Marvel Comics have announced what is clearly this year's summer event: Infinity Wars. Featuring an all-star cast including the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Thanos, and Loki, the timing of this particular event is no coincidence.
It's been clear for a while that Marvel Comics was building up to something. The current event is Infinity Countdown, a miniseries that's replaced most of Marvel's cosmic range for now. This story has seen the Infinity Stones brought into play, and has already revealed never-before-disclosed secrets of the Stones. But what were we counting down to?
In an official press release, Marvel revealed that the next summer event is Infinity Wars. Everything will kick off in July, with the release of Infinity Wars: Prime #1, by Gerry Duggan, Mike Deodato Jr., and Frank Martin. Marvel's keeping the plot under wraps for now, only releasing the briefest of descriptions:
"In INFINITY WARS: PRIME #1, the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe reap what they sow as their frantic search for the Infinity Stones leads to cosmic madness like never before. The simmering events of recent months spiral into something much, much bigger in this colossal story."
There's a strong sense in which this announcement was inevitable. Marvel's "Fresh Start" appears to involve a blend of two things: an appeal to nostalgia and an attempt to capitalize off the success of Hollywood blockbuster films. Recent months have seen Marvel run the Phoenix: Resurrection event (designed to tie into X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which has ironically been delayed), announce a Domino miniseries that's perfectly timed for the character's introduction in Deadpool 2, and restore Eddie Brock as the star of Venom. Given the sheer scale of Infinity War, Marvel's Infinity Wars event is no surprise.
There are two problems with this strategy. The first is that, however well the books may sell, fans are actually getting fed up of events. Last year, poor sales led Marvel to hold their first Retailer Summit of the millennium. There, ICV2 reported Marvel promised retailers they had no events planned for the next 12-18 months. That assurance hasn't dated well. Marvel is currently running Avengers: No Surrender and Infinity Countdown, both of which are essentially events in their own right. Infinity Wars is just the next event.
Meanwhile, there's actually scant evidence that comic sales increase after a film's release. The whole strategy - the idea of tying in comic book developments to capitalize on the movies - is thoroughly questionable. For all that's the case, though, Infinity Wars may well be an exception. The Infinity War movie is the 10-year anniversary of the MCU, and is one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year. It may well be a special case, especially if Marvel have a strong marketing strategy behind it. Marvel have promised more information at C2E2 in April.
For now, though, one thing is clear: the clock is ticking down to the next Marvel event.