Trade Perspectives: Crossover Comparison - Final Crisis vs. Blackest Night collection

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Now that we're beginning to see some of the shape of how Blackest Night will be collected in trade, I thought it would be interesting to compare the collections with those of the most recent previous crossover, Final Crisis.

It bears comparing the way DC has collected recent crossovers because I dare say it's a work in progress. Consider that of the last four crossovers (defined as a major line-wide event where the main story took place in a minseries) before Identity Crisis -- Final Night, Genesis, DC One Million, and Day of Judgment -- only two of them have been collected at all, and certainly not to the extent that Infinite Crisis and many of its crossover issues were.

So let's look at Final Crisis and Blackest Night in the categories of lead-ins, the event, crossovers, and aftermath. I'll choose "winners" for each category, loosely based on which approach I favor or gives the most bang for the buck.

Lead-Ins:

Final Crisis had a whole year's worth of lead-in stories, Countdown to Final Crisis. Of course, if you consider that all the nearly fifty-plus issues of Geoff Johns' Green Lantern run have been leading in to Blackest Night, that's pretty hefty, too. It looks like ten Green Lantern trades versus four volumes of Countdown -- but then, for completists, there's Countdown to FInal Crisis: Lord Havok and the Extremists, The Search for Ray Palmer, Arena, and Countdown to Adventure, plus Salvation Run (and even Amazons Attack was involved), and none of the Countdown books have really been considered breakaway successes. Winner: Blackest Night

The Event:

Previously we examined all the issues going in to Blackest Night -- not only the eight issue miniseries, but also seven three-issue miniseries (another eighteen issues) plus seven "resurrected" titles -- thirty-six issues that are specifically titled Blackest Night. Final Crisis, in contrast, had seven issues, plus the Requiem, Resist, Submit, and Rage of the Red Lanterns specials, the Final Crisis Secret Files, the two-issue Superman Beyond, the three issue Rogues' Revenge, and the five-issue Revelations and Legion of Three Worlds -- twenty-seven issues total, and some of them extra-sized. We had thought Blackest Night was a behemoth as compared to Final Crisis, but it actually looks a little more even.

In terms of collections, Final Crisis had the main hardcover (which included some of the specials), the Final Crisis Companion, Revelations, Rogues' Revenge, and Legion of Three Worlds -- just four hardcovers and a paperback if you'd like to say you read the whole thing. At this writing, however, Blackest NIght has the main hardcover plus Rise of the Black Lanterns, Black Lantern Corps volumes one and two, and Blackest Night: Tales of Corps volume one and two. That's five hardcovers (so far) to Final Crisis's four. Winner: Final Crisis

Crossovers:

Final Crisis distinguished itself by a general lack of crossovers, though there were some: Justice League of America #21 and #31 dealt specifically with the fallout of Final Crisis, as did Titans #16; we also can't forget the "Last Rites" story that appeared in Batman after Batman RIP. Mostly, however, we can agree that Final Crisis kept to itself. Not so Blackest Night. I count at least sixteen issues of regular DC Comics series with ties to Blackest Night (and I probably missed some), plus at least eight issues each of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. Some of these will likely be collected in the hardcovers above, but if you're going for the complete Blackest Night picture, you'll probably be updating your collection with a good wide swath of the DC Comics Universe. Winner: Final Crisis

Aftermath:

Of course, it's hard to judge the aftermath of Blackest Night given that we don't know what will be released yet (though more hardcover Green Lantern volumes are sure to come). Final Crisis saw in its wake four six-issue miniseries, Run!, Dance, Escape, and Ink, all of which will be collected in softcover. As contrast, Infinite Crisis only had two follow-ups specifically labeled as "aftermaths": Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven (really a very early Final Crisis prelude) and Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre. We'd be surprised if the upward trend didn't continue with at least four miniseries coming out of Blackest Night. Winner: To be determined

Summary:

It surprises me that Final Crisis "wins" above, because I prefer how much more Blackest Night is tied into the DC Universe. One thing that sticks out to me, however, is the question of crossovers into monthly titles.

As I mentioned, Final Crisis has a lot of "fallout" -- that is, not monthly titles that cross over into the main event as with Infinite Crisis and Blackest Night -- but rather its effects are felt later in Teen Titans, Robin, Nightwing, and the like, and you get a complete story even if you only read the Final Crisis miniseries.

This reminds me of Identity Crisis, "the crossover that wasn't" -- as I understand it, Identity Crisis didn't start out as a crossover, but as it gained attention, writers began incorporating it into their stories and eventually it became a cornerstone of Infinite Crisis. I think this is how I'd like crossovers to be -- there's some thrill to seeing issues co-branded with Blackest Night, but something more organic like Identity Crisis and Final Crisis (or even how Blue Beetle and Teen Titans eventually crossed over with Sinestro Corps War) seems a better hedge against event fatigue.

Love when a crossover involves your favorite monthly? Wish those pesky events would stay in their place? Let me know in the comments!
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13 comments:

  1. I thought it was a lot of fun when every DCU book was crossing over with Infinite Crisis, but it was a different time, when both DC and Marvel had spent a lot of years avoiding linewide events. And it worked out so well because there was a tight core of writers (Johns, Rucka and Winick) behind the whole thing, which made it feel very cohesive.

    Nowadays, I think the reason why so many people throw the expression "event fatigue" around isn't the amount of tie-ins, but how long these events tend to run. Eight or nine months is too much. By the time Secret Invasion ended, I couldn't stand the sight of another Skrull, and I hope I won't feel this way about the Black Lanterns over the next four months.

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  2. I blame the current distaste for Skrulls more in regards to Secret Invasion itself. Let's face it; the event was a bomb. For all the planning, you had a ton of great ideas seperated from one another and buried under thirty pounds of muck.

    Secret Invasion had a similar construction to Blackest Night. The main series stood alone. But Blackest Night works as a complete story without the tie-ins, which flesh it out further. Secret Invasion lived and died by the buildup and Skrull reveals; when they seperated all of the reveals and not just the important ones from the main series, they literally ripped the meat straight off the bone to the point where all that was left of Secret Invasion was one giant brawl. All of it's flaws were on full display and it suffered uncontrollably because of it.

    Blackest Night has been a homerun up until now, where we're halfway through it. As such, I suspect a lot of folks won't tire of Black Lanterns by the end of it like they did Skrulls. If Secret Invasion had been a better story, I don't think the Skrull concept would have been damaged so terribly by the event.

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  3. I haven't had a much of a problem with DC trades lately but I've started getting some Marvel trades and Iron Man and New Avengers both stick out for me as problems.

    I have no problem with the plotting or writing of Fraction's Iron Man and I think it's great but in between the first and second trade Osborn takes over everything and some stuff happens that I only partially understand and it's summed up at the start of the trade. I don't like having the status quo totally disrupted by another event and it not being reflected in the pages of the comic I'm reading. i found it jarring and annoying.

    New Avengers was heavily tied into Secret Invasion and I found as a result it felt more like a Secret Invasion companion than it's own series.

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  4. I agree with the above post, but I would add that one thing which compounds this problem (both with Marvel and DC) is when some books are considered important enough/sell enough to be released in HC and others are not. That lack of consistency (especially as it surrounds crossover events) means that I can read one book which takes place right in the middle of the event, but another which is months (or even years) BEFORE the event becuase it's released in HC first.

    Being behind the monthly titles is the price you pay as a tradewaiter, of course, but the inconsistency is causing more headaches than it should. By the time I read the Green Lantern trades that tie-in to Blackest Night, that event will be a distant memory, thus robbing those stories of their significance. Yesterday, for example, I picked up the latest Supergirl trade which is labelled as a "New Krypton" tie-in. Now, being released in HC first means I won't read any New Krypton stuff until next year, and into 2011. The Supergirl trade is now completely isolated, and I'm of two minds whether it's even worth reading it straight away.

    I'm starting to think that all crossovers/events should be released in individual TPBs first, then collected together into omnibus HCs later.

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  5. "Yesterday, for example, I picked up the latest Supergirl trade which is labelled as a "New Krypton tie-in. Now, being released in HC first means I won't read any New Krypton stuff until next year, and into 2011."
    LOL!

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  6. New Krypton is a very, very good point. Indeed if you were someone who read Supergirl, and let's say only read Superman when it was relevant to Supergirl, you would indeed have to put off reading that Supergirl trade for a while if you wanted to wait for the Superman books to also come out in paper.

    Ditto if you wanted to read Robin: Search for a Hero but didn't want to buy Batman RIP in hardcover, you'll be waiting until next year.

    Me, I've gone hardcover for Superman and Batman -- I'm a big Superman fan, so that's not as much of a stretch for me, and I've enjoyed Grant Morrison's run on Batman enough to warrant hardcovers. Same with Geoff Johns' Green Lantern. But I decided to wait for the paperback when Paul Dini's Detective Comics went to hardcover -- it's not so relevant to the RIP story that it can't wait -- and also Green Lantern Corps -- Emerald Eclipse will be out in paper by the time Blackest Night is out in hardcover, I figure.

    I can't necessarily blame DC for the hardcover releases -- after all, most "regular" book publishers bring a book out in hardcover first and then wait a year for the paperback. I don't think it hurts for comics publishers' publishing policies to become more "mainstream." The difficulty, as in the New Krypton example, is that when you deal with a shared universe on one hand, and comics that are coming out monthly as is before they're collected in any format, you end up with readers who feel increasingly "left behind" -- by the time I'm halfway into New Krypton or Batman Reborn, for instance, I expect I'll be hearing mumblings about how those stories will be resolved.

    My solution, as I said, has been to begin to purchase certain hardcovers. I'd be eager to hear if there are other solutions out there.

    I was reminded the other day of a 2007 post I wrote on collections of Marvel's Civil War. This was well after Infinite Crisis, but well before Final Crisis. Marvel had essentially listed their Civil War trades all in order for a trade reader to follow the whole event, and monthly titles like Spider-Man had specifically Civil War branded trades. If DC did this with Blackest Night somehow (not sure the regular series monthly titles could make up individual trades), would you feel they were "involving" you in the event, or would you feel like the monthly series that you follow in trade had been taken over? I note there's a good mix of hardcover and paperback on the Civil War list, probably enough that if I was following it, I wouldn't feel I was being "forced" too much one way or the other.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this.

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  7. I think if comics are going to continue to follow mainstream publishing of HC first then PB, I would prefer if DC took a page out of Marvel's book (so to speak) and reduce the length of time between one and the other. By my reckoning most DC HCs take 11-12 months to make it to TPB form; with Marvel it's around 5 months. Sometimes it's more (for both companies) but at least with Marvel you don't feel quite as cut-off.

    With "Secret Invasion" Marvel faced a similar problem to the "New Krypton" one - that is, the New Avengers and Mighty Avengers TPBs that tied-in would have been released quite a bit after the event was over. They seemed to specifically reduce the time still further from HC to TPB for those 4 volumes (I think it was down to about 3-4 months) so that everyone could keep up.

    I'd love to know how successful the recent "Wonder Woman" experiment of releasing the HC and TPB on the same day was. I would love - LOVE - for DC to make this a regular thing, especially with top tier books like Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern.

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  8. ComicReaderDude11/14/2009 10:25:00 PM

    Update to my earlier Origins & Omens list.
    The new Wonder Woman HC, Rise of the Olympian was released last week. According to DC's solicit, it was supposed to contain #20-27, which would have put the O&O Wonder Woman story in the next TPB (Wonder Woman: Warkiller). If I had read up through WW: Ends of the Earth (which contains WW #20-25) I would have realized that the solicit for WW: RotO was wrong. Oh, well. So, WW: RotO contains (in addition to WW #27-34) the WW Origins & Omens story as well as the WW three pages from DC Universe #0.
    So there were a number (5?, 6?) of short pages in DC Universe #0 relating to upcoming stories. We know that the Batman pages from DCU #0 were collected in Batman: RIP, and the WW pages were collected in WW: RotO. It is interesting that the cover to DCU #0 is used for the cover for the FC: Legion of 3 Worlds HC, even though (to my knowledge) the Superman/Legion pages from DCU #0 aren't in that trade. Not having read DCU #0 (or DCU: Last Will and Testament for that matter), I am not sure where the other pages may even fit. I understand there were some GL: Blackest Night pages, so my guess is those will be in one of the BN collections. Does anyone have any insight into where the other pages may show up if they will be collected at all, based on what they seem to have alluded to?

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  9. First, a note about the Blackest Night collected editions:

    I’ve been a BIG fan of the Green Lantern series since “Rebirth.” The writing and art have been consistently excellent, with lots of sci-fi action and epic storylines like “The Sinestro Corps War.” I just got “Agent Orange” and realize that I won’t see another GL collected edition until June of next year. I’m not happy about that. Furthermore, when I see the list of all the various collected editions that fall under the “Blackest Night” umbrella, I find it a bit daunting. I’m worried that I’m going to end up having to purchase two dozen hard-cover books and then not know what order to read them in for the story to make any sort of sense.

    Frankly, I had the same problem with “Final Crisis.” Good Lord, there are still books coming out under that imprimatur! I bought the “Final Crisis,” and the “Batman RIP” books and found that very little of it made any sense whatsoever. Of course, there are so many books associated with “Final Crisis” that I don’t much know where to start, and the hardcover format makes it too expensive a proposition to consider. The main “Final Crisis” book was so dense, so obtuse, and impenetrable that I’m not really inclined to want to purchase anything else associated with it. My biggest question is was this latest “crisis” really necessary? I honestly don’t think it was anything that the DC Universe needed or was screaming out for. Instead, it was required so DC could have a “summer event” crossover—the latest DC and Marvel gimmick to inflate sales of books that cannot otherwise stand on their own by forcing fans who want to try to keep up with the “event” to buy those struggling titles.

    I’m worried that “Blackest Night” will suffer because of DC’s annual requirement for a BIG EPIC EVENT. I have faith that Geoff Johns will handle the expansive story and keep it reigned in and focused, but seeing just the initial solicitation of “Blackest Night” hardcovers, I must admit feeling a certain amount of cynical despair.

    (continued...)

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  10. Which brings me to my second note about comic companies’ gimmicks;

    I don’t know how comic fans in general feel about this, but, guys, I’m sick to death of the sales gimmicks perpetrated upon loyal collectors by the two big comic publishers, Marvel and DC (the Big Two). Foil covers; unnecessary crossovers; convenient renumbering (Daredevil renumbering so they can have a big, extra-expensive #500 issue, with Hulk about to do the same to push a #600 issue); an endless parade of new #1 issues for titles that were unnecessary, have no support, and die out after a dozen issues or so; ten alternate “variant” covers for every issue, then special, limited “variants”; backing away from TPB’s and instead putting EVERY collected edition out in a hardcover format, republishing them over and over as “absolute editions,” then “deluxe editions,” then “anniversary editions,” the ridiculous “omnibus editions,” and so on; and now the mandatory BIG SUMMER EVENT which crosses over almost every title in their lines and in which some character is unnecessarily killed or fundamentally changed.

    I’m dead tired of it. These gimmicks aren’t done for special reasons nor because fans are demanding them, nor or they done as story-driven ideas that, by the nature of the writer’s story and its scope, require crossovers. These gimmicks are cynical devises that the bean-counters at the Big Two, who think they know how to manipulate obsessive fanboy collectors into spending more and more money. The motive is so transparent to anyone who cares to step back a little and really look at it. Furthermore, I think it shows how little they think of the fans who support them. They think we’re all a bunch of sheep who will support whatever garbage they throw to us. Well, not me. I’m done.

    (continued...)

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  11. I’ve heard that the Big Two are now becoming aware of this annual BIG EVENT crossover fatigue among fans, and that they are talking about putting the brakes on it. Yet there is a big Hulk event about to launch at Marvel, you know there will be some big “event” in which they will bring back Steve Rogers as Captain America, and we all know that DC is surely going to bring back Bruce Wayne from wherever he is, and what better way to do it than within a massive crossover “event?” I don’t see an end coming soon enough. I suppose the marketing suits need to manufacture and prepare the next gimmick before they have the testicular fortitude to end the current one. I just can’t do it anymore.

    I could rail on about some other gimmicks, but I’d end up writing about nine pages worth of material. For example, does every collected edition need to come out in hardcover? If the story is special enough to be deserving of a hardcover format, then shouldn’t we have an introduction from one of the creators to provide some insight? But I digress. I’m sick of the annual BIG SUMMER EVENTS and the huge crossovers they bring, and I’m sick of the cynical, sales-driven gimmickry—all of it. I quit collecting comics in the 90’s when such gimmickry reached a fever pitch. I came back to collecting about ten years later, but the gimmickry just keeps ramping up. I refuse to deal with it anymore and I once again quit collecting comics about two years ago. At this point, I’m only doing selected collected editions. I know the bean-counters at the Big Two feel as if these gimmicks are essential to sales. That may work in the short term, but I will testify that I was once a loyal collector who visited the comic book shop every Wednesday and bought numerous books, whereas now I am a jaded and disgusted ex-customer who spends much less than before and rarely visits the local comic shops. I don’t think I’m alone, and if that’s the case then it would seem that gimmicks are hugely detrimental for long-term sales. And if the gimmicks become more invasive with the collected editions, or the stupid and unnecessary gimmicks in the regular books create difficulties in purchasing collected editions, I’ll reduce the number of those I purchase, or possibly quit altogether.

    To the Big Two I say, WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!! YOU ARE KILLING THE COMIC BOOK INDUSTRY! I will not be a sheep who flows blindly and passively swallows anything you choose to spoonfeed me.
    I’ll also leave them with a quote I enjoy:

    “I will not make any deals with you. I've resigned.
    I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered!
    My life is my own.”

    Brent

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  12. I didn't know this place was a giant soapbox. Go figure.

    Foil covers? Haven't been done in years. Convenient renumbering? Marvel does most of that and on DC's end people have DEMANDED it; see Wonder Woman. New #1's? Sometimes the only way to save a book that is otherwise going to be cancelled; they're not going to publish at a major loss.

    On "event fatigue", I've never bought that crap. You buy what you like. If you get roped into a big event, that's often your own fault. ESPECIALLY these days. DC has made it disgustingly easy to avoid their chief events; tie-ins have been at rock bottom levels for events and most of the important stuff is happening in tie-in miniseries away from the main books. They've made a point to have big stories running in the ongoings outside of the crossovers; something fans have COMPLAINED about, claiming lack of relevance.

    Here's the thing; if fans were really "fatigued", they'd stop buying. The events would bomb. These events make a lot of money; and like it or not, comics are a business and they don't run on unicorns and rainbow farts. They're not going to just stop because some fans claim to be sick of them. For all the talk, no one backs up their words.

    Blame your fellow fans; if they really wanted change they'd do something about it.

    Simple proposition: Buy what you like. No one puts a gun to your head telling you that you need to buy these events. Often enough, you can put A and B together to figure out what effect an event might have on a solo without reading it too. If more folks actually supported the solo's and helped make them profitable, the companies wouldn't need to do so many events. Seriously, if ongoings received better sales and an event or two got a ho-hum sales reaction, you'd see things change pretty damn quick.

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  13. I agree with dl316bh. Last month, DC had 6 of the top 10 monthly issues, 5 of which I believe were Blackest Night related. That doesn't sound like event fatigue to me.

    Also, I like how DC put the "big event" tie-ins into their own mini-series, and minimized the impact on other monthlies. I remember reading about Crisis on Infinite Earths, how every monthly title would have the crossover logo on the top, trying to get people to buy the issues, but inside the only "crossover" part was that the characters noticed the sky was getting white. The approach they're taking now seems much more honest to the customer.

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