Thursday Comic Review: Marvel’s .1 Initiative – Fantastic or Flopping Attempt to Draw in New Readers?

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Back in October, Marvel announced its Point One Initiative. The basic idea behind the initiative is to provide a clear and easy “jumping on” point for new readers to several long-running series. These special issues would be clearly marked with .1 after the regular issue number (ex. The Amazing Spiderman 654.1). For continuing readers, the .1 will also mark the beginning of a new story arch.  

David Gabriel, Senior Vice-President of Sales and Circulation for Marvel Entertainment had this to say: “Marvel is absolutely committed to providing new readers with easy entry points into all our comic book series and Marvel: Point One is the next step in our new reader initiatives … And to make sure readers can sample all of Marvel’s top series, we’ve priced every Marvel: Point One issue at $2.99. Utilizing our top characters, top creators and employing a huge marketing push, we expect a lot of new faces in comic stores nationwide to check out Marvel: Point One. Retailers should stock up on these titles and the subsequent issues.”

Completely on board with this idea I decided to try it out. Two of the first titles of this initiative I have never actually read with any faithfulness. The Amazing Spiderman and The Invincible Iron Man surely had always appealed to me – but let’s face it, there’s only so much time in the day and money in the bank to read each and every superhero title individually. So typically I get my fix of these characters through crossovers and steady reading of Avengers titles. Therefore this was a great opportunity to look at this initiative from the eyes of a beginner – or at least someone who doesn’t know every detail of these characters’ existence from the past 50 or so years.

The first comic released with the .1 designation was The Amazing Spiderman 654.1 written by Dan Slott. Let me start off by saying this: the story was well-written. But let me also start by saying that from the very first page, I was thrown off. Turns out this comic is not actually about an easy launching point to follow Spiderman, as would be assumed by the choice of using his signature comic for the .1 initiative. Instead, this story focused on Flash Thompson and acts as an introduction to his upcoming solo series where he steps into the role of Venom. I’ll admit (a little embarrassingly) that it took me a minute of staring at this blonde, legless man in the wheelchair to actually remember who Flash Thompson is and why I should care. I spent the entire issue wondering where Peter Parker was and why we don’t get any of his classic one liners and quick quips to lure us new readers into buying this comic on a regular basis.

What was well-done, however, was the “Classified” information on the first page. From this, we get a simple, brief background of both Flash Thompson and Venom. Throughout the story, Flash endears himself to readers – proving himself a generally good and sincere guy who is trying to serve his country the best way he can. Unfortunately, he believes that “the best way that he can” is to allow himself to be host for the symbiote Venom – which can only last so long without severe consequences. The tension around these eventual consequences was well portrayed.

I enjoyed this issue, but I have to admit, I think I would have enjoyed it less as a brand spankin’ new reader.

The second issue released under the .1 initiative was The Invincible Iron Man 500.1 written by Matt Fraction. I truly took pleasure in every minute of reading this book. I know that I liked it, though, because I like stories focusing on character detail. This issue was very much about Tony Stark and minimally about Iron Man. Tony is speaking at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He is giving the story of his life from his own point of view. The story he tells is interesting and touching.

The downside to making this issue an introspective look at the main character, is that it became very vague in actually giving any background to the Iron Man series. He alluded to several villains and plot lines that occurred throughout the years, but without some sort of base knowledge as to what he was making reference to, it would be impossible for a new reader to have any clue to the double meaning of his storytelling as depicted in the illustrations showing Iron Man’s duel history to Tony’s as he monologues.  Therefore, like Spiderman, it rather failed to offer a good jump-on point where new readers can pick up on some of major events in the last few years that have molded Iron Man into the story as it is currently developing.  But I will say this, placing emphasis on who Tony Stark really is can be important to a new reader. After all, plotlines come and go, and sure they leave their footprints behind them, but the character being developed through all these plot lines is what has endured.

Gabriel commented that this is a huge marketing push for Marvel, really centered on the new reader. To this I have to rebut with my primary issue with most comic marketing initiatives – it is preaching to the choir. Sure, I knew was aware if the Point 1 Initiative. Sure, it was advertised within other comics and on popular comic websites like Comic Book Resources and the Marvel homepage. But how in the world are new readers supposed to even know that this is happening without some sort of outward marketing push. Therefore basically the only new readers that they might get from this are ones who already read other comics or are brought in via recommendations from already converted fans who are touting this as an opportunity to begin reading comic books (*cough cough*).

Honestly, if you are interested in jumping on bored with a particular long-running series, this can still be used as an opportunity to do so. Though, I would recommend also reading some of the many different origins comics available on your topic of interest. Also, check out this Lytherus editorial where I get the opportunity to address this topic more extensively.

Happy Reading!

Upcoming Point One Titles:

FEBRUARY 2011
• AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #654.1
• INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #500.1
• WOLVERINE #5.1

MARCH 2011
• CAPTAIN AMERICA #615.1
• DEADPOOL #32.1
• HULK #30.1
• THOR #620.1
• UNCANNY X-FORCE #5.1

APRIL 2011
• AVENGERS #12.1
• SECRET AVENGERS #11.1
• UNCANNY X-MEN #534.1

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