Welcome, friends, to an all-new Everything But Imaginary. Today I’m talking all about Wizard World New Orleans — the stuff I loved, the stuff I hope to see improved next year. Take it all in…
And in this week’s classic column, we’re going back to August 11, 2004, when I took a look at what today we’d call a “mini-event,” the sort of crossover where only a group of related comics are involved, instead of every damn book in the line. I dug those then. I still do.
Classic Everything But Imaginary #75: Crossing Over With Blake Petit
Today, friends, we’re going to take a little time to commune with the spirits of the dead in comic book land. To join me on this deep, spiritual quest, I’ve invited some special guests. With me today is Eric Lenscherr, alias Magneto… huh? What do you mean he’s not dead anymore? Dang. Okay then, allow me to present Rex Mason, Metamorpho. Huh? Geez. Okay, I know, Hal Jor–
Aw, cripes in a handbasket.
Okay, forget the spirits of the dead thing. But since I already put “Crossing Over” as the title, let’s talk a little more about crossovers. Not the inter-company kind, but the intra-family kind, those that affect a group of related titles for a period of time. Now we’ve talked about this phenomenon before, but I think the time is ripe to peek in on it again because, for the first time in quite a while, both of the Big Two comic companies are doing such crossovers at once. Also because I couldn’t think of any other topic this week.
Every so often, the folks responsible for those four-color flights of fancy decide to group together a series of related titles with a single storyline, and that’s what’s happening right now. A lot of readers, understandably, are irritated by this. They feel like it is a marketing gimmick that will force them to purchase titles they don’t ordinarily read in order to get the full story.
I can certainly understand that mindset, and see why the fans of the Batman universe may feel that way right now. Last week DC Comics began a storyline called “War Games” which promises to link all of the various bat-titles over the next three months. They even went so far (as they have done in the past) as to launch the storyline with the uber-cool, uber-cheap one-shot, Batman: The 12-Cent Adventure.
For those of you who don’t read all of the titles, this one shot served both as a prologue to the story and as a primer on the Batman universe. It ran down the big bat himself, the various Robins and most of the satellite characters, all through the eyes of the Spoiler, who took over as Robin after Tim Drake quit, but got fired herself in only three issues (which I’m fairly certain is a new sidekick record).
Spoiler witnessed all of the top mob bosses of Gotham City come together on the invitation of a mysterious letter-writer, only to have the whole meeting go haywire. Tempers flared, bullets flew and a lot of the upper echelon of Gotham’s underworld ended up dead. With the mob bosses wiped out, their mobs went to war together, a war that is engulfing the city, and that Batman and his team have to put down.
Based on last week’s and this week’s issues, the prologue and first three chapters, DC has planned this well. Each title, while advancing the overall plot, is keeping its own distinct feel. Detective Comics #787 was a pretty strategic-minded book, for instance, and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #182 actually tracked the efforts of the vigilante named Orpheus as he worked with Batman to keep things under control. Best of all was Nightwing #96, which managed to incorporate its own current storyline about the title hero’s uneasy relationship with Tarantula and his guilt over allowing her to kill the mobster called Blockbuster. Writer Devin Grayson perfectly balanced Nightwing’s guilt and fears with his efforts to solve the mystery of who called the various mob bosses together in the first place.
“War Games” is going to be the biggest bat-family crossover in years, touching some ten different series over three month’s time. People who only read one or two books that will be affected may get mad because they’re essentially being forced to read a chapter of a story they don’t want to read — either that or miss an issue of a title they do want to read.
Then there’s always the fear that the crossover story itself won’t be any good. I’ve experienced that myself. But I’ve always found the Batman editorial team one of the best in the business when it comes to putting together a crossover storyline that satisfies the reader in the end, if they’re willing to stick it out. And I, for one, am willing.
Over on the Marvel side of the aisle, there’s another big crossover a-brewing, although this one isn’t nearly as tight as “War Games.” Several Avengers-related titles are currently being grouped together under the banner of “Avengers Disassembled.” What makes this different from “War Games,” though, is that while each chapter of the Batman story seems to advance the plot as a whole, “Disassembled” seems more like a group of thematically-linked stories that, so far, have no real connecting force.
In the core title, Avengers, tragedy has struck. The team has come under attack from within. Heroes are dying. Their headquarters is being destroyed. And they have no idea who is behind it or what the real threat may be. Only one chapter of this storyline is out so far, in the form of Avengers #500, but it was a good one.
As we all know, because it is impossible to keep a secret from the comic-book reading public anymore, the point of this storyline is that entire Avengers team is going to fall apart and lots of new members will come on-board in an effort to duplicate the “big guns” approach DC comics has with its JLA series. (In other words, they’re putting the strongest, most popular and most recognizable characters they have all together in one book, fueling the rumor that Wolverine is going to join the team, despite the fact that he already appears in 17,421.92 comic books a month.)
However, there are six other titles carrying “Avengers Disassembled” banners, but none of them really seem to link to the main storyline at all. Instead, each of these titles has a connected sense of doom, of things going to hell in a handbasket and of heroes being forced to face their darkest hour. Iron Man is facing the devastation of his company, Stark Enterprises. Thor has finally reached Ragnarok, the destruction of the Norse gods as foretold in mythology.
Captain America has it the worst — in his own title he has reconnected with his old girlfriend Diamondback, unaware that she is now working for the Red Skull. In Captain America and the Falcon, his partner is on the run accused of crimes and he’s hitting on his old teammate the Scarlet Witch for some reason. Even in Spectacular Spider-Man, an old enemy of his has done something to the wall-crawler and is slowly turning him into a spider.
Spectacular Spider-Man is one of the more confusing books linked to “Disassembled” — unlike the other characters I’ve listed, Spidey isn’t an Avenger. At least, not now. But he has been in the past and rumor has it that he’s going to be part of the new team once the dust from “Disassembled” settles.
The other confusing book that’s linked is Fantastic Four — no members of the FF are currently Avengers, nor are they rumored to be joining the new team. However, it’s not really that much of a stretch when you think about it. The FF and the Avengers have been friends for years, three out of the four members of the team have been Avengers at some point or another (all of these points, I should point out, occurred in the 80s)… heck, they even lived at Avengers Mansion for a time after the original Baxter Building was destroyed. So it’s not too hard to imagine they’re concerned about their buddies.
As much as people complain about the “Disassembled” crossovers, though, they’re missing what seems to be a key point. Each of the titles is telling its own self-contained story, none of which (so far at least) seem to connect. So if you don’t want to read one title or another… don’t.
I’m a fan of the crossover, when it’s done well. Too often it is done poorly, I’ll admit, but we try to dwell on the positive here. There’s a lot of stuff to choose from in the comic world right now, and if big, epic storylines are what you’re into, now is a good time for that, too.
FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: August 4, 2004
Ah, this is actually what I was referring to with the “Crossing Over” title. Yeah. (Cough.) Anyway, in a week of solid books (Y: The Last Man #25, Majestic #1 and Batman: The 12-Cent Adventure were all solid contenders), the comic that brought me the most sheer enjoyment was PVP #8. Skull the troll wins tickets to see “paranormalist” John Edward live, and Brent goes along to debunk the mystic. That was cool, but I was even more entertained by the second story in the book, that of Skull’s first date. The big doofy lug reminds me of myself. I’ve got to love it.
Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.