When I started collecting X-Men comics in 1981, there was one universe. There had never been a Marvel reboot, and DC had only had one — the 1956-1958 transition from the Golden Age to the Silver Age. By the time I left comics in the early 1990s, DC had brought us through the second major reboot in history, the classic and brilliant Crisis on Infinite Earths.
However, Marvel still hadn’t really messed up its continuity, although the reprint title X-Men Classics was retconning a number of elements into the early Claremont-Cockrum-Byrne stories.
By the time I came back to comics almost 15 years later, I was bewildered by the X-Men and didn’t know where to pick up. The Age of Apocalypse had happened in an alternate universe as far as I could tell, and while the Onslaught event had apparently killed everyone, they were somehow back in time for there to be not just a few dozen or a few hundred mutants, but over a million.
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The Marvel and DC reboots seem to happen quicker and quicker. Every 2-3 years, the big two stop production of many lines and then re-origin or rework a bunch of characters and teams. On one hand, I get it.
A #1 issue sells better than a #5 or a #25. Also, some characters or storylines get long in the tooth and a refresh isn’t bad. And often, this is a place to sneak in (or boldly proclaim) new diversity to appeal to a broader range of fans. On the other hand, some consumers, myself included, like our continuity and the idea of collecting all the issues and knowing that what I bought five years ago is still cannon.
But I’ve got to say that the quality of the reboots is winning me over. There is so little pure continuity left that the emotional cost of a reboot for me is lower and lower.
For example, in 2012, Marvel launched the NOW! branding of their line. A bunch of new #1 issues came out and many were kicking serious ass (Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Magneto, etc). In 2015, Marvel destroyed the Marvel Universe (surprise!) to make Secret Wars.
As a personal aside, hearing that they were redoing Secret Wars had me a little anxious. I’m old enough that I bought the first Secret Wars series over twelve months in corner stores. I thought a redo would be crappy. However, Marvel made this one much, much bigger in scope, and included most of the current characters in the MU.
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