Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Winds of Change

I've noticed a difference in my comics buying habits lately. I know, not exactly CNN Headline News. But, I have to say, it's pretty surprising. The difference in my comics buying habit, I mean.

And, no, it's not just the fact that now I need to be a little choosing which books I read every week. It's actually something wholly unexpected, especially with my track record when it comes to buying certain books from certain publishers.

Now, I've talked about my problems with DC Comics in the past--you know, the whole "impenetrable wall of decades-old continuity" thing and the fact that they do things like--oh I don't know--"kill" Batman (and other heroes) on a monthly basis.

And I've mentioned how DC's event books, like Final Crisis let's say, tend to incorporate ideas and story points (and washed-up characters) from many years ago, thus leaving newer readers baffled and ostensibly killing any hope we have at drawing in non-comics reading "civilians" to our hobby (read: obsession).

Still, I love DC's Vertigo imprint, and I think the current line of Vertigo titles is as strong as any lineup they've had since the glory days of Sandman. And that's saying something.

But, as I said, my main problems with DC lie within the DC Universe proper, where C- and D-list characters inhabit (and star in) flagship titles. I'm all for new and different storytelling, but when I buy an event book over at Marvel, I know for sure that Spidey is going to show up and be funny. And kick bad guys in the head.

I say that with a hint of irony, of course, as anyone who has been with the blog for a while knows that action and head-kicking are not the most important things I look for in a comic. But, when I buy a Marvel or a DC comic, action and head kicking are something that I expect.

I read all of my weird little black and white indies and offbeat horror titles and whatever to fill the void of emotional drama that's left by superhero comics. I read Deadpool to watch the main character slice and dice his way through an army of bad guys.

Now, this isn't to say that mainstream superhero comics shouldn't have pathos and real, human drama. They should. Of course they should. But, superhero comics should also include a requisite amount of head kicking.

So, less with the talky. More with the punchy.

(Except if the book is written by Brian Bendis. Then, the New Avengers can sit around a TV and talk about what they're watching on the TV and somehow, it's still interesting.)

But DC's books have been plagued by lots of exposition, lots of weird space/time travel, and lots of sprawling and head-trippy concepts that leave me wanting nothing more than to see Batman punch a band robber in the head.

However, even with all of this (rambling and barely coherent) preamble about the problems at DC (or, more accurately, the problems this semi-sane blog writer thinks DC has), I'm going to praise DC up and down for their most recent output.

The last three weeks, my stack of new comics has been skewed towards the DC side of the fence--something that hasn't happened in over five years. And it's not just that DC has a one or two book advantage over Marvel. Quite the opposite, really. For every one Marvel comic, I'm buying three DC comics.

I know. The End Times must be near.

But the ever-cliched (in comics, at least) "event fatigue" is beginning to set in with me when it comes to Marvel and their Dark Reign tie-ins and cross-overs.

On top of the seemingly endless stream of Dark Reign titles being published each week, as Dark Reign winds down, the latest event, The List, is beginning, and it just feels like Marvel is in a never ending loop of Secret Invasion fallout stories.

And if you're new to comics and have no idea what the words I used in the above paragraph are, then you have helped me prove my point. It was Stan Lee who said (paraphrasing Joe DiMaggio) that "every comic is someone's first." Well, if a NOOB were to pick up a Marvel book right now, he or she would probably feel a lot like I did by issue three of Final Crisis.

Confused, frustrated, and gassy.

This isn't to say that the Marvel books aren't good. Because, across the board, Marvel's writers and artists are writing the heck out of their titles. But (much like this post), there's just no end in sight to these current stories.

Over at DC, Geoff Johns' Blackest Night is accessible, fun, and engaging.

Just like Secret Invasion was when it started out, now over a year ago.

The DCU lost me as a regular reader around the time of their One Year Later event, which left me wanting more and less at the same time. More stories like 52, and less stories like everything else.

But, so far at least, Blackest Night is fairly self-contained and one can follow the story pretty well by reading the main book alone. That said, there are still a handful of tie-ins, and the main Green Lantern book is pretty essential to understanding everything.

Here's hoping that DC won't inundate the market like they did with Final Crisis. I know, I know. There will always be events, and the two publishers will always flood the shelves with tie-ins.

That's just the way of comics right now.

But I find it interesting that DC and Marvel are flipping roles here. An identity crisis, if you will. While DC seems to be scaling back on the number of "essential" tie-ins, Marvel, the company that showed the industry how to do the modern, line-wide crossover a couple of years ago, is pumping out more and more books every week.

How long will this trend continue? And, as always with DC, when will they shoot themselves in the foot? We'll just have to wait and see.


What do you guys think about the current state of the event book? Which event are you all enjoying more--Dark Reign or Blackest Night?


Scott said...

It doesn't sound so much like event fatigue as it sounds like DC's succeeded in making and marketing an event that appeals to you more than Marvel's event.

I mean, Marvel may have Secret Invasion fallout events, but DC has Crisis fallout events. Hell, the Crisis Aftermath stuff is still ongoing as well. The only thing I'm remotely interested in reading anymore is Flash Rebirth...

As a side note, when you talked about emotion and characterization, one of the first comics that came to mind, oddly enough, is a Gen13 one-shot called Ordinary Heroes, I believe. Weird.

AJG said...

But the thing is, I liked Secret Invasion...a lot. And I liked how Dark Reign began. I thought it was an interesting twist on the Marvel U.

It's just going on too, too long.

But, you're absolutely correct about Crisis--DC is still pumping out those (useless) mini series and that was my biggest problem with that event. Well, OK, and the fact that I had little idea as to what was actually happening...

I hope (I hope!) that Blackest Night doesn't turn into Crisis in that respect.

And that Gen 13 book is an interesting thing to pop into your head. I've never read those characters--you think it's worth trying to find?

Scott said...

The Gen13 series as a whole was generally a chance to get skimpily-clad girls kicking ass with crass teenage humor. There were a number of one-shot ("Elseworld") spin-offs that were good, Ordinary Heroes being one of them. The Fire From Heaven storyline was also pretty interesting. Beyond that, it was just teenage drama with superpowers.