The Watchtower
Butch Cassidy and the Watchtower Kid
The Watchtower is a weekly column, commenting on the biggest and strangest comic news and rumors of the week. Each column will include noteworthy books scheduled for release that same week. As always comments and discussion are welcome. Until I think of something better, news items will be titled by HORRIBLE puns and word play.

Family Matters

So a few weeks back Marvel announced that one of my favorite titles, Jeff Parker, Declan Shalvey, and Kev Walker's Thunderbolts would be retitled as Dark Avengers. This news wasn't quite the huge blow it might have been under other circumstances, Parker has assured fans that everything else about the title is staying the same, a few characters will be added to the title but everything I love about it will still be there.

But this got me thinking and after a little bit of catalogue perusing I discovered that come Summer, Marvel will only be publishing three non X or Avenger affiliated team books: Fantastic Four, FF, and The Defenders.

The total count of Avengers titles will be brought to six: Avengers, New Avengers, Avengers Assemble, Secret Avengers, Avengers Academy, and Dark Avengers, and that's not even counting the solo books and mini-series that would fall under that umbrella.

On the X side of things we have a whopping 9 team books: Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, New Mutants, X-Treme X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men, X-Men Legacy, Uncanny X-Force, Astonishing X-Men, and X-Factor, again not counting various solo series and minis.

It seems "family" grouping is becoming more and more prevalent at Marvel, with small groupings of titles springing up around all of their major characters. There is now a Spider-Man family of titles, a Hulk family of titles, and a Captain America family of titles to name a few. It's a smart business move on Marvel's part, if a particular title is doing well, spin off characters or create books that tell a story closely connected to the headliner. And while I don't think any of the books require readers to buy an entire family to receive the story, you definitely receive a more full narrative if you do.

I see three potential problems with this increasing focus on building up families of titles. The first, is a return to the 90s where every story was a multipart crossover between titles, leading to a disjointed, expensive reading experience. The second, is that in an effort to promote titles tied to their flagship characters, other characters definitely fall through the cracks and the diversity of the whole line suffers. Venom and Kaine (now the Scarlet Spider) both have their own books, but where is the title featuring Cloak & Dagger, or Werewolf By Night, or Nova, or the Runaways? Finally, in a never ending, cyclical storytelling medium like comics, there is always a necessity to keep the stories fresh. Multiple titles per family means that the same kinds of stories and themes will be cycled through at an increased rate and could lead to fans becoming exhausted or jaded if the same kind of stories begin to repeat across titles. Likewise, what happens in 5 years to the guy who takes over Uncanny X-Men looking for a fresh angle when nine ongoing x-titles precipitates that 45 years worth of X stories would have been published in 5 years.

What do you think? Do you see the issues I've highlighted here becoming problems? Are there any I've missed? Do you approve or disapprove of family building? Do you buy whole families or just the titles you like best? I'd love to know, comments are welcome!

That's it for this week. Check out these titles in stores tomorrow:
All Star Western #8
Aquaman #8
American Vampire #26
I Vampire #8
Justice League Dark #8
Flash #8
Captain America #10
Daredevil #11
Mighty Thor #12
Moon Knight #12
Secret Avengers #26
Ultimate Comics Ultimates #9
Uncanny X-Men #11
X-Men Legacy #265
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