This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on January 18, 2016.
Ever since maxi-series like Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths debuted in the mid-1980s, event comics have been a staple of the superhero genre. They’re the stories too big for a typical ongoing series, epics that overlap with multiple titles and interrupt other narratives, arcs that shatter the status quo (even if just for a little while). If you look back to early examples like “Inferno” in X-Men comics and “The Death of Superman”, there’s a lot to love. They were big and unwieldy, but spoke to the incredible scope and stakes that can only be found within the superhero genre.
Yet recently the concept of events have garnered a bad image. While just a decade ago Civil War shook up Marvel Comics and spun off a wide-array of successful new and revamped series, today Civil War II has been met with falling sales and a lackluster response. Many comics readers complain about the endless cycle of events in which there is never a break and a single story can take almost an entire year to complete. Does this mean that the day of the superhero event is over?
Not at all.
With the launch of their Rebirth initiative DC Comics has shaken up the pacing of their stories, as well as their publication schedule. The bi-weekly momentum of many comics has impacted how they approach telling events as well, and it is definitely for the better. After about half of a year, they’ve completed, begun, or announced a variety of crossovers and the results are clear. We’re here to examine how DC Rebirth has reinvigorated the superhero event and what other publishers might learn from their great ideas.
The DC Rebirth Crossover: “Night of the Monster Men”
It’s worth distinguishing between two major sorts of events: Crossovers and Event Series. The former is a story told purely within a collection of existing titles, while the latter is told in its own unique mini-series, possibly with some tie-ins from existing or new titles. The first notable crossover of DC Rebirth came in the Batman line of comics with the story “Night of the Monster Men”. It was a six-part story that crossed between Batman # 7-8, Nightwing # 5-6, and Detective Comics # 941-942. In these issues Batman and his closest allies battled against kaiju-like monsters created by Doctor Hugo Strange to demolish Gotham City.
The notion of crossing over several linked titles to tell a story is nothing new. Completing a crossover of this size in a single month absolutely is. All three of the series involved were already on a biweekly schedule meaning that with two installments each, one to two new chapters would be delivered each week. The editorial team also brought on one artist to handle each segment of the story, as well as writer Steve Orlando to oversee the entire project. Every issue came out on time and the six-issues read like a complete, coherent narrative, which goes to show how effective this plan was.
What’s most notable about this change is that it serves both readers who love and hate crossover well. There’s no risk of fans forgetting what is happening between installments, as each week delivered at least one new chapter. The editorial organization of the story also insured that it flowed smoothly in words and art (and that’s a big help for the collection as well). It also meant that readers who only wanted to pick up one series could easily skip the crossover. Instead of going months without Batman, they would only go a single month without, skipping two issues before diving back into the regular self-contained story. The fast-pacing of this crossover made it a real win-win scenario.
It’s likely that most readers think of tentpole mini-series when they think of events though. These are the titles that publishers hang their hats on each year and hope to boost sales across the line. DC Comics is currently wrapping up their first big event of Rebirth with the penultimate chapter of Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad out today. It’s a six-issue story as well that crosses over the publisher’s most popular teams of heroes and villains to battle a set of rogues whose existence hints at even bigger threats. In addition to the main series, it’s also crossing over with both Justice League and Suicide Squad.
The event began on December 21 and is set to wrap up on January 25 thanks to a weekly publication schedule. Careful planning has assured that each new installment has landed on time and the assigned creative teams have delivered all of their work. The series itself is a delightful romp, possibly the best appearance of either team in Rebirth so far. There are no significant gaps or alterations, making the narrative as consistent as one could hope for. Additionally, only three issues of Suicide Squad (#8-10) and two of Justice League (#12-13) are considered tie-ins, and none are essential to the main story.
Both critical and commercial reception of the series has been notably positive, fans are buying and critics are raving. It’s a ton of fun delivering on all of the promises found in its premise, and in quick order. The weekly publication scheduled has kept hype at a maximum level as well with some new reveal worth discussing each and every week. It also offers the same benefits as the Rebirth-style crossovers, where naysayers can easily check out for just a few weeks before returning to their favorite titles. We may not be sure why you’d want to skip this series, but if it really isn’t your thing, then it won’t force itself on you for six months or more.
The Future of Superhero Comics Events
It’s difficult to say what the most successful element of DC Rebirth has been, but the reinvigoration of superhero events is definitely a contender for that number one spot. Looking at all of the crossovers and events so far, it’s impossible to pick out a loser. That’s true for a number of reasons.
The pacing of biweekly and weekly comics keeps readers invested in the story. It also allows them to enjoy elongated action sequences and some silliness that don’t waste precious space in a monthly installment. Furthermore, they provide readers who don’t enjoy a particular event a break without feeling alienated or left out for an extended period of time. It is a situation that serves every opinion well without anyone being encouraged to drop a title.
This sort of breakneck publication schedule also encourages lots of pre-planning and it has clearly paid off. Whatever the editorial teams at DC Comics are doing is working. No tie-ins, crossovers, or event series have been published late so far. The clear labels on covers make it easy for fans to identify what they need each week and to jump back into a story that never show the strains of deadlines.
DC Rebirth has created an event model that is more enjoyable for all sorts of fans and that delivers a better polished product. Stories like “Night of the Monster Men” and “Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad” are already being hailed as some of the best event comics in years. When it comes to this sort of storytelling, speed and efficiency are of the essence. Other superhero publishers ought to look to DC as an example of how it’s done best in 2017.