About a year ago, when preorders were looking enormous for DC's New 52 relaunch and it became clear that the publisher was goign to "win" the monthly sales charts in a walk, fans and reporters started to openly speculate as to how long it would be until Marvel launched a similar, line-wide relaunch of their own.
Marvel, quick to point out that DC's success had been a rising tide that had lifted all boats in mainstream comics and that they hadn't lost readers as a result of the competition's success, told their fans not to worry--that a relaunch wasn't in the foreseeable future.
That stopped exactly not one person from speculating as to when it would happen and what form it would take--answers that we got (somewhat) answered shortly before this year's San Diego Comic-Con International, when the publisher announced their Marvel NOW! initiative. A spate of cancellations of their long-running titles would kick off dozens of new #1 issues, but not all at one time like DC did.
Marvel has long maintained that DC's decision to launch 52 new #1 issues put undue strain on the direct market retailers and served more as a publicity stunt than anything else, doing a disservice to readers and retailers, and they put their money where their mouth was with the Marvel NOW! relaunch, announcing that they'd launch one or more new #1 issues every week for several months, rather than, say, ten or fifteen every week for a single month.
Little else was known about the nature of the relaunch, though, other than the fact that Marvel remained adamant their upcoming publishing venture is "not a reboot." Stories that happened, happened, they say; it's all spinning out of the events of Avengers vs. X-Men.
Of course, DC launched The New 52 out of the Flashpoint event, and so some fans remain skeptical. Enter outspoken Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott, who explained his perspective on Marvel NOW! via Twitter:
With Marvel NOW!, everything that happened yesterday and the year before STILL happened. All of those comics still “count.” The Marvel NOW! initiative is about what happens next….
What you’re getting with Marvel NOW! is Marvel’s most high-profile creators kicking off new, epic runs on Marvel’s biggest characters.
This isn’t a fly-by-night deal. You’re not going to see a creator on a book for four or six issues and then– whoosh– a new creative team gets slapped in. What you’re getting here is a bunch of writers and artists who are committed not just to exploding out of the gate with big, bold new ideas– but to also make those the starts of legendary runs.
That’s Marvel NOW!
It's a bold declaration, and one that DC never made--while the New 52 relaunch was heralded from the get-go as the start of something big, they assured readers that if something wasn't working, they would change course--and they've done so, with mixed results. Superman, Green Arrow and a number of other high-profile titles have undergone a number of creative changes, some controversial, while smaller titles like O.M.A.C. and Voodoo arguably didn't have much room to breathe before the ax fell.
The claim that Marvel is committed to these creative teams puts a Christopher Nolan-style standard in place for the comics industry, where these creators are being given as much job security as the comics industry allows and told, essentially, to make good stories. If true, that could lead to some absolutely brilliant work but could also result in poor books suffering from a lack of editorial oversight and dragging down the overall quality of the line because the publisher is committed to letting the story play itself out.
Another aside, of course, is Slott's assertion that "What you’re getting with Marvel NOW! is Marvel’s most high-profile creators kicking off new, epic runs on Marvel’s biggest characters." [Emphasis ours.] That comment certainly flies in the face of Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld's assertion that the character is undervalued by the publisher and that they're consistently staffing the title with unproven talent, which he referred to as "D-list" before walking back the comments, apologizing and clarifying his meaning.