“Yeah, most of my comics money goes to Image, Boom, or Valiant these days,” the Hero of Time told me. We were walking around Big Pete’s Comics on Free Comic Book Day, looking for new titles to read. He was steering clear of everything Marvel or DC.
“But you love Spider-Man,” I said.
“I do.” He paused to look at Tech Jacket, grabbing both available trades, and then nabbed Hexed. “Do you remember the last good Spider-Man comic? Before Edge of Spider-verse, I mean?”
“Exactly,” he said, walking to the registers while counting his rupees. He paused, taking a moment to consider a Thief of Thieves trade. “I’ll stick with the cartoons.”
“What about Spider-Gwen?”
“I’m sure she’s great,” he said. “It’s a cool concept. Thing is, sooner or later she’s going to get roped into another crossover, and if I want to understand what’s going on in her book I’ll need to pick up fifteen billion others. No, thank you. I’ll stick with Boom and Image, who keep their damn stories in single books so I don’t have to a buy a gazillion books I don’t want to follow what’s happening in the books I do want.”
“Valiant has crossovers.”
“Yeah, but Valiant limits their crossovers to their own independent titles, mostly. And it’s not like I’m not reading most of Valiant already,” he stopped, grinning at a couple cosplaying himself and Midna. “Hey, aren’t Marvel and DC about to reboot everything again, anyway? So, it’s not like any of their shit matters, so why do I care?”
This conversation clarified something I’d been thinking for a while.
Any amount of time spent with either the weekly God of Comics reviews or the twitter feed know that I’m not a big fan of what I typically call “Big Dumb Event Comics.” I loathe them, in their frequency, stupidity, cash-grabbiness, and lack of in-world consequence.
Let me explain.
We are barely four months into 2015, and here’s a list of the events that have happened from the beginning of January to the end of March so far this year, just off the top of my head: Spiderverse, Time Run Out, Black Vortex, Secret Wars, Convergence, and Future’s End.
Each one of those stories goes through multiple different comics, some of which I read and some of which I don’t – but if I want to understand what’s going on in, say, Guardians of the Galaxy, I’m now forced to pick up every other comic in the Black Vortex event, which includes Captain Marvel, All-New X-Men, Nova, Guardians Team-Up, and others – including a couple of books that have been made especially for this event.
I then have to figure out what order to read them in and Marvel has to make sure that the get published on time – something they’re much better at than they were (hi, Civil War), or, say, DC Comics (I’m looking at you, Forever Evil). If something is delayed, doesn’t ship, or whatever, I have to hold off on reading the comic I enjoy to wait for the comic(s) I don’t care about to understand what’s happening, and even then I may or may not enjoy the result as the things I love are interrupted by things I really don’t.
This doesn’t make me want to pick up more comics as much as it makes me resent the extra comics I now have to pick up just to enjoy the comics I like. Publishers like to think that we, as readers, will choose to pick up everything in the crossover to understand what’s happening, and we might the first few times.
It gets old, though. It gets old fast, and we end up with angry fans like the Hero of Time turning away from characters they love and getting their fix either through old trades or cartoons. The Hero watches and loves Ultimate Spider-Man and Spectacular Spider-Man and can argue the character of Spider-Man from one incarnation to the next, but he doesn’t read those comics anymore.
“Civil War came close to killing the character for me,” the Hero says, sighing. “One More Day was the final nail in the coffin. I tried to keep going afterward, but…”
“It’s okay,” I tell him. “Marvel is planning to retcon One More Day out of existence.”
“Let me guess,” he says, his eyes narrowing. “There’s going to be another fucking crossover explaining how, with fifty tie-ins that will muddle everything down to where nothing makes any sense at all. I solve dungeons for a living, and the freaking Water Temple made more sense than any of this bullshit.”
Unlike him, I’m willing to swallow the frustration and deal with events as a once in a while thing, but even I’m getting irritated by the way these crossovers happen all the damn time.
“Here, man,” the Hero of Time says. “Read Hexed, or Birthright, or Tech Jacket. Check out Daymen. Stop bothering with all this crossover bullshit. It’s impossible to keep track of and way too goddamn expensive. Speaking of which…” He wandered over and smashed a pot, collecting the rupees inside while flashing me a grin.
It amazes me, how he can do that and get away with it. He suffers from as few consequences as anyone of the characters in a crossover do.
What do I mean? Well, take a look at Civil War, where everything was supposed to change forever ™. Civil War is a terrible story that writes a whole whack of characters out-of-context, makes certain heroic characters out-and-out villains, makes no internal sense, and no one suffers anything permanent from it. It changes nothing.
The only lingering effect of Civil War is that comic-readers still think Iron Man is a terrible person and, indirectly, Spider-Man suffered through One More Day. Beyond that, there’s been no change to the status quo other than this diseased canker of a story sitting in the timeline.
Bet you the movie does it better, and without branching off into other movies.
Compare and contrast this with, say, Valiant’s the Valiant crossover. The Valiant brought in characters from Archer & Armstrong, the Eternal Warrior, Ninjak, Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, and others – but the story happened only in the Valiant, and the effects of that story were felt in each book separately, without forcing readers to get any of those books to understand what was happening.
Better still, look at some of the epic stories happening elsewhere, entirely without crossovers – Thor, Loki, and Angela from Marvel, Batgirl and Catwoman and Gotham Academy from DC Comics, Birthright and and Daymen and Hexed and Lazarus and Wayward and Trees and the Woods and the Sixth Gun from the indie presses… the list goes on.
“This is the age of good comics outside the big two,” the Hero of Time says, and he would know. “And, hopefully, the last age of the Big Dumb Event, because I have better things to read and spend my money – nevermind my time – on. Let me know when there’s good stories without these dumb event things. Until that happens, my rupees are going mostly to Boom and Image and Valiant.”
It’s pretty much impossible to fault him for his decision.