It’s not very easy to jump into reading comics, especially so for franchise characters like Batman or Spider-Man. To combat this problem, publishers will often advertise books as “jumping on” points, usually corresponding with the release of a new movie or TV show. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. After all, just because a new story arc starts doesn’t mean a new reader will understand why Nightwing is Batman or why the X-Men are living on an island off the coast on San Francisco.
Yet it always seems to be a huge issues for comic fans, which could be considered odd being that fans nerdy enough to complain about the matter on the internet are already well-invested in their fandom. Tangent aside, Marvel has decided to create a string of jumping-on points in some of their big franchises with their “Point One” line. Rather than using one-shots or other means, Marvel is instead giving the likes of Spider-Man, Iron Man and others .1 issues. But that’s not saying there will be Spider-Man #.1, like when Marvel had its ill-received run of -1 “origin” issues a decade ago. Instead, these will be issues sitting between two issues of the series. Amazing Spider-Man #654.1 will take place between ASM #654 and #655.
Of course, being the cynical blog writer I am, I question the logic of this move. For one, it doesn’t seem like all of the Point One books will be starting new storylines in their new books. From interviews I’ve seen, it seems like some of them won’t even be by the book’s regular creative teams (though I don’t know enough to confirm nor deny that claim). That means that in between two issues of a storyline, you’ll be getting a book that “matters” without actually really mattering if you already know what’s going on with the book. And for us completists out there, it’s a real awkward thing to have a .1 issue sitting between two other issues, but I suppose that’s just nitpicking on my part.
But the Point One gimmick also seems like it has great potential to confuse readers into skipping the book. Over the past few years, various printings of big issues tend to have gimmicks included with them in an attempt to get regular readers to buy a second copy of the book. Usually labelled as “Directors Cuts” (to appeal to DVD aficionados), these issues don’t actually add any content to the story, but usually contain artist sketches, interviews, and maybe a reprint from a tie-in issue. The price is upped a dollar or two and seen as a “must-have for any fan”, as clearly labelled on the cover. To me, Iron Man #500.1 doesn’t seem like a new issue, but rather one of these “special edition” variants of Iron Man #500. Had I not kept up with comic book news and solicitations, I would never have guessed the difference, and I’m really not one to go flipping through comics in the shop at random (which is why I own a copy of X-Force: Sex and Violence #3).
But perhaps my biggest problem with this whole thing mirrors my problem with “jumping-on points” all together. The mainstream field of comic books is not new-reader friendly, and claiming that someone not familiar with them can hop on with a new story is unrealistic. Sure, a fan might know Tony Stark’s origin from the movie, but in comics, that happened over 40 years ago. 500 issues have taken place since then. One single issue, specially marked or not, will not let a new reader get into the mess without feeling overwhelmed. Marvel tried to fix that with its Ultimate line, but allowed Jeph Loeb to completely rip that to shreds with Ultimatum, and now that line is just as confusing (or more so in some cases) as the main one. Someone will not be enticed to jump into the comics because of a special “.1” issue, especially if it takes place in the middle of a story in the main book.
11 titles will be getting the Point One treatment (two with Deadpool in them) between February and April. I suppose I will wait until then and see if my thoughts are justified or simply wrong. Only two of my usual reads will be there (Uncanny X-Men and Uncanny X-Force). If nothing else, it will give me a chance to remember when my comics only cost $2.99.