Sunday, June 29, 2008

Big Events

So, we've got the Big 2, Marvel and DC, throwing down for their summer events. Secret Invasion vs. Final Crisis. One, a full-scale alien invasion of earth, as the shapeshifting Skrulls have infiltrated many important positions. The other, Earth's final hour as the God of Evil finally takes notice of earth.

The two stories are interesting in how they've morphed in the public perception, in the eyes of comic book fans. A few months back, when we knew next to nothing about the events, each had a certain image.

Secret Invasion was the clever one. It was all infiltration, secrets. "Who do you trust?" it asked. "No one," it told you. "Trust no one." Reading comics, you slowly began to pick out traitors, and Secret Invasion geared up to be one hell of an event, all shadows and subtlety.

Meanwhile, DC's behemoth, Final Crisis, was coming, and the only thing people knew about it, the only thing that was expected, was that it would be huge. While SI was acting like a spy drama, people expected Final Crisis to be the action movie super blockbuster of the decade.

It's interesting how things change, isn't it?

A few issues into Secret Invasion, that perception has been turned inside out. After a pretty solid first issue, the series nose-dived into mediocrity. Fans of the series admitted that more important reveals were happening in Mighty and New Avengers, and the main book had degenerated into a slower-than-average beat-'em-up. It's not bad - Bendis does great dialogue, and he's good at giving the fans what they want to see. And the brilliant main plot twist of the series, the arrival of a ship full of 70's era heroes, is still paying dividends. But House of M comparisons are already starting, and Bendis has always had trouble with the crowd-pleasing bravado of Mark Millar. Still, Bendis is clearly trying to make SI into THE summer blockbuster, and with his gift for a twisty plot, his use of all of Marvel's biggest guns, and his numerous spin-offs and tie-ins and 3-4 alternate collectors covers per issue, he looks to be succeeding.

Meanwhile, we're two issues into DC's Final Crisis, and expectations have been turned on their head. The first issue, even to hardcore supporters of DC and Morrison, was lackluster. A great deal was set-up, but nothing happened, and for what was supposed to be a SFX blockbuster, there was precious little action. Instead, there was a strong focus on little-known characters, a move that pissed off a lot of fans, and a slow build of dread that had been undermined more than a little by the Countdown fiasco. The second issue, however, gave a far clearer picture of what is to be expected. Final Crisis #2 was filled with larger-than-life concepts, a clear and concise continuation and/or ending of Jack Kirby's Fourth World. Final Crisis #2 was filled with disgust and betrayal - but again, little action. Instead, Morrison is positioning Final Crisis to take the mantle of the intellectual event, writing a book that lends itself to dissection and frequent re-readings. And while Final Crisis may still be talking about in 5 or 10 years as a masterpiece (or it very well may not), right now there's the very immediate issue that people generally prefer the blockbuster to the slow boil. We shall see.

This write-up exists as an examination of the series, but more-so, as a recommendation to any VS fans reading this. I don't know your tastes, so I can't say what you are looking for in your comics. If you want a blockbuster, a twisty action thriller, you want Secret Invasion. If you want a brutal examination of Good vs Evil in man's struggle against something much greater than itself, you want Final Crisis. Whichever way you go, though, it's a damn good time to be a comics fan.

No comments: