This week sees the launch of Marvel's first weekly series in a very long time. Specifically, it comes from the pages of Avengers in a 16-part story titled "No Surrender". While Avengers will carry the complete adventure, the tale will actually feature the three key Avengers teams, including both the U.S.Avengers and Uncanny Avengers. Together all of these Avengers, and others from the past, will be forced to confront a massive problem: the theft of Earth. With two sets of bad guys, Thanos' Black Order and a new version of the Lethal Legion, there will be ample problems and mysteries to solve between January and the end of April. However, weekly series are still a difficult style of story to pull off.
If you look at examples from the past decade alone, for every great weekly endeavor there are two mediocre ones. DC Comics' 52 still stands as a high watermark packed with intriguing storylines, top-tier talent, and plenty of story to fill all of its issues. Yet the follow up in Countdown is best not discussed. So we're taking a look at the concept of weekly superhero series and providing five key things that "No Surrender" will need in order to succeed.
A Strong Writing Team
On a weekly series writers have to be in the driver's seat. There's no living artist who can handle the demands of 20-pages every week, even with a favorable amount of preparation. That means that the writers in charge of a series have to be well prepared for their own tasks and ready to collaborate seamlessly. Every individual issue needs to offer enough action and plot to satisfy readers, while also setting up future installments and delivering exciting cliffhangers. On top of that, all of the individual issues need to read in a similar fashion. Character voices must be consistent and small details cannot be changed without readers noticing every seven days. It's a steep challenge to say the very least.
"No Surrender" has a trifecta of talent that should be up to the task though. Mark Waid, Al Ewing, and Jim Zub, the regular writers of Avengers, U.S.Avengers, and Uncanny Avengers, respectively, are some of the best the publisher has to offer right now. They're all experienced Marvel writers and have shown the chops to handle big concepts in the past. The key test will be in how well they can blend their styles. Each writer has their own fandom for reasons unique to them, but now they will need to find the middle ground that allows them to bounce off of one another. However things turn out, there's probably not a better trio at Marvel today to handle this particular project.
Well-Scheduled and Well-Selected Artists
Just because a weekly series relies heavily on writers doesn't mean artists fall to the wayside. One poorly drawn issue can be enough to make readers give up on such a big commitment to an ongoing story. Even if the stakes are rising and all of your favorite characters are on the page, it means nothing if you can't discern exactly what is happening or if Captain America and Hawkeye look the same. We would mention some recent weekly series, but it's best to not say anything at all if you have nothing nice to say.
Again, that doesn't appear to be a problem facing "No Surrender". Marvel Comics was confident enough about their planning to announce the complete creative lineup in October of last year and are only utilizing three artists: Pepe Larazz, Kim Jacinto, and Paco Medina. This makes two things exceedingly clear. First of all, the pages will be done on time and by a relatively select set of artists. Second, and more importantly, those artists are all great at what they do and provide a style and storytelling sensibility that won't conflict between issues. Each of these three stand out on their own merits, but it's unlikely that readers will be disturbed by changes on any given week. That consistency is key in this format.
A Satisfying Central Mystery
"No Surrender" already features a great question: Who stole the Earth? In order to pay off that concept, the series has to explore the answer over the course of 16 weeks and make it satisfying after more than 320 pages. It's a tall order, but a necessary one. In a series like Batman Eternal, the core mystery was a whodunnit that was answered with a single answer and relatively minor conspiracy in the final pages of the series. To keep readers engaged, the resolution should match the lengths required to reach it. That means it should be both complex and capable of being revealed over time. However "No Surrender" begins and whoever starts it, we hope the answers are every bit as interesting as the questions.
16 issues are plenty to fill in a standard monthly schedule, but they feel like much more when delivered every week. In order to keep the story varied and readers interested, "No Surrender" will need a lot of subplots. These can be minor character conflicts, lesser mysteries, or just about anything else. The key is that subplots allow individual issues to remain important and provide ongoing arcs with their own introductions and catharsis throughout a much grander epic. If the complete focus of the series rests on the big adventure, then the middle will feel bloated. These smaller stories offer more flexibility and keep readers engaged in the very long haul between the first and sixteenth chapters.
Absolutely No Tie-Ins or Crossovers
While all of "No Surrender" is taking place in the pages of Avengers, it is already essentially a crossover between that title and U.S.Avengers and Uncanny Avengers on an accelerated schedule. Asking readers to purchase 16 comics in 16 weeks for a single story is a massive commitment. Asking anything more is unconscionable. Weekly comics feel like a lot, both for creators and readers. If the story and talent is there, then that should be enough to make the big endeavor worthwhile on its own. Readers willing to trust Marvel Comics enough to follow them down this rabbit hole should be rewarded solely within the pages of Avengers. Sometimes the key to making something big work is recognizing when enough is enough. 16 weeks of non-stop Avengers action ought to be plenty satisfying on its own. We can't wait to see how these creators pull it off.