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  • April 2012
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Event Books: The Biggest Stories in Comics

Marvel's biggest 2012 publishing initiative is the 12-part "Avengers Vs. X-Men" event

If you have even a passing familiarity with superhero comic books, you know that “event books” (i.e. the Hollywood blockbuster story lines often featuring characters “crossing over” from their respective titles) are all the rage. Marvel Comics’ Avengers VS. X-Men event kicks off this week, but it’s just the latest in a series of big-time crossover events to demand the attention of fanboys and casual readers alike.

So why are these stories suddenly everywhere? There was a time when “events” were used to clear up old continuity errors (e.g. the now classic Crisis on Infinite Earths by George Perez and Marv Wolfman which simplified fifty years of muddled DC Comics storytelling) or just to give Summer sales a boost. Now, event books are happening multiple times a year.

Chalk it up to waning comic sales. In February, only two titles sold more than 100,000 copies. The big publishers, Marvel Comics and DC Comics, feel that the best way to sell more issues is to create more excitement. But how is your friendly neighborhood comic fan supposed to keep up with all of these titles? From Realm of Kings to Avengers VS. X-Men, Marvel alone has released twenty “events” in the last three years (DC Comics has had six “events” in that time).

Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley recently explained Marvel’s “event” process to Comic Book Resources:

First, I want to clarify that we do not do “crossover” events. This is [an] important distinction. I was here in the ’90s when “crossover” events were the norm, which is when you make a reader buy four or more different titles in a specific order to get the whole story…We do line-wide editorial events. These events usually involve a core book like “Civil War,” “Secret Invasion,” “Siege,” etc. that could be read on their own for the complete story. Other books in the line will then use that event to develop “tie-in” stories which could be “in line,” a new miniseries or one-shot. Sorry to go off on a tangent but this is a very important distinction because we are not requiring the fans to buy into three or four other ongoing series to get the main story.

The distinction between a “crossover” and a “line-wide editorial event” may be rather murky to your average reader. Luckily, “The Big Two” (Marvel and DC) publish all of their event comics in convenient graphic novel hardcovers and trade paperbacks, and they’re available at the library for your reading pleasure.

Other than the non-stop action and world-changing plot lines, event books are great because they’re a convenient point for casual fans to jump aboard the comics train. Take a look at these recent event books–they’re a great place to begin (or continue) your love affair with comics:

Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985) by Marv Wolfman and George Perez – The event book that started it all! Crisis on Infinite Earths was originally conceived to be a celebration of DC’s 50th anniversary; however, Marv Wolfman and Len Wein saw it as a chance to clean up DC’s rather convoluted continuity that had built up over time. The story introduces readers to two near-omnipotent beings, the good Monitor and the evil Anti-Monitor, who had been created as a result of the same experiment that created the Multiverse. The Monitor made cameo appearances in various DC comic book series for two years preceding the publication of the series. At first, he appears to be a new supervillain, but with the onset of the Crisis, he is revealed to be working on a desperate plan to save the entire Multiverse from destruction at the hands of the Anti-Monitor.

Infinity Gauntlet (1991) by Jim Starlin and George Perez – Thanos mounts the six Infinity Gems, (collected in the The Thanos Quest limited series), on his left glove to form the titular Infinity Gauntlet. Each Gem grants its bearer complete mastery over one aspect of the universe: Time, Space, Mind, Soul, Reality, and Power. Now all-powerful and desperate to win the affections of Death, Thanos decides to offer the entity a gift of love by completing a task she had given him, erasing half the sentient life in the universe (including most of the X-Men, Daredevil, and the Fantastic Four), quite literally with a snap of his fingers.

Age of Apocalypse (1995-1996) by Howard Mackie – My favorite childhood “event,” the Age of Apocalypse storyline imagined a world in which Professor Charles Xavier died before founding his X-Men, leading to a truly apocalyptic world ruled by the ancient mutant Apocalypse. If you like parallel universes and alternate realities, this is the event for you.

Siege (2010) by Brian Michael Bendis – In the aftermath of Marvel’s Dark Reign company-wide storyline, which led to a shift of power in the Marvel Universe toward Norman Osborn, a former supervillain who, through deception and media manipulation, has become the United States’ security czar. The story also depicts the Asgardian trickster deity Loki, manipulating Osborn into leading an all-out assault to overthrow Asgard. The events in “Siege” lead to the subsequent company-wide storyline, Heroic Age.

DC Comics, The New 52 (2011) – The New 52 is a 2011 revamp and relaunch by DC Comics of its entire line of ongoing monthly superhero books, in which all of its existing titles were cancelled, and 52 new series debuted in September 2011 with new #1 issues. Among the series being renumbered are Action Comics and Detective Comics, which had previously retained their original numbering since the 1930s. Touted as a large publishing event following the conclusion of the Flashpoint crossover storyline, DC’s relaunch entails changes to both the publishing format and fictional universe to entice new readers

And if you can’t wait for Avengers VS. X-Men, make sure to head on over to Phantom of the Attic on S. Craig Street tomorrow night at 8PM for their Avengers Vs. X-Men Pre-Release Party!


– Corey, Digital Learning Librarian

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