Wednesday, 4 November 2009

70 Years of Marvel - 1997

C'mon now, did you really think I was going to spotlight any other book?

The 90s were not a golden decade for Marvel, but there was the occasional highlight, and none more than the introduction of the Thunderbolts. With apologies for spoilering 12 year old book, Kurt Busiek's concept of having Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil pose as superheroes in order to take over the world was pretty damn cool. But the idea that, having pulled off the initial deception, some of these long-standing bad guys (Goliath, Screaming Mimi and the Beetle) might decide that they actually quite like the respect that they're receiving, and might decide not to go through with the whole going bad and inevitably getting their heads handed to them element of the scheme, now that was genius.

In a time when there was a noticable decline in the quality of most of Marvel's product, Thunderbolts stood head and shoulders above the rest. For years, the original team trod the line between heroism, opportunism, and villainy, being at times, outlaws, acknowledged heroes and saviours of the world. Then Warren Ellis took over, and the whole concept of wannabe heroes was ditched, in favour of outright villains and psychopaths working for the government in return for a pardon. All well and good, but nothing we hadn't seen twenty years ago in Suicide Squad over at DC.

July '97 was notable for being Marvel's Flashback Month, in which Stan Lee (or a reasonable facsimile) showed up in pretty much every book, in order to introduce a tale from the past of the protagonists of the book: Daredevil's college days, Baron Zemo's childhood, Cable's first time-journey. A novel idea, but pretty much inconsequential in the long term,

1997 also saw Roger Stern and Ron Frenz return to Spider-Man, to give the definitive answer to the question: who is the Hobgoblin? The question had already been answered, a decade previously, but it had been an unsatisfactory conclusion, and Stern took advantage of the new, post-Clone Saga regime to write "his" ending to the mystery he'd started 15 years ago.

New blood was introduced to the X-Men, in the shape of Maggot, Cecelia Reyes and Marrow, all of whom were introduced during the latest X-Crossover, Operation Zero Tolerance. The first new members of the team introduced in nearly a decade, all three proved less than popular, and all three were gone from the team by the end of the millennium.

Outside of comics, New Labour swept to power on the UK in this year. A decade of national mourning was declared, following the ascension of Saint Diana, the People's Princess. And the world gasped at the majestic wonder that was Jim Cameron's Titanic. If any of this seems familiar, then I can only assume you are suffering from deja vu, and not that, for some reason, I looked up 1997 when writing the entry for 1996. Move along, move along.

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