last year to year-and-a-half, Marvel's released a pretty
straight chain of Events, akin to Batman's whole Contagion,
Cataclysm, and No Man's Land triptych. For better or for
worse, the tie-in of the moment has been pretty clear at
the House of Ideas; same goes for DC, I suppose, what with
Identity Crisis, Countdown, the four mini-series,
Infinite Crisis, and "One Year Later."
in the case of Marvel, you get the sense that these tie-in
Events are intrusions -- that they're derailing the storylines
each creative team had planned, perhaps. In some cases,
the books are ignoring things completely...and for good
reason! I'd hate Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men
or Ed Brubaker's Captain America "Winter Soldier"
storyline to have been interrupted by House of M
or some other such nonsense: Ooo, an alternate reality Bucky!
DC's universe-wide story (heh, with the exception of Vertigo...and
of Grant Morrison -- they can do whatever the hell they
like), there's a far greater sense of cohesion. Now, that
could also be interpreted as a greater sense of obsession,
too, I suppose; a DCU reader might legitimately want to
enjoy an urban, gritty Nightwing adventure without having
to get sucked in to the intricacies of Alexander Luthor's
master plot to reshape the universe.
that reader is faced with the option to like it or lump
it: Read on and perhaps get caught up in the Infinite
Crisis fervor (the likely choice) or dump the title
and pick up, say, Captain America separate of all
Marvel's own cross-over nonsense (the unlikely choice).
If DC's in the midst of a big, totalitarian storytelling
era, why isn't Marvel responding with a slate of independent,
freestanding stories of its own? DC's China, and, instead
of trying to be Australia, Marvel's kicking it Cuban style!
DC's thoroughness and pervasiveness with Infinite Crisis,
I'm surprised Marvel went with its own series of mini-events
rather than counter-programming: Why not keep all the titles
separate, thereby courting Infinite Crisis refugees?
Of course, Infinite Crisis, admittedly, has been
pretty well executed, so I don't know what percentage of
DC's readership would bolt because of it -- Still, though,
all of Marvel's big events and big revelations ("Gasp!
There's another Summers brother? Wolverine had a wife? Spider-Woman's
a spy?") are all dwarfed in comparison to the much
more impressive chess game DC is playing with its characters.
for my money, the return of the Sentry, Spider-Man moving
in to Avengers Tower, and the return of Bucky are the only
truly notable Marvel moments of the last year. However Marvel
wants to spin it, these truly have been "mini-events"
as compared to the master plan (and masterful marketing)
of DC's Infinite sweep. Invasion or Genesis
yet, it doesn't look like it's going to get any better.
Of course, there's already a long tradition in having all
the Spider-Man titles intertwine as well as all the X-Men
books intermesh. (Though surprisingly not Astonishing
X-Men, which, tellingly, may be the best of the lot.)
now, instead of continuing with the aforementioned New Avengers-to-House
of M-to-"Decimation" chain of Events, Marvel is
breaking into a slate of true mini-events all across its
publishing line! Annihilation, "Planet Hulk,"
and Civil War, to name just three. Why are they
embracing a plan that seems to purposefully make them appear
second-rate to DC? Are they just playing for scraps? (Shades
of the hasty Identity Disc in the face of DC's
stronger Identity Crisis, my friends.)
fairness, perhaps the problem isn't Marvel. Maybe their
marketing and promotion is the problem: Is DC's Infinite
Crisis ramp-up and impact just getting bigger, better
play in the media? Or, maybe Marvel does have a master plan
to connect all these disparate storylines -- having the
Winter Soldier appear instantly in Wolverine's backstory
was pretty good -- and they're just not trumpeting it as
loudly as 52. And maybe these mini-events will, in fact,
be both very satisfying and very digestable, especially
when compared to the massive plate of "One Year Later."
But I'm skeptical.
The overall storytelling and implementation of all Infinite's
branches has, in my opinion, been superb; with the exception
of "No more mutants," Marvel's been continually
playing catch-up. Which is a shame. Really, Marvel has as
much talent with their art and storytelling as DC's posse
-- If only they'd stop playing defense, stop arranging what
seem to be reactionary events, and break off in their own
Marvel give us something new?