When Marvel Comics recently announced their new Point One initiative, it was touted as “the perfect jumping on point for new readers” and promised to set up the next year’s worth of stories in those titles. There was to be a major advertising push behind these book and readers new and old could expect big things. Now that we’re a couple of months in to this new initiative, I’m left wondering what the point of it all really is. First and foremost I’m a Marvel Comics fan. I love comics, but probably about 80% of what I read comes from the House of ideas. I say this merely to illustrate this isn’t coming from a DC fanboy looking to crap on all things Marvel. I’ve looked at the Point One initiative objectively, and as a result, have been left scratching my head a bit.
When the news first came down, a lot of readers were skeptical about the so-called “advertising push” these books would ride in on. It’s no secret that comics advertising is kind of a joke, so the collective eye roll from comics fandom was pretty well justified. As was expected, the books were promoted solely in Marvel comics, so the choir once again heard the message while the non-converted heard nothing. How a new reader was supposed to learn about Captain America #615.1 is beyond me, but it seems like a bit of a stretch. For the comics reader who doesn’t read Captain America, is this Point One issue really that big an incentive as to make him or her say “Okay, well, NOW I’ll give this acclaimed book a shot. It IS the perfect jumping on point, after all.” Probably not. Tony Barry of Superfly Comics and Games had this to say:
“By and large, the only people buying the Point One books were the people already reading those titles; regardless of how we displayed or hyped them. The Spider-Man issue was a bit of an outlier insofar as it advertised the first appearance of the new Venom (even though it actually ended up being the second). As a jumping-on point for new readers (Spider-Man/Venom aside), the Point One initiative fell flat.”
So the elusive new reader was by and large not wooed by the shiny new things. If a new reader did come along (And really, some had to. Every comic is someone’s first.), would they have been satisfied with the issue as what it was advertised to be? Were these comics ideal jumping on points? Was the stage set for a year of exciting stories? Those results were certainly mixed. The clear winner is Hulk #30.1. It had just the amount of exposition to let new readers know who Red Hulk is. It came at the end of one arc and before the next. It established a new antagonist for Red Hulk and the next issue of the main title was a DIRECT follow-up. That’s a perfect score if ever there was such a thing.
Others didn’t score so high in that department. Wolverine #5.1 was okay, but it had less than nothing to do with the current “Wolverine Goes to Hell” arc, or the “Demon Wolverine fights the X-Men” that followed it. Thor #651.1 wasn’t even handled by the regular creative team (as were a few others). Plus, it came before the last issue of the current and served little more than a means to reintroduce Grey Gargoyle. Sure, he looks to be a player of interest in Fear Itself, but as jumping on point to Thor, this one was a bust. It featured an intact Asgard in Broxton after nearly a year of stories showing Asgard in ruins before the Aesir left in this month’s Fear Itself #1. Even continuity-wise it made no sense. Invincible Iron Man 500.1 was essentially a retelling of Tony’s origin, albeit in a new way. Still, there was nothing of import there with the exception of he now knows he had sex with Pepper. Captain America #615.1 was also a decent enough read, and while it did set the stage for some upcoming events, namely Steve Rogers’s return to the Captain America uniform, it didn’t do anything for the ongoing story and Bucky’s current woes. It was more of a prelude to the upcoming Captain America #1 (Now THAT sounds like it might be a pretty good jumping on point.) The same can be said for Amazing Spider-Man #654.1. That issue read like Venom #1. Spider-Man wasn’t even in it. Yes, it set up some stories for the next year, but they certainly weren’t Spider-Man’s.
Taking that problem to the next level, solicitations recently revealed upcoming #0.1 issues of Alpha Flight and Ghost Rider before their first issues. Apparently, a new #1 issue just isn’t the same kind of jumping on point it used to be, so these books (which, sadly, are almost doomed for cancellation by issue 12, anyway) need a Point One issues BEFORE the #1. Thor has a relaunch coming up soon and both Wolverine and Uncanny X-Force are in single-digits, a mere five issues out from a #1 issue, what I would imagine to be a pretty solid entry point into those series.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t see Alonso and co. sitting atop a pile of money mocking the fans who shelled out for these issues. It just seems to me that the initiative was mishandled and that there was a lack of direction across the line. Some of them were essentially one-shots while others were preludes and a couple achieved the goal by leading into new stories, though those issues weren’t at all stand-alone, so a current reader would need them in order to get the full story he/she was invested in. Regardless of the audience or the intent behind the initiative, Marvel got to publish two issues of some of their top-tier books. They win, no matter what. That’s not to say I see these books as some dastardly plot to exploit readers. It’s just hard to pinpoint exactly what the point was outside of simply selling more comics, which can (and is) easily done by way of ancillary one-shots and minis.
In the initial press release, David Gabriel was quoted as saying, “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.” Sure, wolverine #5.1 was easy to read, but it was a one-shot. The $2.99 price point was a good move here, but it feels like a bait-and-switch seeing as how most of these titles are priced at $3.99. It’s one step forward and one step back. It’s looking like this is an initiative Marvel intends to support, so we’re no doubt in for more Point One issues. The best we can do is hope to enjoy them, new readers or not. for those of you on the internet that are convinced your favorite comic companies hate you and want to exploit you, looks at it this way; you’ve got the potential to score two issues of some of your favorite books in a month and some of these Point One issues are doing what they said they would in setting the stage for new stories, so you could definitely be putting a few in the “win” column.