A few weeks ago I wrote about what Marvel Comics current problem really is with their current creative direction. Now it looks like Marvel is taking the steps to rectify where they’ve gone wrong with the recent announcement of ‘Marvel Legacy.’ Through this new direction Marvel is going to show readers how their universe is big enough for characters like Peter Parker and Miles Morales or Riri Williams and Tony Stark can exist at the same time. This is all well and good, but the one big puzzle piece that is missing from Marvel’s latest announcement is the state of their villains.
While reading up on what the plans are for Marvel Legacy there has been a lot of talk about how the direction, as Axel Alonso put it, will “break the Internet.” Alonso further elaborated on this point by stating “With ‘Legacy,’ we want to tell stories that are accessible to all, but remind readers of Marvel’s rich history…….our stories will invoke that history, reminding readers of connections between characters they may have forgotten about, and ushering in the return of some big characters who’ve been missed.”
As a Marvel fan what Alonso told ABC News in his interview was all great. Especially when Alonso emphasized the part of bringing fun back to the Marvel Universe I became excited for what ‘Legacy’ can possibly represent, if done correctly. But as I started digging into what others have had to say about this new direction, including rumors of the Fantastic Four returning, something started to bother me.
It wasn’t until I read the Marvel.com article featuring quotes from writer of ‘Marvel Legacy’ Jason Aaron and Tom Brevoort something stuck out to me. In particular when Brevoort said “Marvel’s legacy is exciting, dramatic heroic stories featuring human, relatable characters facing situations and struggles that find parallel in the lives of our readers—the world outside your window.” It’s in reading that and other things Aaron, Alonso and Brevoort said that I realized they were missing out on speaking on the major missing piece in of the Marvel Universe: villains.
For the last few years one of the biggest weaknesses of the Marvel Universe is the fact that they’ve made their villains irrelevant. During this period Marvel has been completely focused on hero vs hero conflicts, as seen with Civil War II, Inhumans vs. X-Men and Secret Empire to name a few. Even crossovers like The Clone Conspiracy came down to Spider-Man fighting his former heroic clone turned bad.
If Marvel is serious about making their new ‘Legacy’ direction something that can bring fans back their creative teams need to focus on also elevating their villains. Secret Empire needs to be the last time we see heroes fighting other heroes. With ‘Legacy’ we should actually see how villains in this new Marvel Universe adapt and take advantage of everything that has happened.
And it is not like Marvel does not have villains in place that can rise up to make all their heroes look strong. Villains like Doctor Doom, Red Skull, Green Goblin, Ultron, Thanos, Loki and Kingpin have been shown to be powerful, merciless foes that Marvel’s heroes must overcome. Now is the time to return them to that position along with all the other stable of villains that are locked up in Marvel’s vault of stored characters.
This also means that Marvel needs to stop trying to make their villains live in a shade of grey. While it is fine to try to give villains like Magneto and Kingpin add depth by exploring it shouldn’t be seen as an excuse for the horrible things they do. Instead, Marvel’s creative teams need to use the backstories to elevate why these villains, while having a reason for acting the way they do, are still bad people. In doing so we can see how Marvel’s iconic and new class of heroes can step up to be the inspiration the regular people living throughout the Marvel Universe need.
At the end of the day a protagonist is only as strong as their antagonist. Marvel must build up their villains to make fans want to see the likes of Captain America, Iron Man and Spider-Man step up to the heroes they are supposed to be. If not Marvel will just end up repeating the same cycle of hero vs. hero conflicts for major stories that has turned so many fans off.