In a perfect world, Marvel Comics’ Secret Wars event would be over and the All-New, All-Different era would be in full swing. Unfortunately, regular comic readers are well aware that, like the characters trapped on Dr. Doom’s Battleworld, they too are stuck between two universes, with one foot in Marvel’s soon-to-be past (Secret Wars #6) and the publisher’s future (Invincible Iron Man #1).
While many readers have thoroughly enjoyed the various Secret Wars miniseries, I’m more than happy to get on with the show while Secret Wars finishes at a snail’s pace. Is it event fatigue I feel? Sure, and my wallet too.
But there’s something else I’m grappling with – alternate reality fatigue.
Now, with a subject like multiple realities, this article could go in any number of directions. As a result, I’m just going to focus on why I think we need to shelve the alternate reality plot device for a while.
Comic books and the science fiction genre in general allow for characters from other dimensions, possible futures and alternate Earths to appear and stir up all kinds of trouble. When this plot device is used properly, it can make for some great tales (Days of Future Past comes to mind). But, I can’t be the only one who feels like alternate reality stories have been done to death.
Aside from Secret Wars, which celebrates all of Marvel’s alternate universes and then some, there was the recent Spider-Verse event featuring multiple Spider-Mans and Battle of the Atom, which featured two teams of X-Men from a possible future.
I’m not a loyal DC Comics reader, so I won’t even begin to try and understand the recent Convergence event, but I know it was all about alternate Earths. In fact, every DC crossover seems to be about alternate Earths, right?
What’s so bad about focusing on just one Earth? ENOUGH!
He’s Who From Where?
One of the biggest criticisms of comic books is that characters like Superman, Batman and Spider-Man have been around for so long, it’s impossible to pick up a single issue and understand what’s going on. I think this is certainly true when you’ve got characters running around from alternate realities.
I’m a big fan of the Joe Quesada/Bill Jemas Marvel era. A lot happened around this time – the Ultimate line was created, Wolverine’s origin was revealed, Aunt May found out her nephew was Spider-Man and Grant Morrison turned the X-Men’s world upside down. There are several reasons why I think this time in the publisher’s history was so great (an article for another day, perhaps), but one of the big ones was a real effort to streamline the Marvel Universe and make it more new reader-friendly. That meant trimming a lot of the fat, especially among the obese X-Men franchise.
At the time, X-teams were filled with Mutants from multiple timelines with names like Bishop and Cable. Cyclops and Jean Grey had multiple children from different universes running around, including X-Man and Rachel Summers. Forget an exploration of racism and bigotry, the X-titles were all about giving refuge to mutants from alternate Earths.
I felt like we were on the right path, and then they undid pretty much all of Morrison’s work and introduced Nightcrawler’s daughter from an alternate dimension. Komm schon!
It Feels Like Cheating
One of my biggest gripes with the overuse of alternate realities in fiction is that it’s an easy way out. It’s lazy.
I understand that comics aren’t real life. I can’t stick to walls or pop adamantium claws, but can’t we all agree that the deaths of fictional characters carry real weight when they’re treated like actual deaths?
Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacy’s deaths had a true impact on Peter Parker because they never came back. Except, the recent Spider-Verse event gave us alternate versions of the two iconic characters. That Gwen, who has somehow become the mega-popular Spider-Gwen, even has her own All-New, All-Different series!
And she’s not the only zombie running around in Marvel’s new universe, as an alternate version of the recently deceased Wolverine will be starring in a monthly Old Man Logan series.
Like…why kill off Wolverine if you’re only going to bring in Old Man Logan?
I’m sorry, but it’s basically storytelling cheating. Characters are off the table, UNLESS it’s an alternate version of them. Okay.
It’s The Past – Move On
Look, I have fond memories of my high school days, but I can’t go back to junior year. There are people that were a big part of my life that have since passed away, but I realize alternate versions of them aren’t going to swing into my life wearing cool hoodies.
I fully understand that I need to make new memories, as that’s just how life works.
I loved the Age of Apocalypse event when I was younger, but the sequel that came out a few years back was terrible, and the current Secret Wars AOA series is just confusing (Magneto is married to Emma, not Rogue? Who the heck is Burner? When is this supposed to take place?).
Yes, Emma Stone made people realize the potential Gwen Stacy has, but she also died in 1973. Her death should be sacred.
So, let’s do this – let’s accept that the past is the past and set out to create some new characters and original storylines. In Marvel’s All-New, All-Different universe we have two Spider-Mans, a team of Spider-Men from different dimensions, two Icemans and so on and so on. How is this All-New, All-Different again?
Are you also suffering from alternate reality fatigue, or do you love stories featuring different versions of classic characters? If the latter, then the views expressed in this article are from an alternate Chris.