In the comic book world, dead is rarely dead. In fact, the impermanence of death is one of the four color world’s biggest tropes (and jokes). Then there’s the question of what becomes of a popular character while they’re “deceased.” Sometimes, these superheroes are retired indefinitely. Other times, their good work is carried on by a legacy character – such as when Jane Foster hoisted Thor’s hammer or Kyle Rayner’s donned the Green Lantern ring. Generally speaking, swapping out superheroes can lead to some fan irritation and confusion, but it also allows writers to explore new angles and ideas for characters that have been running through the same paces for decades.
Sometimes, these legacy heroes even share the same title simultaneously, such as Captain Americas Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson. The latest announcement from Marvel suggests a unified world where heroes from different eras work together for the greater good – some of them, perhaps, even fighting from beyond the grave.
Recently, the House of Ideas released a jam-packed teaser for a mysterious event or series titled “Generations,” highlighted by a lush, painted promo by Alex Ross and featuring many of Marvel’s most dynamic legacies. So far, no creative teams have been announced, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Ross plays some sort of artistic role in "Generations." According to Marvel, the legacy-crammed event is tentatively scheduled to arrive during the “summer of 2017.” Take a closer look at the promo below:
The teaser shows off a whole host of Marvel's same-name heroes, including both Novas (Sam Alexander and Richard Rider), Thors (Thor and Jane Foster), Captain Americas (Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson), Iron Man and Ironheart (Riri Williams), Captain and Ms. Marvel, two Spider-Mans (Miles Morales and Peter Parker), Hulk (Amadeus Cho and Bruce Banner), as well as both Hawkeyes, Quasars, classic and time-displaced Jean Gray, and the iconic James Howlett Wolverine (along with Laura Kinney’s Wolverine). At this point, it’s unclear what exactly "Generations" entails, whether it's a massive crossover event, a new series, or merely a new direction such as “Divided We Fall” or Marvel NOW. The real question is: does the presence of currently deceased characters, such as Wolverine, Bruce Banner, and Jean Grey, indicate their return to life? Many of these characters have experienced an elongated period of repose, such as Wolverine, who’s been deceased since 2014, and Jean Grey, who's been effectively out of play since the late 2000s (aside from her younger, time-displaced self).
Legacy characters have a long history at major comic houses, with Marvel’s first major legacy being the Human Torch (Jim Hammond was “replaced” by Johnny Storm). At the same time, Marvel and DC have experienced some backlash due to replacing their characters, sometimes with more ethnically representative ones, in lieu of introducing new ones – a difficult feat under the best of circumstances. Marvel has also been dropping hints here and there, between the panels and in interviews, about another purpose for their legacies. “Generations” may begin to mend the greater generational divide, a rift that formed during Civil War II, when the younger Avengers broke from the team and formed the Champions?
“Generations” will also coincide, at least in part, with Marvel’s other major spring/summer event, “Secret Empire,” which includes a Hydra-loyal Steve Rogers infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. and the U.S. Government. It’s entirely likely that his actions will influence the whatever occurs in or around “Generations,” and will also likely be the driving force between Marvel's more chipper "United We Stand" efforts? Until Marvel reveals more about their mysterious promo, though, True Believers will have to speculate about all the burning possibilities.
"Generations" is scheduled to arrive in the summer of 2017.