The past few years have had comic book fans go through blockbuster after blockbuster event that change things in their respective universes forever. Of course, if I were to detail the big comic book events of the past decade this piece would be about thirty pages long. I’ll forego that and allow you to peruse the various comic book wikis out there. Instead I shall review the pros and cons of the “event” format and offer some suggestions for the publishers and readers going forward.
Pro: Events are cash cows for the publishers. If the publishers do well then the readers do well… isn’t that how capitalism works? Plus they get to sell tie-in merchandise, action figures, clothing and what we’re all really after: jewelry. Am I right?
Con: Price. Publishers can charge more for event books, since they are pitched as “must read” comics.
Pro: Dream Teams. You get to see a popular writer/artist work together on a dream project.
Con: Nightmare Teams. If the event book features an artist or writer who you don’t like, then you’re out of luck. The even may also involve characters you have no interest in as a result. If you do not like the direction they are going with the title or the universe you may be stuck. Slogging through bad stories just for some kind of resolution is not fun.
Pro: Holy Shit Moments. Events are usually pretty traumatic in the scope of things. This “holy shit moment” can be an incredibly powerful incident that can change the entire dynamic of the story and even the universe.
Con: Holy Shit moments falling flat. Big moments meant to have impact and gravitas end up being pointless or just plain offensive. For instance the Blob eating the Wasp in Marvel’s Ultimatum; Totally unnecessary. Shock for the sake of shock which can ruin a good story.
Pro: Events are usually self-contained. Normally events do not require a lot of secondary books to complete the core story. Plus the event books will usually be quickly compiled into one trade that can be purchased as a whole.
Con: Big Events mean Big Delays. Something about these event books is not conducive to meeting release schedules. A slow-yet-talented writer or artist can hold up a big event book for weeks, months or even years. I’m looking at you Damon Lindelof and Leinil Francis Yu… *cough* Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk *cough*
Pro: Resolution. Years of bad character and story decisions are often fixed by these event books. Crisis on Infinite Earths is a perfect example: DC Comics used this one event to restart their entire universe essentially from scratch, dumping years of useless, confusing and convoluted backstory.
Con: Minutia and reliance on other titles. Conversely the event book may require you to have a previous knowledge of characters and events that took place in the universe years and sometimes decades ago. The event more often than not will rely on incredible amounts of back story or obscure references. Will started reading Flash: Rebirth and had no idea that Gorilla City, a hidden city of super-intelligent, telepathic gorillas existed. He found the idea of talking gorillas a little weird, but ended up just having to deal with it to enjoy the story. It may also require you to buy multiple titles just to know what is going on in the main title.
For fans going foward: If you want to know what to expect from event books trust the regular series writers and watch the smaller books for foreshadowing and allusion to major upcoming events. Example: DC’s huge ongoing event Blackest Night was hinted at and arguably set in motion by a seemingly throwaway moment from another event, Green Lantern: Rebirth over 6 years ago. A subsequent event, The Sinestro Corps War then laid the groundwork for the current one.
At the end of the day no matter what company you go with, an event is a tentpole for that company. This doesn’t mean your favorite creators will be pigeon-holed writing side stories, these events affect the companies and their universes from top to bottom; everyone has a role to play.
For the publishers going foward: Events should be completely submitted to the editors before the event is submitted to the public. Any chance of letting the public pick an event they’d like to see? Also, I like rings as much as the next guy but this is getting ridiculous!
If we learned anything from DC’s Batman: Knightfall, it’s that you should always wait until a multi-character book crossover is finished, then buy the collected trade. That way you’ll actually know what the hell is going on.
Good Luck. I hope these pros and cons will help you fend off future bouts event fatigue.