Crisis on Infinite Earths was a significant event for DC’s universe, but its more enduring legacy might just be the very concept of an expansive, line-wide event. Not all crossover events need to be quite so large — DC has recently seemed more fond of events crossing into small handfuls of titles, and only for a few months at a time. Some of DC’s Vice Presidents may balk at the notion that they seem to like events, but with over a third of their titles recently involved in one of their five ongoing events (with more announced), they’ve become all but unavoidable for fans. We here at Retcon Punch are no exception, but are these events welcome? Welcome to the Chat Cave.
Drew: I’m sure I won’t be the first to suggest that this is a pretty broad prompt, nor the first to suggest that it really depends. As with individual issues or series, the quality of a crossover lives or dies by the talent involved. I hesitate to generalize the concept of events as “good” or “bad,” but I can say that I’m starting to feel a bit of event fatigue.
Part of the problem may be that these events often feel designed to bolster the sales of smaller titles, forcing fans of Green Lantern to pick up Red Lanterns just to understand what is going on with Rise of the Third Army. Some events (such as Night of the Owls) have avoided this by making each series functionally inessential to understanding the event as a whole. This allows fans to ignore issues they might not be interested in (though, being completists, we couldn’t help ourselves from reading terrible, terrible, issues), but it also means titles are occasionally hijacked by an event with no real emotional payoff for the characters involved.
At their best, crossover events create a sense of coherence to parts of a publisher’s universe, allowing different writers an opportunity to play with some different toys (and possibly collaborate with one another), and may even turn fans on to good titles they may have been missing. Those are virtues that are certainly worth pursuing, but I wish publishers were more wary of the risks. I’m increasingly disinclined to pick up crummy titles just to understand a crossover, which may mean just skipping the event altogether.
Mikyzptlk: Ah, the crossover. They can be hard to pin down as sometimes they feel like the natural progression of storytelling in a shared universe whereas other times they feel more like shameless cash-grabs. I try hard to stay objective when a new one is announced but oftentimes I can’t help but become giddy at the thought of my favorite heroes fighting the good fight on the same page. The crossover acts to solidify the concept of a shared universe and the best crossovers serve to strengthen the ties that bind the various titles a publisher may have.
Unfortunately, those same events can also serve to smother characters as well. Teen Titans, Superboy, and Legion Lost debuted almost as if they were one book when The New 52 launched. Each title, in their introductory story arcs mind you, all led up to an event called “The Culling.” Those books were so interconnected that the re-imagined characters barely had a chance to develop on their own. Ultimately, I think it comes down to the creative forces behind the event to understand that the story should always serve the characters and that, if it doesn’t, the story probably shouldn’t be told.
Shelby: I cut my comic teeth on Blackest Night, so I can appreciate the impact a crossover event can have on the reader. Blackest Night is actually a good example of event execution; you’ve got a threat that is tied to a specific group in the DCU, but is so all-encompassing it’s going to take everybody to get on board to fight. You don’t need Stormwatch or Jonah Hex to fight Nekron, but they can certainly try to mow down all the Black Lanterns they want. Night of the Owls followed the same principle. Batman fought the Court proper, everyone else fought the Talons. Interestingly, both involved zombies; maybe that’s the actual secret to a successful crossover event.
Really, my biggest issue with events goes back to my criticism of the New Guardians Annual: I don’t like to be tricked. I’m not an idiot, I understand that the comic book industry is just that: an industry, looking to make money. But don’t trick me into buying your crappy titles by making them a part of something I’m actually interested in. That’s a band-aid fix, you’re increasing your numbers for the short term without increasing the quality of your output. In the long-term, higher quality comics will make more money anyway, so why not invest in the long-term instead of making me choke down another issue of Catwoman?
Patrick: I’m going to leap to the defense of the dense, stupid, impenetrable crossover event. Even something that we’re mostly not enjoying — like H’el on Earth — ends up being an interesting experiment in storytelling. A cursory glance of our output over the last couple months shows that we are as fascinated by the storytelling mechanics of these events as we are the substance of their stories. Even though we’re knee-deep in these things, they’re still extraordinarily novel. What’s more is that a crossover event is a uniquely comic-booky phenomenon. No other medium will present its audience will so many discrete creations, at the hands of so many discrete creators, and trust that audience to follow the aspects of that narrative that appeals to them. The insane collector that lives in each of our skulls may force us to take it all in, but that is explicitly not necessary for any of these things (except Throne of Atlantis, which I’d argue is barely an event).
Did I want to read Red Lanterns 15? Hell no, I didn’t. Could I have skipped it? Oh, absolutely – and we’re going to put that to the test in the next GL event by ignoring the Red Lanterns through the whole thing. So when we see an editor’s note in a few months that reads “*See Red Lanterns 18” and I going to feel left out for having not read the issue in question? Or — as I suspect — will I simply feel like I’m reading something that is part of a much larger world? I love the feeling that I’m taking in a narrative that’s part of something bigger. Do I have to read The Silmarillion to understand Lord of the Rings? Not at all. It does my heart well to know that millions of years of Middle Earth history are explored somewhere – and if my curiosity ever gets the better of me, I can explore it. But I also have the option to leave well enough alone.