Continuity: Does it Exist in Modern Comics?

12/19/2011 03:40 pm ET | Updated Feb 18, 2012

Taken with a sense of disbelief, superheroes live in a world of constant danger. A day off is always just out of reach. Even a day at the beach brings up bad memories of a Sandman/Hydroman team-up. Frank Castle learned the hard way not to go on a family picnic. And the Waynes couldn't even enjoy a quiet night at the theater. So fans are expected to believe that every day is a battle for our heroes.

Ok, sure, I'll buy that. I'll believe that there's no rest for those that fight the wicked. But if 'The Big Two' want to really sell it, they have to plan better in their printing schedules.

Marvel has THREE big events going on right now, and no, they do not all take place at the same time over in Universe 616. You have the major "Fear Itself" story branching out into nearly every comic The House of Ideas puts out. With a (almost) countless number of tie-in series, it's impossible to keep track of all the storylines taking place. It's a nice idea to show that something as big as this can affect the entire planet and all of its heroes, but is this really a good time to introduce new characters? I'm looking at you, The Forgiven.

Then there's Spider-Island (which the writer originally wanted to call 'Spider-MANhattan,' no, for real). It gives everyone in New York spider powers. And it's being run right alongside Fear Itself, with its own multiple set of tie-in miniseries and one shots. So while all three teams of Avengers are fighting the forgotten Norse God of Fear, Captain America is also a giant spider helping some (also) long forgotten spider queen? Where are the X-Men when you really need them?!

Oh wait! They're in Manhattan! No! They're fighting back an avatar of the God of Fear in California. Wait, wait, wait! They're fighting each other over in Utopia because Wolverine is the best at what he does and what he does is get overly emotional when someone else kills to save a life. And don't get me started on the villains, a group of über genius children that killed off and replaced the Hellfire Club. Really? Because, I guess, Changeling was too busy with his Great Lake Avengers try-out.

So the entire Marvel Universe has to deal with a pissed off God, Spider-Man has to deal with roughly 7 million other spider-people and the X-Men have to deal with each other. Sure, I'll buy that it's all happening at the same time. I'll even buy Wolverine wanting to run a school (I'm actually really looking forward to that), but come on guys, Avengers Tower fell in one issue, then two issues later it's back up about to be attacked? Maybe I'm just nitpicking, but that doesn't seem right.

Not everything Marvel is a continuity mess though. Their Ultimate line is pretty well organized. But it's a lot easier to maintain four titles than it is the sixty-something their 616 counterparts put out monthly.

Ultimate Marvel has always been kept in a tight line. The few times an error has been made, they've managed to address it in later issues and make sense of it. What Jonathan Hickman is doing with the main Ultimate title (cleverly titled "Ultimates") is really showing how a world with superhumans would run. It's pretty darn impressive.

And over in DC Land, continuity has been wiped clean. Well except for Batman. And Green Lantern. And Swamp Thing. And (most of) Batgirl. DC really hit the ol' reset button on us.

Although there was no Crisis (nope, none of them ever happened), Batman still died and Dick Grayson still took his place under the cowl. They haven't explained that away yet, but they're barely two issues in. So we'll see what happens there. The artwork in Batman makes it look like Nightwing is 15, Tim Drake (Red Robin) is about 12, and Damien (Robin) is about 7. So I'm not sure if Tim should be on a team called Teen Titans.

Green Lantern is pretty much picking up where the last series left off. It shows no sign of change. If you're looking for something brand new and direction changing, this isn't the book for you. This isn't even one of the industries famous 'jumping on points.' Not that there's anything wrong with that (you know you heard Jerry Seinfeld's voice there, too). Green Lantern is still a book worthy of a monthly subscription. It's still going to one of the best titles DC puts out as long as Geoff Johns is writing it.

Batgirl seems to reduce the amount of time Barbara Gordon spent in a wheelchair. Real time it was about 22 years, and comic time is was 3. Granted, Comic time isn't as... consistent, as real time, but still. Look at everything she's done as Oracle and it's obvious that a lot of stuff was cut out. Gail Simone is a fantastic writer with plenty of long term goals, so she just may be the best person to handle Babs. And a red head writing a red head can't be too bad.

Green Arrow is back to being super young and super rich. His onetime side kick -- then Speedy now Arsenal -- is still roughly Nightwing's age (mid twenties) and is Outlawing it with Red Hood (who may or may not have died at some point).

Speaking of Red Hood's Outlaws, Starfire is no longer the hothead that fought to protect WonderGirl's right to be a Titan. Now she's a Fembot. She just sleeps with whoever is around and forgets about it in a few minutes. Way to ruin a strong female character, DC.

Continuity is somewhat of a joke in the comic realm. You can't expect all of the stories to make sense. After all, these companies have been in business for well over sixty years. But would it kill an editor to add a little -- *this takes place before issue whatever -- on the first page? At least let us know the reading order before hand. And sure, I get that you don't want to ruin the ending of another story by either having or not having a character in this story, but trying to figure out how Captain America could be fighting a God in Oklahoma and a spider queen in New York is very, very confusing.