Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by What If???

Some weeks, this column is a random mishmash of all things comics. Others, it has a particular lean. This is one of those, as a much greater focus in my ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics is on Marvel and DC, particularly the former. That’s just how it works sometimes, though!

1. What If…What if Came Back?

Usually, the prospect of a story about Spider-Man becoming Venom would be a massive turnoff for me. I generally don’t care about Venom, unless he’s in a lobster display in a restaurant beheading said creatures with his teeth while also being played by Tom Hardy. So the idea of that story being told is not inherently intriguing.

That’s why positioning is important. If that was an Amazing Spider-Man arc, no thank you. But as a What If…? story? Well, now we’re talking. That’s what’s coming in April, as writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Pasqual Ferry are teaming up for Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow, a mini-series set in an alternate universe, effectively, what if Spider-Man became Venom?

There’s a lot to like about this. Zdarsky’s obviously a perfect fit, given that he tackled Spider-Man: Life Story before, and it also fits him given how he previously talked on Off Panel about how he wanted to tell stories with a beginning, middle, and end. This is a perfect opportunity for him to do just that, as it’s out-of-continuity and on an island of its own. Ferry is someone whose work I enjoy and honestly cannot remember seeing draw and comic in forever, so that’s a nice treat, especially with Matt Hollingsworth’s colors grounding him.

But there are two things I love even more than all of that. First, Chip saying he’s “kicking off a new era” for What If, the greatest words in Marvel’s version of the English language. This isn’t just a one-time thing. This is something they seemingly will be doing going forward, and I am extremely here for it. The possibilities are legit endless, especially if they’re minis instead of one-shots.

Second is the positioning of this idea. What’s missing from the title itself? “What If…?” This isn’t a What If series, something that for many readers suggests it’s a secondary or even somewhat gag book. Marvel is saying, subconsciously, this counts, even if it isn’t in continuity. I think that’s smart, because as much as I love What If…? as an idea and in execution, it always felt like it had a ceiling on its broader potential because of that identity. This opens doors for them and sets this up as a line of evergreen stories about characters people love. One might even say it repositions it as an Elseworlds/Black Label-type line for the House of Ideas, which, in my opinion, is a very good idea! They’ve always needed that. I hope that’s what this is. There’s a lot of room for this kind of thing. Good job by all if that’s the case here.

2. DC Universe Infinite, Here Now

DC Universe Infinite, DC’s official for real real subscription app that mirrors Marvel Unlimited, is now live. It launched this week, and so far…I know nothing about it. But I do know it’s 25,000 comics for $7.99 a month or $74.99 a year, comics arrive on the app six months after release, and that the publisher intends to deliver original content straight to the app. I just haven’t used the app yet, and I plan to for a piece next week on a broader subject that’s been on my mind lately.

But this is a big moment, because in the previous iteration of this app – DC Universe – comics were a secondary element. Now they’re the primary. Will the experience improve with that greater focus? I hope so! It was clunky as heck before, clearly reflecting the app’s inclusion of comics almost as a lark more than an actual deliberate experience. Still, if you’ve been waiting for that new hot thing from DC, it’s here. Let me know what you think if you do sign up, because I’m curious as to people’s impressions.

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