Ever since House of M in 2005 was followed up by Civil War which led into World War Hulk which led into Secret Invasion and on and on and on, Marvel’s mode of operation has been giant epic crossover events that affect every character in the Marvel universe, and in the case of the modern Secret Wars, the entire Marvel multiverse. While the constant promise of bigger, crazier events with far-reaching consequences that will change the Marvel universe forever seems like a winning strategy, more and more fans are starting to get sick of going through one event after another with no room in between to breathe.
DC has had their share of big crossover events too, but it’s nothing compared to the craze that Marvel has worked themselves into, and lately, sales are starting to suffer for it. Marvel’s VP of Sales infamously blamed their sales slump on too much diversity and too many female characters rather than putting the blame on themselves for forgetting to make good storytelling a priority in favor of gimmicky events. After more than 10 years of non-stop events, here are 15 reasons why it’s time for Marvel to leave them behind for awhile.
15. EVENT FATIGUE
One of the biggest problems with these constant events from Marvel has nothing to do with the events themselves. The problem is that the events come one after another in a seemingly endless succession. On paper, putting the entire Marvel universe and its characters lives at stake sounds pretty exciting, but when the entire universe is constantly at stake for whatever event is going on, it takes away from the smaller, character-centric stories that attracted readers in the first place.
The editorial idea of the upcoming Generations actually arose from the need to counter the drop in sales that the last two months of crossover events always suffer. Their solution was to prop up Secret Empire with an event-within-an-event. This Event-ception is only going to cause more event fatigue for fans who started feeling exhausted somewhere around Avengers vs. X-Men and haven’t gotten a break since.
14. THE UNIVERSE-SHATTERING CONSEQUENCES NEVER CHANGE MUCH
It should be obvious to almost anyone that the “overpromise and under-deliver” strategy is a surefire way to disappoint your audience, and yet Marvel seems intent on the “overpromise, then ignore fan disappointment” marketing strategy. Every event promises to be a “game-changer” that will “change the Marvel universe as you know it forever.”
The recent Secret Wars promised to end the Marvel universe completely, and it did for a few months, but when the event was over the only change readers got was that the “Ultimate Universe” characters were now a part of the 616. The only fallout from Civil War II was that everyone (characters and audiences alike) are kind of pissed at Carol Danvers. Sure, Tony Stark is “dead,” but not really. His body is alive and his consciousness is preserved in an AI, so he’ll probably be revived just in time for Generations.
13. THE PLOTS DON’T ARISE ORGANICALLY
It would be one thing if the concepts for Marvel’s events were a natural extension of the storylines from individual books, but they always seem unnecessarily forced with new elements that seem to scream, “Okay, we need something to happen to shake things up.”
Civil War had to have a character destroy a town to set events in motion. Civil War II required a new clairvoyant inhuman (as if they’ve never met a clairvoyant before), then for Carol Danvers to basically turn evil for several months. Secret Empire required a retconning cosmic entity to rewrite Captain America’s entire history to make him a HYDRA sleeper agent. There was a long buildup to Secret Wars, but even that required a massive collision of multiple universes.
12. FAN-FAVORITE HEROES HAVE TO BECOME VILLAINS
While this doesn’t apply to every event Marvel does, it’s certainly been the standard since the original Civil War. In theory, it’s a pretty intriguing concept. Comic readers used to debate constantly about who would win in a fight between their favorite heroes. The problem is that heroes generally have the same ultimate goals: to protect the innocent and fight evil.
Any series of events that causes heroes to physically fight each other are either far-fetched and contrived or completely out of character for someone. Take Civil War II for example. Carol Danvers starts arresting heroes for things they haven’t done yet because of a semi-accurate clairvoyant. So every little girl that looks up to Captain Marvel as a role model has to watch their hero become someone they hate. It’s not fair to the fans and it’s not fair to the creators.
11. CONSTANT REBOOTING
While newer fans may not notice it, long-time comic book readers typically can’t stand the constant rebooting of their favorite titles. Marvel books used to reach issue numbers in the hundreds, often with creative teams that would handle their respective characters for years at a time.
Now though, after every major event, and sometimes in the middle of one, a series will go back to #1, often with a new creative team. It makes it hard to give readers a chance to find something they like before it’s rebooted, so titles can’t build a loyal readership. Debut issues always see a boost in sales, but after that, they slump significantly, so it just comes off as a sleazy way to get a quick sales boost at the expense of long-time fans.
10. HERO VS HERO EVENTS DIVIDE FANS
With Marvel constantly relying on events to pit one group of heroes against another, the inevitable result is that fans are going to start taking sides. As most people know, comic book readers can be a passionate bunch, so if one character or group isn’t obviously completely in the wrong, it’s the kind of thing that can divide friendships. That kind of division not only makes comic readers feel like less of a community, but could eventually even harm sales if readers decide to drop Marvel out of spite.
Take Avengers vs. X-Men for example. They’re Marvel Comics’ two most popular superhero teams, and some readers follow one or the other religiously, but rarely both, just because they’d be spending hundreds of dollars on comics every month. How many comic-reading friends were on opposite sides of that conflict?
9. DELAYS STRETCH THE EVENT OUT FOR TOO LONG
If the Marvel events were able to release their issues in a timely manner and finish on schedule, then we would probably get more of a break between them and therefore, feel less exhausted when yet another event rolls around a few weeks after the last one ended. However, due to the production schedule at comic book companies, stories aren’t written and drawn all at once, and editorial changes are often made throughout production, so it often results in delays.
This has a huge effect on sales, because when readers can’t read a new entry in a story for two or three months at a time, they inevitably become less invested in it and sometimes quit altogether, but even if they stick with it, it still has the effect of making it feel like the event has been going on forever, which just adds to that event fatigue.
8. NO BREAKS BETWEEN EVENTS MAKE EACH ONE FEEL LESS IMPORTANT
There are a lot of factors that cause events to follow one after another with no breaks in between, but the biggest one is just that Marvel wants it that way. It creates a minor temporary sales boost for individual books and the event issues themselves.
The problem with this is that if you promise that every major crossover event will have consequences that will shatter the Marvel universe forever over and over and over again, then it gets to a point where that doesn’t feel like that big of a deal anymore, even when they actually go through with it and have the Marvel universe changed forever. Marvel keeps trying to raise the stakes in any way they can rather than just telling a focused, organic quality story, which is all that readers really want.
7. POINTLESS FILLER ISSUES
If there’s one thing all readers hate, it’s when they wait an entire month for the next issue of a story they’ve been following, only to get through it and find out that nothing really happens in it. While this can happen in regular ongoing titles too, it’s less common because writers can plan their story arc how they want, and in general, they end it when they think it should end and lead into the next arc.
With events, the number of issues are typically planned out and announced ahead of time, so when a writer discovers that their story is stretching a bit thin, we get issues that consist of characters just talking about the conflict, like the reader hasn’t been following the exact same story they have. Sometimes a minor fight will take place, but in the end, you could probably skip them and not miss anything.
6. IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE STORY, YOU’RE STUCK WITH IT
In a normal ongoing book, if you don’t like the way an arc is going, you can wait it out for a few issues, or just stop and come back when it’s over. If you don’t like an event, you’re not only stuck with it for the better part of a year, but also it invades every other book you’re reading, so you can’t escape it. Even if you did just stop reading for a few months (which is the opposite of what Marvel wants), you’d be lost when you started up again.
This is becoming more and more of a problem with event stories that seem to want to alienate fans. They pit fan-favorite heroes and teams against each other, they destroy established continuity, they even turned Captain America into a Nazi, which was infamously not met with positive reactions.
5. THEY’RE REACHING FOR ORIGINAL IDEAS
Speaking of Nazi Captain America, that brings us to another issue that these events are having more and more. In order to have a storyline that literally affects everyone in the Marvel universe, the writers need to come up with concepts that are increasingly more and more far-fetched. No one really bought that Captain Marvel would arrest and murder her friends over a clairvoyant that no one could even really agree predicted things accurately. Even with Rhodey’s death affecting her mindset, it just wasn’t believable.
The goal of Secret Wars was to bring the 616 and 1610 universes together so Marvel could stop publishing Ultimate books without losing Miles Morales. To accomplish that, they had to literally crash the universes into each other, which created a Battleworld dimension, which then reverted back into a slightly altered 616. It was a convoluted series of events that even Jonathan Hickman couldn’t save.
4. IF YOU DON’T FOLLOW THE EVENT, SOME TITLES BECOME NONSENSE
Worse than being stuck with an event story that you don’t like is that some books are so central to the main conflict that you have to follow the event to know what’s going on. If you tried to read Captain Marvel while Civil War II was going on, you’d have a hard time understanding why she was doing anything, and characters would be referencing things you hadn’t seen, so it made a huge portion of the series unreadable unless you were also following Civil War II.
Even for books that are less directly tied to the event, there are usually “tie-in” books that put unrelated characters into the fold so that the consequences of the event seem far-reaching. Even if you only follow one title, you’ll end up with a multi-issue arc that you can’t understand.
3. MOST “TIE-IN” BOOKS ARE IRRELEVANT TO THE EVENT
As bad as the ultra-relevant tie-in books are, they’re not as annoying as the “tie-in” issues that don’t really tie into the event at all. Marvel wants to boost sales for individual titles, so they mandate an arc in certain books that they can slap the event title onto the cover of, so completists will pick it up to get the “full story.” But most of the time, there’s only a passing reference to the event, if even that.
Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Mike Hawthorne’s Deadpool had a five-issue “tie-in” arc to Civil War II that focused on a “civil war” between Deadpool and the Mercs for Money. While it was nice that the event didn’t derail the book, anyone trying to get more insight into the rift between Captain Marvel and Iron Man would have been fairly upset at the lack of relevance.
2. THEY HINDER THE CREATIVITY OF INDIVIDUAL BOOKS
Speaking of derailing individual books, maybe the biggest problem that a lot of fans have with these huge events is that they put the writers and artists in a creative box when it comes to telling their own story. If Marvel demands a tie-in arc, then they have to plan ahead to lead the characters in a direction that will eventually cross over with the event. Then they have to struggle to put things back in place for when that arc ends.
It’s a shame for creators that wait around to write for their favorite characters only to have to throw out their own story ideas if they don’t fit with Marvel’s big vision. It leaves us with titles by great writers that end up feeling generic and uninspired. There’s nothing more disappointing.
1. THEY’RE ALWAYS A LETDOWN
That brings us to the biggest problem with these events. The investment never pays off. The story that set off this event fever was House of M which led into Civil War. House of M took place in an altered reality, so a lot of X-Men fans weren’t too pleased with it, but even worse was Civil War.
The concept behind Civil War was great: pit Marvel’s two greatest heroes against each other, each with teams of heroes on their side, culminating in an epic battle between the factions that will ultimately result in Captain America’s death. In execution, though, the general consensus is that Civil War was tremendously disappointing, and many readers feel that no event since then has been able to break that streak of disappointment.
What are your thoughts on the frequency of Marvel’s major crossover events? Should they scale it back? Stop altogether? Ramp it up? Let us know what you think in the comments!