If you take a look at the solicitation from this month’s Previews catalog (or simply flip through them online), you’ll notice a particular trend: mega-events! These are story lines on steroids, big epic arcs once again set to shake the Marvel Universe to its core. Mega-events are the new black from the Big Two, each one setting up these major story lines full of characters and change, reinvention and old favorites, giving you as much bang for your buck as humanly possible. And looking over what Marvel has in store, we have a hell of a lot of bang.
So far, one mega-event has fallen into the other: Avengers: Disassembled fell into House of M which nudged the likes of Civil War which slammed head first into ‘The Initiative’; sure the last one isn’t really a ‘mega-event’ as it doesn’t have a particular storyline that’s pressing these changes, but for argument’s sake it is at least a theme or setting change that’s effecting multiple books at once. In June, the domino effect is splintering off in three directions: World War Hulk, Annihilation: Conquest and X-Men: Endangered Species. Each storyline can be considered a ‘mega-event’ as their stories span multiple issues with a huge cast of characters and all of them promise that infamous Marvel credo, ‘And nothing will EVER be the SAME!’
Now I know a lot of people are a little worn out on the mega-event; I for one will be the first to admit I took one look at the list of books for each and knew I might have to start saving ahead of time. But unless you’re a hardcore completest, I think Marvel might actually be giving us a break with three different flavors of mega-event for a full and hearty meal.
Think that metaphor was a little off beam? Keep reading and tell me what you think.
Think of World War Hulk as the works; we’re a big holiday five course meal with all the fixings that’s shared by the whole family. Gravity guarantees that what comes up must come down. And you have to admit, the Marvel Universe right now has a great deal of gravitas. The focus tends to be on making the incredible credible to some extent, the super fantastic taking real world cues. So, what gets to me more than the idea of the Hulk returning and another great big superhero battle on the horizon, is where exactly this story is going to land after all of it’s over. Grek Pak’s been handling the Hulk to some serious success for about a year now with this goal in mind; I wouldn’t be surprised if this came as an editorial suggestion first before ink hit paper to maximize how much the story could land into other titles and involve other characters. Civil War had tons of cross-over potential and a World War has just as much. The stands will be green, I tell ya. For this hard work to get the ball rolling, he’s going to have help as every Marvel writer on staff it seems will be getting a crack at the ol’ World War Hulk ball. Pak and Romita Jr. will have the reins, through story and style, of a major story set to have some serious splash damage through other titles. Since Annihlation is in space and the mutant books tend to be very well contained (not to mention the real story hitting sometime in the Fall), this is the Main Show, Hulk vs. Us, with everything still up in the air following after. From the Solicit for WORLD WAR HULK #1: Stronger than ever, accompanied by his monstrous Warbound gladiator allies, and possessed by the fiercest and purest rage imaginable, the Hulk may just tear this stupid planet in half.
And you know what? He just may. Quesada loves to say that ‘anything can happen’ in the Marvel Universe and as each issue goes by, the status quo just becomes this little point on the horizon. World War Hulk could have any possible ending at this rate, but I’d put my money on something tragic. After all, as a wise man once said, ‘That’s all life is, a series of down endings.’ and recent Marvel mainstream titles have kept to that what with dark Spider-Man, Captain America’s demise, Speedball’s new identity as Penance, etc. But I digress.
But what if you’re not into that? What if that meal is too big and you’re a Marvel fan who likes the meat and potatoes of the story and not al the extra froo-frau. The first Annihilation series did what could possibly be called the impossible: it took a long neglected nook of the MU (the cosmic nook, to be exact) and solidified it into this cohesive character driven epic that litterally spanned galaxies. No mean feat, anyone who read the Annilhilation storyline now knows exactly what is up with the major players of Marvel space division and how they relate to one another. Major changes were made, characters that had languished in the margins now had a chance to have their moment in a story that had a clear beginning, middle and end full of possibility. Annihilation set up entire galaxies to play in with a lot of questions and possiblities to explore and it looks like they are going to do just that. From the solicit for the ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST PROLOGUE: What’s next for the battle-weary heroes known as Nova, Peter Quill and Quasar? What are Ronan’s plans for the once-mighty Kree Empire? Which cosmic characters of the past are about to return? Who is the new hero approaching on the horizon? And what is the new threat that no one suspects?
I’ve gone on and on about how much I loved this series, so I’ll try and keep from waxing poetic because what I really want to note is the structure of this mega-event. It started with a prologue, a set of minis to introduce and flesh out the major players in the game, the big game itself and some wrap up minis to add detail to the end of the story. Clear, distinct, and very character driven as opposed to the heavily plot-driven Civil War. Each one has their advantages and disadvantages and we’re here at the Fifth Color salute them both.
Not only that, I personally think it’s a good idea to have both flavors of mega-event in play at the same time. If one doesn’t do it for you, if you’re not all that interested in whoever Firelord is supposed to be or really don’t want to have to hunt down random issues for another nugget of story, don’t just give up, declare all comics the enemy and walk away. Go see how the other side lives in space or with a great green menace.
But what if neither of them are what you want right now? What if you’re not that hungry and just want a little something to whet the appetite? Well, for 17 weeks, the X-Titles will have a back up story leading into the fall event ‘X-Men: Endangered Species’. That’s going to take us right through September or so with stories that won’t interrupt the flow of the current goings-on for Marvel’s Merry Mutants, but subtly push them in a direction that can open up into a much larger plotline. Mike Carey’s on this one, making me wonder if my recent confusion over the recent storyline in the current X-Men title are actually going to culminate into something big. Also, mention of the Astonishing X-Men makes me wonder if it’s just a reference to the team in that book, or the actual title. Do the events of Joss Whedon’s “Breakworld” story fall into this super-colossal event or is this just a marketing trick to lure in faithful Astonishing readers? Just how far is this story going to go? For inquiring minds, folks, the appetizers are fantastic. From the solicit for the X-MEN: ENDANGERED SPECIES ONE-SHOT: Join THE ASTONISHING X-MEN, X-FACTOR, and the NEW X-MEN for the first steps towards the fate of the entire mutant race. And that’s all they’re going to say.
After event after event, publicity stunt after publicity stunt, I have to admit it’s nice to see a lead-in that doesn’t give away the goods too soon. Sometimes you can actually get away with just saying ‘Keep your eyes here, folks, things’ll get interesting in a few months’.because with the X-Men, their mega-events can be both plot-driven and character-driven. They promise you the moon (sometimes literally) and tend to deliver within their own sphere of influence. Events like ‘Fall of the Mutants’, ‘Inferno’ and ‘Fatal Attraction’ spanned multiple books and really resurfaced the X-Men landscape with each storyline. Within those storylines, however, characters have risen and fallen (and sometimes, risen again!) for key moments of focus. How one person reacts is just as important as the total effect on the mutant populace and that kind of story takes time. So, if you’re not happy with World War Hulk or Annihilation: Conquest, why not kick back, relax and munch some appetizers with the X-Men for 17 weeks?
And if none of those fit your bill, go read some easy and fun, done-in-one stories with the Marvel Adventures line, written by the always catchy Jeff Parker. There really is a comic out there for everyone.