For those of you who don’t know: I organise a community reading group called Cornwall Graphic Novel Group . We try to meet-up once a month to discuss a particular comic book series, graphic novel, character, writer or artist. After a month hiatus, we were back to discuss the character’s behind the summer’s biggest film: Guardians of the Galaxy and the Marvel comics it had evolved out of… only the conversation took a different turn.

Lack of background

We’d only managed to get our hands on the recent Marvel NOW! comics for the characters, which is where we thought we’d all find out some key aspects behind them. After all, part of the point of NOW! was to help introduce long standing Marvel characters to newer readers. Not so in what we read. Star-Lord got a decent piece of exposition to his background, though it was still heavily limited and didn’t explain how he made the jump from NASA spaceman to galactic spaceman. The lack of characterisation for just about everyone else was kind of frustrating, considering that anyone who would have felt enticed to read the more recent comics in light of the film would have found them more than just a bit impenetrable.

As no one had managed to bring in any older issues of the franchise, we were all pretty much in the dark about what was going on beyond Marvel NOW! and the recent film. We decided it wasn’t a bad franchise, but there was one huge problem with it, which is gripping a lot of mainstream comics at the moment. And I’ve written about it on here before…

Cornwall-Graphic-Novel-Group-August-2014-v2-smallThe stranglehold of continuity

I’ll admit, almost every time we cover a comic series from one of the big two, this crops up. The way the character’s pasts are reflected haphazardly in the present, with no real way for new readers to decipher what has come before. I wondered out loud during the meeting the possibility of Marvel putting together timelines for its various characters. This was met with hysterical laughter and I realised it would never happen, because then readers would realise that almost all of the previous stories are pointless, because of the ability to retcon stuff.

But if the pasts of characters weren’t making much sense, the present weren’t much either. The way the opening Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel NOW! issues had been put together meant there was very little narrative logic at play: it was difficult to understand why anyone was in the boats they kept landing in: and there were a lot of boats. About the only thing this opening ten issues managed to convey was that Star-Lord’s dad is an absolute utter arse. And then when we considered Gamora’s background too, it was like the whole series was turning into the “daddy issues” collection.

Ah, but did we have fun?

There’s a big difference at the moment between what’s happening on screen in the Marvel Avengerverse and what’s happening in its panels and pages at the moment. Whereas the films and the one TV show have tried to appeal to as wide an audience as they can without appearing to be too brain dead, the comics have just kept up with being rather exclusive in the plots it uses, giving new readers very few ins. About the only series that’s done a good job of making itself accessible to new readers is the new Ms. Marvel comics.

I had a lot of fun when I watched the film of Guardians of the Galaxy, but not so when I read the recent comics. While not everyone at the meeting felt like this with GG in particular, there is a feeling of continuity fatigue at the moment and that maybe some newer writers need to be brought in to shake things up a bit more.

The next Cornwall Graphic Novel Group meeting will be on Saturday 27 September. We’ll be talking about our favourite comics series (it’s a kind of “bring your own comic” month). You can keep up to date with all of the latest group news on our website.