No one is buying Marvel’s lineup of social justice-themed comics. It’s no surprise, given that few readers want politics to be forced down their throats. Thus liberal darling Ta-Nehisi Coates and Yona Harvey’s Black Panther & The Crew is getting the axe after poor sales, just two issues after its launch. Its cancellation comes just weeks after a Marvel VP revealed that comics with forced messages of “diversity” were responsible for the publisher’s sales slump.
Joined by Luke Cage, Manifold, Misty Knight, and Storm, the titular superhero who entered the limelight with Captain America: Civil War gathers his all-black crew of superheroes to investigate the death of a civil rights activist who died in police custody. It has echoes of Sandra Bland’s death.
Set in a near-future Harlem-turned-police state patrolled by robotic police officers controlled by a private security contractor, the comic has every element you’d expect from a comic attempting to tell a story inspired by Black Lives Matter. The cops beat people up for no reason, too.
Naturally, the social justice superheroes take justice into their own hands and go to battle against the corrupt system, while learning about the historical figures of the Civil Rights Movement. Univision-owned entertainment vertical Gizmodo enthusiastically describes The Crew as one that “[tells a] timely [story] about real world issues, like how police brutality devastates black communities.”
Coates explained to The Verge that Marvel decided to kill the publication due to poor sales, and that there wouldn’t be any continuation after the current story arc ends in its sixth and final issue. The market spoke, and Marvel listened.
Christopher Priest’s original run of The Crew in 2003 performed similarly poorly, and was canceled after just seven issues. Like Coates’ new effort, Priest’s run was also made up of non-white superheroes who took on gentrification in New York City.
Gizmodo writer Charles Pulliam-Moore takes issue with Marvel’s business decision, to opine how the publisher was cancelling the only mainstream comic featuring a “majority-black” (a misnomer) cast of characters. Describing it as a “bad look” for Marvel, the writer says the publisher should have considered “more thoughtful approaches” instead of cancelling the underperforming title.
Pulliam-Moore argues that the comic book industry “needs to change in order to sustain itself and cultivate new readers,” and insists that stories like The Crew “deserve to be told,” but offers no solution for “culturally relevant” comics that just don’t sell.
Given Marvel’s failed forays into “culturally relevant” storytelling, it’s clear that any attempts to cultivate a new audience shouldn’t come at the cost of alienating existing readers.
If there is any market at all for Black Panther & The Crew, it certainly isn’t with the social justice warriors who cry when their stories are canceled but refuse to spend any money on them.