marvel's $4+ books -- which at the time put them one dollar ahead of DC Comics' then-standard $2.99 offerings -- it wasn't hard to connect the dots. These were a gimme meant to massage that price difference.

And, as far as naked ploys to make people care less about the inflating costs of comics go, they were a pretty good gimme. Even if people didn't use them, purchasers were essentially being given the best of all worlds for the same price as just skipping the drive to a local shop and buying digitally. Buying in-store would give you a physical copy for the ol' collection (or to sell for store credit down the line), a digital copy for easy access and tracking, and supported local retailers in the process. The only real risk  was inhaling a cloud of hand-pulled stickers every Wednesday after plucking out your codes.


Apparently, the program was much too much of a good thing. Starting in February of 2017, Marvel ended the program in favor of... Advertising.

Instead of providing free digital copies of the books readers proved they actually wanted by purchasing the comics in the first place, the publisher moved to a weekly, rotating pittance of free books. The first of which included Civil War II #0, the then-most-recent Captain Marvel #1, and Wolverine #66, a.k.a. the start of the famous Old Man Logan story arc. You might notice that's only three books, which is significantly less than very nearly every comic on store shelves, like in the previous programs. You might also know that most of those books are fairly old (the appropriately titled Old Man Logan issue came out in 2008).

The fact that the codes are only for first issues of their respective stories hints that they're meant to be teasers for readers. In other words, they're advertising for stories Marvel would like you to buy, instead of useful bonuses for the ones you're already going to read. Perhaps in response to this reduction in value, DC Comics has announced that they're going to start giving out free digital copies of issues, picking up where their competitor left off. It's enough to make you wonder what that extra dollar Marvel readers have been spending for the last few years is meant to represent now.