Whether or not you can respect comic books as a genre or a literary form (and I know the camp of my readership is split on this issue), you've got to admit that there's a definite skill involved when it comes to the creative coordination in the major companies.
At any given time, you've got a staff of I-don't-know-how-many writers working on over forty different monthly (sometimes weekly) stories that all have to exist within the same continuity. In addition, each of these writers are bound by seventy years' worth of continuity within this particular universe, and if they plan on doing something that doesn't fit with what happened in 1983, they'd better have a dang creative way to make it fit! And while this inevitably leads to one deus ex machina after another, it still requires an attention to detail and knowledge of if not respect for the character's history. Add, on top of this, that these guys and gals are doing their best to make sure that their stories aren't in direct conflict with any of the other CURRENT story arcs going on, and often the writers cross-pollinate characters or settings or plot elements beyond just a casual cameo or guest star appearance. In essence, it's a form of communal storytelling where everyone is doing their own thing while simultaneously building up the unity of the microcosm at the same time.
Then, every couple of years ago, you get a massive crossover event that involves just about everybody except for Ghost Rider (the creative brain trust very wisely lets that guy do his own thing--though he did stop by New York to wrestle with the Hulk during WWH a few summers ago) and effectively changes the status quo for every single story arc under the umbrella of that company's stable of characters. And while the main story of the crossover is handled by one writing team, virtually every other books' teams meet to discuss how their stories are affected by the new status quo, and how their stories can enhance the central story, and how they can begin to plant seeds in the background of their own books that may or may not eventually blossom into the next universe-shifting massive collaboratory storyline.
I have trouble keeping a reign of my own story. I can't imagine the type of creativity and flexibility it requires to work in this sort of environment.
Here's where we're going with all of this: Marvel Comics' next big event, Siege, officially started today, as Siege #1 (of 4) hit the stores this morning. I bought mine and gave it a quick read, and it's a good, fun, unfortunately short read that promises to be the precursor to an epic throwdown between the forces of good and the forces of evil.
What's most awesome about Siege, though, (to me, anyway) is that it is the climax to about seven years of collective storytelling in the Marvel universe. Every major event of the past seven years (except perhaps World War Hulk) has lead, to some degree or other, to Siege. Things have pretty much been in disarray since the Avengers broke up after Thor "died," and from that moment storytellers at Marvel were planting seeds of events that would fracture the hero community, paving the way for a massive attack on the planet which opened the door for a very evil man to become the most powerful man on the planet. It's become one of those "always darkest just before dawn" sort of stories, and Siege is the event that's going to finally bring all of the good guys over to the same side again.
Originally, I wanted to outline this rolling, changing, progressing, massive story of the Marvel mythology of the past seven years...but then I found this link, which does a much better and funnier job of it. Seriously, go read it. It's funny. And informative. And accurate, and that's probably my favorite thing about it. For example, the extremely-complicated House of M storyline is summed up as follows:
"The Scarlet Witch came back in a big event called “House of M,” where she created an alternate reality where everyone was supposed to be happy, but wasn’t, and then it got shattered and she made it so there weren’t as many mutants. Also, Hawkeye was unexploded, then died again, then came back again."
And while it's missing a few details, that's pretty much what happened.
And sometimes, it's just far simpler not to go into detail:
"There was also a team of Young Avengers, including Ant-Man’s daughter and a new Vision who was stuck in a suit of Iron Man armor created and worn by a young Kang the Conqueror. It’s complicated."
Indeed it is.
Anyway, enjoy for yourself. If you've got any questions or need more details, ask me. If I don't know, I'll find it out for you.
Oh, and turn off your brain for half an hour or so and enjoy the latest issue of Siege. Ain't nothing wrong with some mindless fun from time to time. (Just like there ain't nothing wrong with the occasional double-negative that uses a word that isn't actually a word)