During a very curious lead-up several weeks ago, Marvel teased the heck out of two little letters, ‘MU.’ The publisher surprised fans by revealing the Monsters Unleashed! event. The announcement sent ripples throughout the fan base and hearkened back to the monster magazine craze of the '70s, including the publisher’s own monster movie spinoffs. Still, aside from the host of top names and creators attached to it, the full extent of the MU! was left to speculation.
After weeks of simmering, fans finally are getting a true taste of what’s to come, and how the latest cross-company happenings pertain to that other major MU.
According to EW, the Marvel Universe is about to face an invasion force of fiends. The latest major event comes from hot creator Cullen Bunn, and puts each new issue in the hands of at least one of the company’s star artists, including Steve McNiven, Leinil Yu, Adam Kubert, Salvador Larroca, and Greg Land. The company-wide crossover will pit our favorite superheroes against spine-chilling creatures big and small, but the key word here is definitely monster. Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso explained the premise behind Monsters Unleashed!:
“If there ever were a monster who stood 10 stories high or taller and created mayhem in the Marvel Universe over last several decades, they’re gonna be in the story.”
Apparently, this is the calamitous occurrence which brings our heroes back together after the brouhaha of Civil War II. Monsters Unleashed! will take place, for the most part, as its own standalone event, with a few key “tie-ins” – making it an easy entry for readers just looking to get in on the scary-fun action. Each of the five issues will ship bi-weekly, starting in January. Editor Mark Paniccia also chimed in on the objective of the latest series, which appears to be a Pacific Rim-like smash up but with superheroes. In addition, he invited fans to get in on the action:
“Our goal is to cram as many mammoth monsters of Marvel into Monsters Unleashed as will fit on the page. If you’ve got a personal favorite, chances are very good you’ll see them causing some mayhem in this series. And if you’re worried we’ll forget one, don’t be afraid to tweet at us @Marvel using the hashtag #MonstersUnleashed.”
When Marvel talks about throwing every creepy critter at their heroes, they seem to mean every last one. The promo includes loads of big nasties like Fin Fang Foom, Devil Dinosaur, and Werewolf by Night, among others. It even looks like Groot will get in on the action – current standing as a hero or otherwise. Speaking of do-gooders, it looks like the whole crew has turned up, including Captain Marvel, Medusa, Laura Kinney’s Wolverine, Sam Wilson’s Cap, Ms. Marvel, two Webheads, Totally Awesome Hulk, and of course Iron Man – even a few street level heroes like Luke Cage and Deadpool dropped in for good measure. Writer Cullen Bunn explains:
“It’s an all hands on deck situation. Imagine something like the Hulk, only much bigger. With the destructive force those creatures have, the heroes will have to mobilize much more quickly. The heroes find themselves very quickly in a situation where they have no downtime, they have no chance to take a breath. They’re moving constantly against what are essentially cataclysmic threats over and over again.”
Alonso also references the classic era of “Jack Kirby “Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and Herb Trimpe”, saying the issue will be a throwback for those nostalgic for or curious about the glory days of full-page splashes and practical effects-laden monster movie mags:
“All of these guys created incredible monsters that we remember from my childhood. They’re the equivalent of those Ray Harryhausen-type monsters, those rubber suits that thrill us. To see them coming back, and to take them seriously, it’s a lot of fun.”
After the chaos caused by Civil War II – which won’t finalize its run until the end of December – Monsters Unleashed! will be a fun, throwback-y way to bring the team, and the universe, back together. In addition to being an exciting crossover, though, Marvel’s next major event is also like a calculated attempt to bolster fan interest and sales. Over the last few months, DC’s Rebirth and their growing Extended Universe helped catapult them to the top of the sales charts, and pull in major bank. Titles like Harley Quinn #1 and All-Star Batman even pushed Marvel juggernaut Civil War II out of the top 10 entirely in August (only Amazing Spider-Man #16 made it in for Marvel). Their market share has fallen to 30 percent for the month, compared to DC’s 39 percent.
Of course, the Big Two companies have been sparring atop the comic book pyramid for decades. Marvel has been edging their way back into the charts, though, as events like the "Death of X," Spider-Man’s "Clone Conspiracy," and the relaunch of Marvel’s Champions hits big presales. Who takes top honors isn’t as vital to most fans as both companies’ strive to tell new, different, and most importantly, engaging stories. Fans are better off thanks to a little market pressure.
Monsters Unleashed! is slated to hit stores and online retailers in January 2017.