Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Marvel’s Death Quarter – Uncanny X-Force #18

Deaths in comics sell. It’s a proven fact and something most comic fans just deal with. Marvel proclaimed at the start of the year they would have a major character death every quarter. Looking at the December Marvel solicits, it looks like it’s time for yet another classic to bite the dust. Uncanny X-Force #18 is to be released as a polybagged issue and that rarely bodes well for the mortality rate of the team. Let’s have a look at who will die, and how Marvel is faring with its Death Bag issues.

The Dark Angel Saga

If you have been reading Uncanny X-Force, and you should be because it’s pretty damn brilliant, it most likely isn’t too hard to see who is going to die in issue #18. Well, that’s if it’s a main team character who will die. Let’s run it through the old Prognostication Machine.

Wolverine – Ha, I doubt it.

Psylocke – Nah, she’s mentioned in the solicit for the very next issue (shipping in the exact same month).
Fantomex – Ditto. He’s busy the very next month.

Archangel – Well, it is a storyline where he goes bad. Rick Remender has mentioned (I believe on the iFanboy podcast) how crazy it is that the X-Men let this guy, an avatar of death for Apocalypse, roll with them while he’s still got these metal wings and blue skin. I would say he’s a pretty good lock to die in this issue. All signs point to it. It might not end up as surprising as the Fantastic Four death (which literally could have been anybody) but that’s not a problem because sales weren’t disadvantaged by ‘The Death of Spider-Man’ storyline which killed Spider-Man. A death doesn’t have to come out of left field to be shocking and sell well.

Oh, but it still can, right…?

Deadpool – Dig, if you will, Deadpool biting the dust in this issue as some sort of grand sacrifice. He’s not mentioned in the next solicit and he’s certainly not as safe as Wolverine is. Killing Deadpool would be a massive power play. It also wouldn’t affect the critically acclaimed Deadpool MAX series because it stands outside continuity. Hell, it doesn’t even need to affect Deadpool’s current ongoing series because if there’s one person that could carry a title through death, maybe into hell, and beyond, it would be Wade Wilson. I don’t see a little thing like no longer being alive as a barrier to telling good Deadpool stories (if, in fact, there are actually any GOOD Deadpool stories, ha).

We’ll have to wait until December to see who does die in the issue. We’ll also have to see if sales are improved at all.

Quarterly Deaths

It started with the Fantastic Four. Jonathan Hickman killed off one of the founding members and sales went nuts. In fact, sales were so good that a title most people didn’t care for suddenly had enough bank to split into two different titles in the coming months (Fantastic Four and FF).

From these sales, Marvel realised death in comics is a decent sales grab. And that most certainly is true. Whether it’s speculators still raising the flag high since they bought a Death of Superman comic and waiting for the glorious return or just rubberneckers who wants to know how these people get offed. Either way, people buy, and they read. Both of these things are what comic publishers want. This is why Marvel made the call, after the high selling issue of Fantastic Four dropped, to kill a character every quarter for the rest of the year.

Now, that last sentence sounds disingenuous to what’s most likely happening. Many people heard this news from Marvel and cried foul because they felt/worried it was reactive. It sounds like Marvel heard the sales of the death bag issue and then decided to shoehorn some deaths into comics for the rest of the year. I honestly doubt that is the case. I am sure (or as sure as an outsider looking into Marvel can be) Marvel storylines were already going to feature deaths this year and the announcement was just a little bit of anticipatory troll-bait to tease interest.

If the Fantastic Four death kicked things off then it was certainly and ably followed by “The Death of Spider-Man.’ Take into account, this wasn’t the ‘real' Spidey who died but rather the Ultimate Universe variation. Nevertheless, he was a much loved character and there was no cop out to that title. It was a big moment. Sales on that title also shot up as people wanted to know how Spidey was going out, and how the new Spidey was coming in to replace him.

At the same time, James 'Bucky' Barnes bought the bullet (or the hammer) in Fear Itself. It was in the midst of an event, and so sales were already kind of higher than usual, but it was certainly a high profile death. Many seemed to prefer Bucky in the role of Captain America over the original Steve Rogers, who vacated the role in a highly publicised and sold issue years ago.

That's three large deaths for one shared universe in just a handful of months. All three characters can be tied, in some way, to the very foundations of the Marvel universe.

It is now time for another death and I feel it’s going to be another big one. Scans will hit online pretty quickly, sales will spike. However, I doubt inter/national news will pick this one up. Be it Archangel or Deadpool most people won’t know/care. I’m sure avid Archangel fans certainly will, though.

Though Archangel was originally just Angel, and a founding member of the X-Men, I don't feel like this one will be as big as a Fantastic Four member, a Spider-Man, and a Captain America. However, it runs a good chance of being one of the best written deaths out of the year with the track record Remender and Co have built on the title.


I’m betting money Archangel will die, sales will spike and settle, and the world won’t take notice. Archangel fans will be in an uproar for about 5 days. Uncanny X-Force will continue to be awesome. As for death in comics, it’s going to be a constant and resurrection will always be an option. What are your thoughts about the year of Marvel deaths?

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Klep said...

It feels gimmicky at this point. I'm fully in support of deaths that are necessary for the narrative, but otherwise you're just doing it to try and cash in. If Marvel is just loosening up creators to do more of the former, that's fine, but the was they publicize it makes it feel like the latter. Polybags, VARIANT polybags, spilling the beans to the press the day of release; it's all cynical exploitation which detracts from the impact the death should have.

Rob said...

Pretty sure Deadpool is on the cover of issue 19 (That was floating around when they were announcing the new X men Blue/Gold). I agree I am tired od poly bags. Are they becoming the new holographic comic covers of the 90s?

Anonymous said...

Didn't Marvel already tease Deadpool's demise?

CombatSpoon86 said...

I heard this issue is polybagged. Damn marvel stop trying to poly bag almost everything. Especially to my favorite marvel book right now. Just bc it worked with the F3 Johnny storm doesn't mean it will work for everything else. The reason why F4 Polybag did so well was bc It was a great book plus the end of one of marvel's first family. Plus Polybag wasn't around since the death of superman. Now Marvel is really over doing it.

Jeremy said...

No, that's clearly Deadpool on the cover for Uncanny X-Force #19. It only makes sense for Angel to be killed here.

Matthew B said...

The writers never really knew what to do with Angel/Archangel in the first place. Massively outclassed and underpowered ever since his introduction way back in Uncanny X-Men #1, he's been poorly cast in the X-Man role. How did he get on the same starting line-up as the nuclear-blasts-from-the-eyes guy and can-turn-himself-into-ice guy and telekinetic-and-telepathic-probably-more-powerful-than-Charles-Xavier girl. Even poor big-hands-and-feet guy had super-intelligence to help out with. Then there's bird-man guy. Who can fly faster than a six-foot guy with a fourteen-foot wingspan should be able to. Wow.

With the advent of mutants who can fly without wings (despite many of them not having any reason to - got fire powers? you can fly, too! control magnetism? that means you can magnetically fly through the air!), he became ever more useless and uninteresting as a character. Even his angsty "I wish I looked normal" spiel rang hollow, considering how decidedly non-freakish he looked with his wings strapped down. So along comes Apocalypse, turning a non-freaky-looking mutant into a freaky-looking mutant, but with better powers! Suddenly, his wings that just propelled him through the air were razor-sharp and shot projectile feather-blades! Then that gets boring, of course, so bam! He's cured! And then now he can switch back and forth between metal wings and feathers at will!

All because when you get right down to it, "has wings, can fly" is a really boring power set, especially if you set the character up to be so milquetoast boring to begin with.

As character deaths go, this one is the most deserving and the longest-delayed.

SannioFortunae said...

It's gonna be Deathlok. ;)

Steven said...

I'm pretty sure it's going to be AOA Jean Grey biting the dust. AOA Nightcrawler has been shown being around post-schizm, so I'm thinking the "big" death is a bit of a misdirect.

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