Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Marvel and Scott Pilgrim

In an interesting overlap, two of Marvel's latest releases feature references to Bryan Lee O'Malley's Oni hit-series "Scott Pilgrim". Both issues focus on teenage members of X-Men and Avengers, but otherwise lack any other sort of connection, both creatively and editorially.

First off, "Young Avengers" #12 features a direct reference to Scott Pilgrim, made by Loki, who has previously posed as a team member in his pre-teen incarnation. The scene is structured to cement the now-adult character as someone who is trying to appeal to his appeal to his teammates, with Wiccan deadpanning to remind him that they are no longer peers, even in appearance.

A creative interpretation could make the connection between Loki now modeled after his movie incarnation as the reason for the character going for a movie reference instead of the comic book original, but for all intents and purposes, the interplay serves to establish Scott Pilgrim as a series near and dear to the book's teenage cast. 

Under Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton, "Young Avengers" has stood out as stylish and urbane and is being marketed as a title in a similar vein to Marvel's "Hawkeye" (even sharing one of its main characters with the Fraction and Aja's co-protagonist). Seeing how Bryan Lee O'Malley created a memorable alternate cover to its first issue, the reference makes even more sense. 

On the other hand, "Uncanny X-Men" #14 is a new chapter in Brian Michael Bendis' saga, enfolding in two of the franchise's core titles. The Scott Pilgrim reference is much less literal, with the creators sneaking the name on the last panel, as a bogus identity of a new X-Men member Benjamin Deeds.

The character is using his shape-changing powers to gain access to a high security SHIELD facility and his using the name of Bryan Lee O'Malley's hipster protagonist to remind the reader of his youth. Seeing as how the name is only partially visible, the in-joke works as little more than an Easter egg.

It's interesting to note that both Bendis and Bachalo are middle aged creators known for their off-beat teenage series ("Ultimate Spider-Man", "Generation X", "Wolverine and the X-Men"). The Scott Pilgrim reference here is subtle and does not take the reader out of the comic, compared to the one made in "Young Avengers". "Uncanny X-Men" typically focuses on the older members of the team and is marketed to longtime X-Men fans, many of whom probably have only a passing familiarity with the Oni hit.

Thus it came to be that two very different books, featuring teenage versions of the company's most popular team-books happened to be issued the same week, calling back to O'Malley's teen classic, more than a couple of years after it reached the peek of its popularity. With the fans patiently awaiting "Seconds", the creator's follow-up to his breakout hit, Oni's latest effort concerns republishing the critically acclaimed series of graphic novels in color. Just two weeks ago, the publisher has released the new edition of the series' fourth volume which will hopefully finds its way in the hands of at least a portion of the audience interested in Marvel's teenage superheroes.

No comments: