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Image ...um... Integrated!

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Crossovers have been in existence almost as long as comic books have. Ever since Marvel’s Golden Age Human Torch fought Sub-Mariner and the first meeting of the Justice Society of America, creators have been finding ways for their company’s characters to meet.

Crossovers serve a number of purposes. From a story context, they create a shared universe. They give any story an epic scope and make any action have wide-ranging consequences.

They also serve a purpose in a business sense. Have a popular character like Wolverine guest in your books, your readership might improve, at least temporarily. The opposite works as well; having a new character guest in an established book is a good way to expose him to a new audience.

  Both of the above instances are occurring in this week’s Invincible. Everybody who has appeared in an Image comic is guest staring in the oversized issue. This includes characters that have been there from the beginning like Spawn and Savage Dragon and those who left and came back, like Pitt and Youngblood. There are also older characters like Shadowhawk and CyberForce and newer characters like Firebreather and Dynamo 5. Even indie favorites such as Madman and Jack Staff are joining in the fun.

Invincible is a fan-favorite book, one that mixes 80s era teen angst and superheroics with the graphic violence you’d usually see in the more grim and gritty fare. It is the book that help put Robert Kirkman on the map, and the character even crossed over with Spider-Man during Kirkman’s run on Marvel Team-Up.

The book has made a lot of top ten lists through out its run. However, it is not impossible to believe that Invincible could probably be the only Image book some readers buy. And it is also not a stretch that readers of Madman Atomic Comics or Spawn have never even thought of picking up Kirkman’s masterpiece.

This is the reason for the crossover. Not only does it expose Invincible to a wider audience, but also it gives Invincible readers a glimpse at what else Image has to offer. Granted, there are more characters in the book than there are pages, but there might be enough for Invincible fans to branch out and try something else in the Image Universe.

The scope of this crossover and the number of characters it entails is not the only thing that makes this meeting of heroes unique. The corporate set up of Image is another thing that makes this event different.

At Marvel or DC, all the characters are corporately owned. If Batman is going to crossover in Wonder Woman, there are no issues if the storyline he guest stars in is collected into a trade paperback. The money is essentially all going to the same place.

With Image, each character is owned by its respective creator. Kirkman, a partner in Image, needed to get permission from every other creator for use of their character, perhaps even work out a licensing agreement.

And if, or when, this issue is collected into a trade, Kirkman will have to get approval from each creator again. If he has a falling out with one of the other members of the Image family, this could mean this issue will never be reprinted.

This being said, it is a great sign that all parties involved came together to allow this to happen. It harkens back to the one-for-all, all-for-one early days of Image. And it perhaps could be a sign that all the people involved recognize another reason why crossovers are so popular—because they are fun! Seeing characters who normally don’t interact is exciting and interesting.

So, there you have it. If you are a fan of Invincible, be ready to learn more about the world of Image. And if you are a fan of any of the other characters here, think about picking this issue up. Who knows? You might find a new favorite.

Also out this week:

Amazing Spider-Girl #30:

The early part of 2009 has been a bad time for cancellations of fan-favorite yet poor selling books. I don’t need to tell you the names on the tombstones in the 2009 comic book graveyard—just read past columns and you can see a list of the fallen. But no cancellation might be as painful to fans as this one, as Spider-Girl sells her last issue.

Granted, the throwback character is joining the Amazing-Spider-Man Family anthology, so fans can continue reading the adventures of May Parker and the possible future of the, well, Spider-Man family. But how long will this last? Anthologies usually don’t last long in this market, so Spider-Girl’s new home might only be a brief respite from annihilation.

Tom DeFalco (W), Ron Frenz (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Final Issue.

Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #1:

Batman is believed dead, and the hunt for his replacement is on. The last time Bats had to give up the cape and cowl, a vigilante named Azrael took over from him. How strange it is that there is a new Azrael making an appearance just when Batman is missing. Could lightning strike twice? Will Azrael take over the mantle of the Bat once more?

It is strange to see an Azrael book on the shelf without Denny O’Neil’s name attached to it. Yes, all indications point to this Azrael being a different character than the one O’Neil wrote over 100 issues of. And Fabian Nicieza is a great writer in his own right. But it is still weird to see the character not written by the writer most known for writing him.

Fabian Nicieza (W), Frazer Irving (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Lillim #1:

Every fan of comics should be familiar with the idea of the “Revamp.” This is where a gaudy, yellow and red clad superhero can return as a pale, dark-robe wearing Dream King.

Now, imagine if this practice was applied to organized religion. Say, if Odin, all-father of the Norse theology, was the son of Adam, the first man, and his first wife, Lilith. And what if Odin bore a grudge against his step mom, Eve, and decides to take it out on all of Eve’s descendants. The only one to stand against him is his brother (yes, brother, not son) Loki.

That’s what you get with this series which turns what you thought you knew right on its ear.

  Shaun Lapacek & Ian Keiser (W), Matrix (A), Image Comics, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Young X-Men #12:

Donald Pierce, the bad guy who assembled the Young X-Men, is back. His anti-mutant agenda is in full swing, and Dust is caught in the crossfire. Both her and her team is caught in the crosshairs, and they are meant to be the first victims of Pierce’s racial purification campaign. If they don’t stop him now, all mutants might be in danger of extermination.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a bit cheated by this series. It might be just me, but I get the feeling that the whole reason this comic existed was to set the stage for the return of 80s favorites, The New Mutants. Not that the return of Xavier’s underclassmen is a bad thing, they’re one of my favorites, but if that is the case, Marvel should have been up front about it.

Marc Guggenheim(W), Rafa Sandoval (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Final Issue.

Watchmensch:

Watchmen parodies are a dime a dozen nowadays. It seems that the new movie has made it a cottage industry to ape the almost quarter century old comic that inspired it. With all these options, how could you separate the wheat from the chaff? Or, for that matter, is their any wheat at all, or is it just chaff?

Well, this particular parody has a little something going for it. It has all the silliness of the litany of other entries into this burgeoning sub-genre, but its plot also takes a satirical eye into the inner workings of the comic book industry, as only Lying in the Gutter’s Rich Johnston can provide. So, if you are feeling the need to read a mockery of Watchmen, you can do worse than this one-shot. If your store doesn’t have it, ask them to order it.   

Rich Johnston (W), Simon Rohrmuller (A), Brain Scan Studios, Inc, $3.99. One-Shot.

Stingers #1:

Brian “Hawk” Hawkins really hates people. Yes, perhaps his job as an Atlantic City bounty hunter, a job where he comes in contact with the worst humanity has to offer, colors his opinion a bit. But if everybody on Earth just up and disappeared one day, “Hawk” wouldn’t care one bit.

Or, so he thinks. This antisocial worldview is put to the test as he comes across a small New Jersey town where strange creatures have invaded and are in the process of killing any human they come in contact with. All “Hawk” has to do is leave, and all those people he can’t stand will be eliminated. But, since that wouldn’t make for a very exciting comic, he decides to stay and fight—for now.

Joe Brusha & Ralph Tedesco (W), Matt Martin (A), Zenescope Entertainment, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

True Tales of the Roller Derby: Doppleganger at the Hanger:

You might not realize it, but roller derby is a big deal right now. Once popular in the 1970s, this particular brand of sports entertainment is making a major combat. Women all over America, in towns both big and small, are gathering into teams, picking out inventive aliases for themselves, strapping on the skates, and beating the tar out of each other at the local roller rink.

Now, this revitalized trend is coming to comic books in the form of this mystery from Oni. Strange things are happening on the Portland roller derby circuit. Skaters are going missing. New teams are appearing full of girls with blank robotic stares that resemble each other a bit too much. It appears that evil doings are afoot, and a plan to corrupt the sport is in motion. It’s up to the Wheels of Justice to stop this thing—if they can!

Lisa Titan & Nader Absood (W), Dennis Culver (A), ONI Press, $4.99. Original Graphic Novel.

Ultimate X-Men #100:

Ultimatum has not been good for the Ultimate X-Men, as the trail of dead clearly shows. Now, the remaining mutants gather their forces to make one final stand. This is it, only a handful of Xavier’s students remain to try and stave off total extinction. Unfortunately, the odds are not in their favor.

It’s just about time to turn out the lights in the Ultimate Universe, and their second longest running title bites the dust. Usually, 100 issues is a cause for celebration. However, when that 100th issue is the last, it’s might not be a reason to party. Who knows what the fate of the Ultimate mutants will be in the post-Ultimatum world.

Aron E. Coleite (W), Mark Brooks (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Final Issue.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY and is expecting his first child with his wife Jennifer. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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