Posted by: Brian Hibbs on October 24, 2008
Two Big Events, done COMPLETELY differently.
This may or may not be a fair comparison between the two, as neither are finished: SECRET INVASION still has 13% left, while FINAL CRISIS has 43% remaining, but I sorta feel like I’ve seen enough to be at least in the general neighborhood of “fair”
What’s interesting to me, from the top, is that these two series are really opposite as can be: SECRET INVASION seemingly takes place in a day (or two) of the Marvel Universe, ties into each and every book (with a small handful of exceptions), while at the same time not really conveying much information in most of those tie-ins, and doesn’t really appear to have any higher theme than “punchfighthit!”
FINAL CRISIS takes place over what has to be weeks (if not months) of the DCU, while at the same time barely tying into the regular production of DC whatsoever. The ties ins that exists, however, seem to largely be crucial ones. And of course, it is rich with theme.
Both works are also the culmination of years of build-up from one of the “primary architects” of the respective universes — Brian Michael Bendis, and Grant Morrison.
SECRET INVASION purports to be huge in scope — after all, there’s only as few books that don’t have direct tie-ins — but the actual core event/series appears to be really very very small, and absolutely misnamed. The invasion comes, heroes fight in the Savage Land, and in New York, the end.
There’s been seven issues of punching and hitting and fighting now, and virtually nothing has happened. Further, said invasion is just about the opposite of “secret” — loud flashy spaceships filled with colorful and obvious warriors arrive, but there’s very little stealth or infiltration going on once the series begins. In fact, some of the infiltration that occurred is confusing to me: so they swapped out Hank Pym and Jarvis, but there’s not a lot that they appear to be actually DOING once the series gets going.
While this may have made the heroes off-kilter a tiny bit, it’s not how *I* would have run an invasion. Yes, by all means, replace some of the heroes, but where’s the real world in all of this? Shouldn’t you be replacing heads of state, community leaders, media conglomerates, all of that? Wouldn’t that have the greater long-term impact? Rather than living up to the title, which could have been fascinating in an “Invaders” (TV)/”V” kind of way, and pointed to some interesting long-term consequences, it all seems to hinge on ‘splody fight scenes.
In fact, at this stage in the proceedings, I’m not sure how the (clever!) “Embrace Change” ads can possibly play out at the end of this — if you’re trying to win Hearts and Minds, you don’t visibly blow the shit out of everything. Sure this may be commentary on the execution of the War on Terror, but for an ancient, spacefaring race with the resources to blanket the entire planet, it just seems like the wrong way to go — and most importantly, it appears to me to be this way in order to give the comics readership their quota of ‘splody.
There have been a LOT of tie ins to this — most of which worked pretty poorly, but there’s been a few I’ve loved. Despite the fact that the Avengers comics haven’t actually, y’know, featured the Avengers for six+ months now, I’ve found the “backstory” issues of MIGHTY and NEW AVENGERS to have been really good. The only minor problem is that they’re mostly looking back, instead of looking at the present. But that’s where the “secret” part of the Invasion happened.
At the end of the day, it looks like Luke & Jessica’s baby will be the Deus Ex Machina that puts the toys back in the box, plotwise, possibly with some sort of “No More Skrulls!” twist. One does not get the sense that there will be any significant Skrull presence in the world (or at least America) at the end of this — the Skrulls haven’t (seemingly) seized anything of particular value, so getting rid of them would seem to be (in comic book terms, at least) a fairly easy process.
One small note on this week’s salvo: the latest issue of THUNDERBOLTS expands on the brief Norman Osborn scenes in issue #7 of SI, and does it in a much more focused and compelling manner. In fact, I’d maybe call TBOLTS #125 as SI #7.5, in terms of “importance to the Marvel U” (if what we’re thinking “Dark Reign” means is actually what it is)
I like Bendis’ writing, but after the second of these, I really don’t think he’s got the “right” chops for writing Big Superhero Epics. He’s got a great ear for dialogue, and a clever mind for twisting expectations and plot points, but he’s mediocre at best on action, and pacing a “big” hero story. In a way, it’s like if, say, Quentin Tarintino directed a STAR WARS movie — there’d be moments of sheer brilliance, I’m sure, and some cracklin’ dialogue, but tonally, the pieces wouldn’t match up to what the audience really wants.
Overall, I’d give SECRET INVASION (the series) at the 7/8ths mark an EH; I’d give the MIGHTY and NEW AVENGERS tie-ins at least a GOOD, and I’d be positive (in general) about the setting up of the NEXT new status quo for the Marvel Universe (though, again, I think the Skrulls are, at best, a blind for that new state)
The last thing I’ll say is that it does look like Bendis “played fair” in his multi-year build-up towards this.
FINAL CRISIS is a trickier thing to discuss rationally, one that has AT LEAST AS MUCH to do with how DC Editorial was spinning the build up to it as the comic itself.
Clearly FC is “bigger”, more “epic”, and possibly even more relevant to the DC Universe than SI is to the Marvel U, but DC Editorial has COMPLETELY screwed the pooch on this one. Not JUST from a wrong/inappropriate build-up via COUNTDOWN (as well as AMAZONS ATTACK/SALVATION RUN/Whatever that they insisted were relevant and important), but also from scheduling stories like BATMAN RIP and SUPERMAN NEW KRYPTON and the build up to DARKEST NIGHT in and around FC.
This makes FC feel “weightless” and irrelevant to the DC Universe itself, when it SHOULD be the spine and centerpiece of that fictional world.
Let me tell you a little story about my audience: I was, for the LONGEST time there, the prototypical “DC store” — DC comics ALWAYS sold better than Marvels for us. This has ABSOLUTELY changed in the wake of “One Year Later” and COUNTDOWN. New DC series are largely non-starters for us, with anything that isn’t “A-List” having the lowest rack sales I’ve ever seen, including my first month of business 19 years ago! Things like RANN/THANAGAR WAR or DC DECISIONS are having rack sales of ONE OR TWO copies for us. I could stop racking 80% of the DC line today, and I don’t think it would have a significant negative impact on my sales. That’s really painfully ugly. If it weren’t for Morrison and Geoff Johns, DC would have nothing at this stage. That makes me deeply sad.
Nor do I have any great sense that things are going to turn around. When I read the DC house organ page a few weeks back where Didio was trying to get excited about post-FC, one of the bullet points was something like “What will happen to Black Lightning’s Daughters?!?!”
Now, on one hand, it’s not even SLIGHTLY FAIR to judge FC upon Didio and co’s mistakes, but the strength of a fictional universe is on how all of the moving parts move and mesh together, and by how believable the “sales pitch” is. If you’re trying to get people excited about a b-list character’s family (which didn’t even EXIST like five years ago?), then you’ve got nothing in your hand.
This can’t HELP but play into reaction to FC. Since FC doesn’t actually seem like it’s taking place IN the “DCU” (it could be on Earth 59, for all the impact it seems to be having within/around the “mainline” books), it loses buckets of its impact. This wouldn’t be SO horrible if the machine was running correctly, but with FC catastrophically off-schedule (and finishing with a different artistic team than the start), it just heightens the sense of distance.
Unlike SECRET INVASION, FC is tight and focused — it’s a quarter or less of the number of books feeding into it? That’s a plus in a way — how many times has the readership complained about having to buy “too much” stuff? — but it feels distant and walled off to me.
The latest issue (#4) takes a jump of a few weeks. How many? Well, at least enough time to have new factories, to change all of the billboards in the nation, and the theater marquees. That would seem (to me) to be a significant amount of time, possibly months. That feels more like a (secret) invasion to me, at least.
A “ragtag bunch of freedom fighters” is left, though the choices aren’t (to me) all that plausible — Wonder Woman and Batman have fallen, but Black Canary and Green Arrow avoided it? Babs Gordon “turned off the internet”, without having been converted by it? How does any of that work?
Relax, turn off your mind, and float upstream, I guess?
Still, I like what Morrison’s doing here, and my customers seem to as well, FC #2&3 sold better than SI #2&3 (SI #1 kicked FC #1’s ass, however) — but person after person is saying “how does this tie into [insert storyline]?!?!” So it might be, for us, that my customer’s haven’t abandoned the DCU as much as the DCU abandoned THEM.
I’d give FC, to this point, a very high OK (maybe even a low GOOD), but there’s no sense anywhere from anyone that the DCU is heading anywhere in particular in the post-FC game. That’s going to be a major problem — I don’t for foresee a good 2009 for the DCU.
As always, what do YOU think?