Thursday, May 13, 2010

Crossover Hell

I’m not especially fond of the company crossover event in comics these days. I still remember when I was in college, and I discovered that you didn’t have to be a complete nerd to read them. There were even girls who read them! Those were the heady days of the Secret Wars, when the status quo was being upset. For too many years, the Marvel universe was incredibly stable and no one really changed. I remember the excited conversations people were having. “There’s a new guy in the Iron Man suit! And the Hulk broke his leg! And Spider-Man is –gasp—getting a new costume!”

Then we had the Crisis, which crossed over through every DC book. Then Secret Wars II, which crossed over through every Marvel book. And then it just started getting ridiculous. Every so often, there’s a new “event” that is intended to start new books and shake things up. Whatever happened to simply putting together a title that has ongoing stories that someone can enjoy without having to be involved in every facet of these so-called universes? It’s not even that anymore. Now, every subset of the comic book company gets its own crossover, too.

I had really enjoyed this new run of Detective Comics featuring Batwoman, including the backup feature with the new version of the Question. I liked the creative teams and was enjoying the stories immensely. And then, I was removed from the story for a crossover event. Oh, look. Batman's coming back. No one could have predicted that! I stopped buying the title. I was reading and enjoying Batgirl with my daughter. And then, the crossover story came in, interrupting the flow. I stopped buying that title, too. Adventure Comics, with both Superboy and the Legion? Same deal. I don’t know exactly how many times this has happened recently, but I know I don’t like it. I’m not even going to start buying the Flash, even though I enjoy Francis Manapul’s art, because I know the same thing is going to happen.

I am down to buying Invincible and Astro City. One big reason I buy both of those titles is that I know I’m getting the whole story and it won’t be interrupted by some artificially created stunt that derails it. I don’t care about the return of Bruce Wayne. That ship sailed when they brought Jason Todd back to life because Superboy punched a wall. I don’t want to know about the Care Bear Lanterns. I don’t care about a civil war in the Marvel universe if I’m enjoying a Fantastic Four story.

I think one time when this was handled particularly well was when Walt Simonson was writing and drawing Thor. The casket of ancient winters had been shattered and the world was plunged into ice. Even in other titles, the characters were saying stuff like, “Hey, how about that? The world is covered in ice and snow. Oh, well, back to work.” That’s how a crossover should happen. Notice can be taken of a larger event because the characters do exist in a shared universe, but it doesn’t have to be a worldwide catastrophe involving every character who has their own comic book title.

I’m really curious about the new Legion of Superheroes title that Paul Levitz will be writing. I’ve always liked the Legion. One of the nice things about the Legion, for the most part, is that they can be left alone outside the normal continuity of the DC universe. They exist in the future. To them, these earth-shattering events have already happened. But I can almost guarantee that when the next event happens, someone’s going to get sucked back through time. I hope that’s not the case.

DC, can you give me one title that I can read without it being involved in the latest character-killing, dead-raising, rape-and-dismemberment fest? Please?

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