In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.
What is your favorite Crossover Event?
House of M makes me angry.
I love Wanda’s part in Avengers Disassembled, she’s an Anakin. I expected House of M to continue that — to explore Wanda’s motivations in her troubled mind and to explore Magneto’s regrets and to bring them both back to good or alternatively set her up to be a true Darth Vader to his Palpatine and have them rain terror on the Marvel U. Both of these ideas were teased in the lead up to House of M and I was interested in, excited for even, either. But House of M was none of that. When I first read “No more mutants.” I threw the comic. And then I threw a fit. In that moment it screamed PLOT DEVICE WANDA EX MACHINA and it felt like the entire crossover event had nothing to do Wanda or Magneto or anyone. It was just a collection of pretty words and pretty pictures to get us from Point A to Point B. And I was angry.
But then two things happened. 1) I fell in love with Brian Reed’s Ms. Marvel which was based on Carol’s experiences in M-World (starting with Giant Size Ms. Marvel #1). And 2) I came to the conclusion that The House of M is actually King Lear. Magneto is Lear, Wanda and Pietro are Regan and Goneril, and Lorna is Cordelia. Imagine the last lines of Lear spoken by Layla Miller:
The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.
House of M still makes me angry. But that’s why I have decided it is my favorite.
(And it is also very pretty.)
My choice pushes the definition of “crossover,” and in a way that’s the point. 52, a DC Comics series published weekly between May 2006 and May 2007, didn’t represent a “cross” between any existing books. It worked, loosely, as a sequel to the Infinite Crisis event. Post-IC, all of DC’s books had taken a one-year time leap, allowing status quo changes in various titles. 52 purported to tell the story of what happened in that missing year. But it was so much more than that.
52 is a sprawling, novelistic look at the places and people of the DC Universe. Instead of basing the book around “big names” like Batman, Wonder Woman, or the Flash, the series picked up characters from small or forgotten corners of the universe. There was a Ralph Dibny, a former Justice Leaguer, simultaneously mournig and investigating the death of his wife; Natasha Irons, a would-be teen hero who joined a Lex Luthor-led initiative to give ordinary people superpowers; a team of lost heroes making their way back from the reaches of space; and, the reason I picked up the book, former Gotham City police detective Renee Montoya, on a quest to solve a mystery that turned out to be nothing so much as herself.
That sounds hopelessly confusing, but when I started reading 52, I was familiar with very few of the characters and almost none of the events. Perhaps because of the diverse and often obscure nature of the characters, that didn’t end up mattering much. The book was written with the assumption that some readers would know none of the characters, and almost no one would know all of them. Care was taken, then, to establish distinct personalities and specific quests for each of these people. I was lucky enough to read the series when it was all out in trade, and I remember the feeling of diving into this new world and discovering every small corner of it. It’s what good imaginative literature does, and superhero comics don’t always remember to do it often enough.
Speaking of the writers involved: a few guys named Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid. Almost as much as the story, I enjoyed reading the extra materials in the TPB’s describing the collaborative process among these four — very gifted, very opinionated, and very different — creators. The end product ends up looking like something none of them could have come up with on their own, but that somehow worked together.
52 isn’t a perfect series. There are storylines that don’t get the time they deserve (and vice versa). By necessity, the art — aside from J. G. Jones’s brilliant covers — is inconsistent, and even the good art often looks poorly finished. On rereading, I found that the ending of several major plotllines was unsatisfying, and (perhaps related) there are places you can see the distinct fingerprints of direction-change or editorial interference. There’s much more good than bad in this series, though, and considering the circumstances, it’s a bloody miracle it came together at all. But I’m glad it did.
I’ll note that this question does not ask for a “best” crossover event. It isn’t asking for any measure of quality. So when I give my answer, keep in mind that I’m speaking exclusively in terms of “favorite,” an inherently personal and subjective designation.
Civil War is not a good miniseries. It was written by Mark Millar, one of my least favorite writers in comics. Its politics are incomprehensible, its plot inconsistent and convoluted, and its characterizations frequently questionable. And the tie-ins ranged from the abysmal (Civil War: Frontline) to the irrelevant (Civil War: X-Men), with very few outliers.
And yet Civil War, coming out as it did at the very beginning of my tenure as a comics reader, has undeniably shaped what comics I read and how I read them. It was my introduction to Captain America and Iron Man, my introduction to the Avengers, and, perhaps most importantly of all, my introduction to the Marvel Universe as a huge, multi-layered landscape full of rich and diverse characters.
Civil War is responsible for Casualties of War: Captain America/Iron Man and The Confession, two of my favorite one-shot issues of all time. It’s responsible for the Death of Captain America storyline, which led to a few years’ introspective meditation on what my favorite character meant to the universe. It’s directly or indirectly responsible for the Initiative and Dark Reign eras, two of the most interesting and creatively fertile periods of comics I’ve seen. And it’s responsible for letting me to see how heroes could disagree, even fight, and still remain heroes — flawed heroes, certainly, but heroes all the same.
I’m not sure I’d recommend Civil War, on an objective level, to anyone. But I can’t imagine what my interaction with the Marvel U would be like without it, and for that I have to give it credit.
My favorite crossover event is DC Comics’ No Man’s Land. It is also, incidentally, why I detest Batman.
In No Man’s Land, the city of Gotham has been destroyed by earthquake. For complicated DCU reasons not bearing close scrutiny, the federal government decided to abandon Gotham. The city is evacuated and anyone choosing to remain is left without services, law, or running water. Winter is on its way. (This story was a lot more like fiction when I first read it. But I am writing this Q&A response on the fifth anniversary of the Katrina-based flooding of the city of New Orleans, and the abandonment of an entire city seems more plausible now. As does the horrendous mis-management of survival and rebuilding.) Worst of all for Gotham, though, is that all of the nutjobs and crime lords have stayed in the city, while Batman has fled.
You utter wanker, Batman. You complete WANKER. You left the city to die slowly, left your kids to try their damnedest to hold on to something. And when you got back you chewed them out for not being you.
Oh, do I ever detest Batman.
The best thing about No Man’s Land is that Batman is not the lead character. Instead, this is a balanced and nuanced story about Gotham, the city. It’s the story of Barbara Gordon and her alter ego Oracle. It’s the story of Jim Gordon and his wife Sarah, it’s the story of Harvey Bollock and Renee Montoya and the normal humans of the GCPD. It’s Helena’s story and Cassandra’s story. It’s also the story of the countless normal people who would not or cannot leave their homes.
The cast of No Man’s Land are driven to do things and make decisions that they would not do under normal circumstances. They all compromise their ethics in the face of horrible choices. Cooperating with Two-Face, making deals with the Penguin. Lying to each other with the best of intentions. Becoming people they never meant to be. It’s these sorts of decisions that Mr. I’ll-Never-Compromise-I’ll-Just-Flee-But-That-Makes-Me-Better-Than-You comes down against when he returns. Wanker.
The true heroes of this story are the people who stayed, compromised, and returned from the darkness. Barbara. Jim. Helena. Cass. Helena’s journey, in particular, makes me cheer for her, rage on her behalf, and want to stab Batman. Apparently what you need to do to gain Batman’s approval is be shot multiple times by The Joker. It does seem to be a theme, with him.
I own not only the collected trades of No Man’s Land, I own the novelization by Greg Rucka. The novelization is well worth reading, in my opinion. I highly recommend it.
What is your favorite Crossover Event?