Do Mega-Crossovers Really Matter?

Shhh!  It's a secret!
Shhh! It’s a secret!

Want to cause a dispute among comics fans?  Ask them about big blockbuster crossovers.  Most fans claim to hate the dang things, and yet they still shell out good money to read them.  Many come out like clockwork, and storylines inbetween seem to be more the calm between storms.  Publishers promise big changes.  “Nothing will be the same!” they say.  Rarely is this ever the case, and many changes are so minor the fans barely notice.  Even if resurrection were not a distinct possibility in any case that doesn’t involve removing a tragic backstory, most fans know better than to assume many characters will actually stay dead.  Usually its more like, “This character will remain dead until we figure out how to bring them back in at least a somewhat plausible manner.”

In the end, most crossovers don’t do much.  DC has Convergence coming this summer, just in time for the 30th anniversary of Crisis on Infinite Earths, probably the only crossover to actually make massive changes that really stuck for the longest time.  Marvel is doing a new Secret Wars that is doing…something.  Neither publisher is saying anything, and that just stokes the Jimmy Impossibles of the world to a frenzy until someone is left cleaning up an awful mess of drool and disappointment.

I’m not expecting either Convergence or Secret Wars to do much of anything.  There will be some minor cosmetic changes, and Marvel will probably finally end the Ultimate line, most likely while sticking Miles Morales in the regular universe and maybe a couple other hold-overs.  Marvel’s never committed to the full reboot and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

DC, on the other hand, has committed to the occasional reboot, starting with the original Crisis and including the current New 52.  But really, in retrospect, the original Crisis didn’t change too much.  The multiverse went away, characters that couldn’t fit into the new One Earth ceased to exist, and Superman, Wonder Woman, and Hawkman got major backstory revisions, and Hawkman’s changes were due more to editorial mistakes than anything else.  Even Batman in Year One didn’t change too much.  That was more of updating the character and publishing some heretofor unrevealed backstory filling in the gaps between his parents’ murder and putting on a cape for the first time.  There were some other minor changes here and there.  Wonder Woman was no longer a Justice League founder, but Black Canary could be.  J’onn J’onzz got a modified Martian look and was now the last of his kind.  Mostly, no one remembered there used to be more than one Earth and a Supergirl, and that was that.The Wonder Woman reboot caused issues with Donna Troy, who never should have existed as a separate character in the first place, but most of what happened was to update old characters and get rid of ones that weren’t of much use anymore.

But since then, DC has done the equivalent of a software patch to that old storyline, beginning with stuff like Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, and Flashpoint.  I really don’t expect much to happen with Convergence.

What I mostly want to see is what few of these stories deliver.  I want casts of thousands engaged in the real struggle.  Again, probably because George Perez did the artwork and he actually can draw a cast of thousands before lunch, Crisis on Infinite Earths may be the only one to actually achieve that goal.

Just TRY and name everyone in this image.
Just TRY and name everyone in this image.

Now, the Crisis had numerous problems.  It actually isn’t very well plotted.  The Anti-Monitor seems to keep coming back for more, and his plans change every issue.  There’s only so many times you can defeat a godlike being before it gets old.  But the bottom line here is that this is the only real crossover to make massive permanent (or as permanent as comics get) changes.

Compare that to Marvel’s Secret Wars, a much less ambitious outing by comparison.  My old trade for that in the end talked about all the big changes that storyline brought about.  They were:

  • Spider-Man now has a black costume!
  • Professor X is walking and is now the X-Men’s field leader!
  • Colossus and Kitty Pryde break up!
  • Ben Grimm stays behind on Battleworld and can become human at times!
  • The She-Hulk is now a member of the Fantastic Four!
  • Something about the Hulk’s intelligence…I don’t remember much there.

Of those, only the black costume really made any lasting changes.

Let’s face it:  most crossovers are forgettable or don’t resolve much of anything.  Some even seem to be there to set up the next crossover.  Brian Michael Bendis excelled in that latter one, blowing up the Avengers to set up the New Avengers, then having Secret Invasion set up the Dark Reign which later led to Seige.  Some of those would likewise not have been possible without Civil War so it makes a good deal of sense that Bendis got the most use out of the Superhero Registration Act going forward from there.  The net result for all that work was to remove the classic Avengers line-up only to eventually resurrect the team with Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Thor at the center all over again.

And still, there are the forgettable ones.  Who remembers Marvel’s Maximum Security?

No one remembers this one.
No one remembers this one.

So, to conclude, let me praise one crossover that seemed to understand what it was doing:  World War Hulk.  It was far from great, but it made no lasting changes to the Marvel Universe, didn’t claim it would, or even kill anyone off.  Rick Jones got stabbed, but was seen being loaded into an ambulance.  Really, all Marvel promised was the Hulk was returning to Earth after the fantastic Planet Hulk storyline in his own books, and he was going to smash the Illuminati.  What did he do?  He came back to Earth and smashed the Illuminati.  It delivered exactly what it promised.  That was good enough for me.

Joss Whedon suspects that's all anyone ever wants from the Hulk...coming this May!
Joss Whedon suspects that’s all anyone ever wants from the Hulk…coming this May!

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