Making the List


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Marvel’s latest entry into the “Dark Reign” crossover once again shows why the company is a master of the yearly blockbuster event.

The blockbuster crossover comics event is 25 years old, and from the very beginning, Marvel has always been in competition with DC and vice versa as to whose event was better.

Marvel started it off in 1984 with Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars which DC followed the next year with Crisis on Infinite Earths and comic books as we knew them would never be the same again. And even though both series only shared shelf space for a month at most, both series were immediately compared to one another. Crisis is customarily deemed the victor of the two.

But over the years, the blockbuster crossover event had become an almost yearly tradition and you could count on each company to come out with its own event. Each year was a face off, some years Marvel would win, others DC.

There was a period when crossovers of this kind waned. But, in recent years, it has returned with a vengeance. And in the years since the blockbuster crossover event returned to popularity, there has been, in my opinion, one winner in the contest between Marvel and DC as to whose events were better.

The resurgence of blockbuster events was spearheaded by DC this time, with their Infinite Crisis series. Marvel jumped in a year later with its House of M mini. And the competition began anew.

While DC might have been the first out of the gate with rekindling the blockbuster event, I believe Marvel has pulled ahead in overall quality. The reason for this is very simple. It’s due to their attention to detail and creating events that link to one another to create one ongoing narrative. This is essentially beating DC at its own game.

Infinite Crisis was supposed to be a 20 years on continuation of Crisis on Infinite Earths and the second leg of an epic trilogy which would end with Final Crisis. And Infinite Crisis, while flawed, was a good continuation. But it was it was downhill from there.

Next came 52, a weekly series released with a “One Year Later” event to help promote it. Continuity was bumped ahead a year and supposedly we would find out what happened to our favorite heroes during 52. However, the answers weren’t found in that series, but instead in a hastily written, fairly awful, four-issue series released all in the same week as 52 #50.

Then was Countdown to Final Crisis, which was supposed to be vital to understanding the third part of the trilogy. But the weekly series did more to contradict Final Crisis than set it up. Then there is Final Crisis itself, which was muddled and confused, with an ending that was at best a swerve, at worst a misdirection (Turns out the real bad guy wasn’t the one you’ve been reading about all along, it was some other guy from a gimmick two-issue series many readers didn’t bother picking up.)

Marvel, however, have done better at weaving their blockbusters into one big creative tapestry. Marvel creative summits are almost legendary, and this is where the top writers and editors get together and plan future storylines.

The result of these planning sessions is that elements of House of M will play out in Civil War, Civil War will have a bearing on World War Hulk and Secret Invasion, and all of the above will lead to Dark Reign. Each series flows naturally into one another, and doesn’t seem forced.

Whether or not you like the idea of Norman Osborn in such a high position in the government, his ascension to the post made sense from a story context, as does his using his powerful position to develop a “hit list” of political adversaries. The way he deals with this list will be addressed in a series of one-shots which are set to start tomorrow with Dark Reign: The List—Avengers.

DC likes to make us think all its blockbuster events are part of some big plan, but it mostly just seems like they are making things up as they go along. Marvel has been fairly transparent at how much planning goes into creating its storylines and it shows in their results. For this reason, Marvel will have the upper hand when it comes to the blockbuster crossover event.

Also out this week:

Soulfire Volume 2 #0

Magic is a big part of any fantasy story. That being said, it’s usually hard to bring anything new to the table when dealing with it in the genre. It has become mostly a case of doing a variation on what has become before. However, Soulfire began with magic dying out and the effects it would have on the various magical creatures in the universe.

Of course, over the several Soulfire series’, magic has come back into the fantasy world Michael Turner created. Now, the characters that once were facing extermination are now returned to their former glory. The original concept was interesting, but this new status quo has the potential for some great stories. This just goes to prove that with the right amount of creativity, old concepts can be viewed in a new light.

J.T. Krul (W), Marcus To (A), Aspen Comics, $2.50. Limited Series.

Nomad: Girl Without a World #1

The “Heroes Reborn” experiment, where Marvel handed some of their flagship titles over to Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee, has had one concept survive and be popular enough to be revisited even today, and that is Rikki Barnes, the female version of Bucky from Rob Liefeld’s Captain America.

Why has this character caught our fancy? Is it her gender? Her personality? Maybe fans find some plot point from her stories appealing. Regardless, she has made her way into the mainstream Marvel Universe and is set to star in a brand new miniseries. Where this series will lead her is anyone’s guess, but she has already lasted longer than anyone would expect her to. It should be interesting to see if this mini leads to bigger and better things.

Sean McKeever(W), David Baldeon (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Grimwood's Daughter

One of the things I like about smaller comic companies like IDW is the fact that they sometimes provide a home for creators that might be out of favor at the big two. The ones who once worked for Marvel or DC but have fallen victim to changing tastes in the audiences. It’s not that their writing has declined in quality; it’s that the majors think that they no longer appeal to fans.

This week, IDW puts out a graphic novel by Jan Strnad and Kevin Nowlan. Strnad is best know for his work on the Sword of the Atom series for DC, and Nowlan is a talented inker and cover artist that has worked for both Marvel and DC in his day. Neither are big name creators for the big two (although Nowlan still gets his fair share of work from them) but, together they have found a home for their creativity at IDW. And that’s a good thing.
Jan Strnad (W), Kevin Nowlan (A), IDW Publishing, $12.99. Original Graphic Novel.

Dead Space: Extraction

The world of video games is quite like the world of movies. If you are a success, then you can be assured that a sequel will be on the way.

The Dead Space Video game must have been a success when it was released last year, because it is getting a sequel (well, technically, a prequel) this year. And just as 2008’s horror shooter got a tie-in promotional miniseries, it’s follow up will be getting a special one-shot to correspond with it.

Like the game, the one-shot acts as a prequel to last year’s series and game. We will see the beginnings of the necromorph infection and how it got to the point it was in the first game/series. Creators Antony Johnston and Ben Templesmith return for this one-shot.

Antony Johnston (W), Ben Templesmith (A), Image Comics, $3.50. One-Shot.

Vampirella: Second Coming #1

While she might be turning 40 this year, Vampirella has lived many more lives over that period. She has been reinvented over and over across the decades and has run the gamut from campy humor to serious scares as she moved from the 1970s horror revival to the 1990s investor boom to today. Her many metamorphoses are fitting for her role as the queen of the vampires.

However, to celebrate her four decades in existence, Harris Comics is shining a whole new light on the character. In this series, Vampirella is not believed to be real. She exists as sort of a feminist icon. But when a virus causes men to become impulsive brutes, it becomes possible that Vampirella might be more than just an inspiration.  

Phil Hester (W), Daniel Sempere (A), Anarchy Studios/Harris Comics, $1.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Which Witch's Wand Works

It’s hard to believe that Halloween is just around the corner. Pretty soon it will be Christmas and then another year will be upon us. Where does the time go?

Well, enough of me being wistful, let’s get to the info. Halloween might be fun for adults but it is truly special for kids. They get to dress up in costumes, parade around, and go hunting for treats. Man, I can’t wait to take my daughter out trick or treating!

But it is never too early to prepare the young ones for the spooky holiday. One way to get them in the spirit is giving them books set in the theme of the holiday. Perhaps like this one, a graphic novel that features a competition between two witches. When the contest goes awry, they must join forces to save the day.  

Poly Bernatene (W/A), Worthwhile Books/IDW Publsighing, $6.99. Original Graphic Novel.


William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. 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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  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Sep 8, 2009 at 3:58pm

    Hmmm... Which Witch's Wand Works looks like a lot of fun. One to add to my pile of Halloween-themed GNs/collections I think, all ready for October.

  • Jbelkinsii

    Jbelkinsii Sep 9, 2009 at 6:36pm

    While I agree (for the most part) with the comments about the Marvel/DC crossovers, I disagree with the timeline.

    On Marvel's side it really begins with Secret War & Avengers: Dis-Assembled before moving on to House of M, Civil War etc., while with DC side it begins (I believe) with Identity Crisis. Where the real departures come though is that DC's events have been largely the product of several talented minds and (apparently) inconsistent editorial support, where Marvel's have come largely from the mind of one mastermind. From Secret War to Dark Reign the dak genius behind it all has been Brian Michael Bendis. That's the real reason Marvel's been winning the crossover events (though Geoff Johns might be giving bendis a run for his money with Blackest Night).

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Sep 10, 2009 at 3:17am

    Jbelkins, I agree with you (except with that Blackest Night thingie, there you lost me :p ) http://www.brokenfrontier.com/blogs/p/detail/higher-higher-dc-marvel

  • Jbelkinsii

    Jbelkinsii Sep 10, 2009 at 6:16pm

    Bart, I'm only saying that Johns' "Blackest Night" has been well planned out. He began laying the groundwork in "Rebirth" and has been steadily moving forward ever since. While he may not have the company wide editorial support & integration that Bendis has, the integration betwen GL and GL Corps has been fantastic. The comparison I was making is only in long term planning. I had heard through the interwebs that Morrisson had, with "Final Crisis" tried for the kind of company wide integration that Bendis had but didn't have the editorial support. I also find the DC/Marvel event parallels more interesting than either of the series. Both told stories of questionable morality by the heroes (Identity Crisis/Avengers: illuminati) and evil winning (Final Crisis/Dark Reign). I also find it interesting that the much Hyped Marvel Secret Wars of the '80's, which promised great changes to the Marvel Universe (oooo Spidey got a BLACK costume)... didn't, but DC's "Crisis on Infinte Earths" did. The reverse would be true 20 years later when Civil War and Secret Invasion promised nothing and delivered where Final Crisis promised every thing and didn't.

  • Steve Kanaras

    Steve Kanaras Sep 10, 2009 at 8:24pm

    I know I am probably in the minority, but nothing turns me off to a series than a big crossover. I realize they sell extra issues for people already reading, but I think they do little to entice new readers, and for the most part seem so unwieldly as stories.

  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Dec 31, 2010 at 6:12am

    still lovelovelove the Phil Hester arc for Vampirella so very much! That was one solid read!

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