According to Bleeding Cool, Marvel is intending to ship copies of Avengers vs. X-Men #1 to retailers planning to have a Tuesday Night Launch Party a week early to ensure that stores will definitely have copies on hand to sell during the parties (Rich says that they’ll be shipped March 20, which is (a) yesterday, and (b) two weeks early, not one; I presume he meant March 28). This isn’t the first early-shipping, keep-under-lock-and-key release in early memory; DC did the same week-before ship trick for Blackest Night #6, and had to deal with the same thing that Marvel is opening itself up to here: The comic leaked ahead of time.
Yes, both Marvel and Diamond are threatening “dire retribution” for any retailer who sells the book early, but that almost doesn’t matter; if you’re shipping the book early, it will leak. Whether it’s a digital version – actually, that doesn’t even have anything to do with print editions shipping, they’re still leaking early from somewhere – or someone reading a copy and posting spoilers online, Avengers vs. X-Men #1 will be leaked and spoiled by the time its “official” release date rolls around. It’s sad, but true.
Of course, this could be a calculated risk for Marvel. After all, the cost/benefit ratio of potential spoilers/every store having copies to sell at the right time is definitely in play here (and so it should be), but there’s also the added benefit – albeit one that I don’t think anyone involved would ever admit to – of spoilers and leaks adding to the hype for the book ahead of the release, especially considering (a) there’s not that much likely to be actually spoilable in a first issue, (b) more likely to spoiled is the quality, and early reviews/leaks along the lines of “It’s actually great, better than I’d expected” are only a good thing, and (c) the AR/Infinite Comics component isn’t something that can be leaked or spoiled ahead of time, thereby providing a big reason for fans to buy the book even if they happen to know all of the plot points ahead of time.
Early shipping is always a risk – Can Diamond police all of its stores so well that no copies are sold ahead of time? – but it seems to me that Marvel have managed to build in enough factors to ensure that any leaks could actually work in the book’s favor, if they happen. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.