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Published on June 11th, 2014 | by JCDoyle

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Wars And Owls: A Selection Of Crossover Events

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Plastered across the top of my recent Avengers comic was a reminder that this issue was a tie in to the Marvel wide Original Sin story. I’m not sure how it ties in but then I’m not reading the Original Sin story so I don’t really know what’s going on. It doesn’t seem to have affected the Avengers story which see’s our heroes flung into the future to meet another set of Avengers and a very old Hawkeye.

Generally speaking I don’t get involved with Event stories or line wide crossovers but then generally speaking I don’t watch television but I could easily name you four TV shows I never miss: and generally speaking I don’t read non-fiction books but this year alone I’ve read a selection of biographies and history related reference books: and generally speaking I don’t like Michael Bay films……..

However, throughout the many years that I’ve been reading and collecting comics I have not only bought Event stories (plus numerous tie ins) but I’ve also enjoyed some. Here are four of my favourites and are in my opinion worth reading, if you can get your hands on a copy.

Marvel’s Secret Wars

When the Beyonder kidnaps a collection of Earth’s super heroes and villains and deposits them on a distant world, the stage is set for a Tekken-esque series of fights between the mismatched collection of Marvel’s favourite characters.

The 12 issue run was basically designed to sell a new set of toys that Mattel were producing with Marvel at the time. This explains why there are some changes to the costumes and over all look of some of the characters, Dr Doom being most notable. Apparently he was too medieval so the tech’ed him up.

Secret Wars UK Edition #1

I was unaware of all this when I first read it; I was in fact probably the target audience, a young boy obsessed with comics and toys. I picked up several of the UK reprints from this, initially because Spider-Man was on the cover and I remember the excitement of reading it. The very nature of the story introduces a wide selection of characters, some of which I don’t think I’d come across before, such as the Fantastic Four. This is perfect for a young reader getting into the Marvel comic line: it’s like a spotters guide. A lot of my favourite characters were introduced to me from this set of comics and  it wasn’t until years later that I read the entire saga in full. Although I had a sticker book version of it, which was near enough at the time. Characters like Nightcrawler, Colossus and Kitty Pryde, the Lizard, Ultron and Galactus first entered my life through Secret Wars and they still remain some of my favourite characters today.

But the most important part of the story is the introduction of Spider-Man’s black costume. This changed so much of the Spider-Man landscape at the time and the saga that started here influences the comic books and movie franchises even today. The look and feel of the character changed and Peter Parker’s life was never the same again.

I recently bought a collected edition of the Secret Wars and re-read it for the first time in years. It’s still a good read and it reminded me of my huge introduction to a wide selection of characters. It can be read on its own without any outside knowledge of the Marvel Universe but many of the characters, and the lives they inhabit today, draw on themes present in this series.

Marvel’s Inferno

Inferno advert focusing on the villains

Inferno advert focusing on the villains

This crossover story from Marvel is primarily an X-Men based story and is a little ‘out  there’ to say the least. After getting trapped in Limbo with her fellow New Mutants, Illyana Rasputin basically makes a deal with a demon to get back home and opens a gateway to Manhattan which N’astirh uses to lead an army of demons on an invasion of Earth. Not your standard story but was Fear Itself any stranger?

Cover of Web of Spider-Man Inferno tie in

A whole host of crazy events take place and there are enough demonically possessed objects to keep the Ghostbusters in business for life. A lot of X-Men related things happen including the mindless massacre of the Marauders, clones of Jean Gray and the aforementioned Illyana becoming the ruler of Limbo. But for me, the high point of this crossover is the demonic possession of the Hobgoblin. Yet again it’s Spider-Man related. N’astirh imbues Jason Macendale with demonic powers which make him a more formidable enemy for the web slinger and provides him with a whole host of new tricks. It also disfigures him but there’s always a price to pay. As a fan of the Hobgoblin character I was excited to read this development and follow it through to the ultimate conclusion, years later, with the birth of the Demogoblin.

Inferno is not the easiest story to get into, and is difficult to read even in the collected editions because so many of the stories overlap and are told from different points of view. However, pivotal moments in the Marvel Universe are played out during this story so it’s worth giving some of the story a shot, if you can. It’ll come as no surprise that I would recommend reading the Spider-Man tie ins for this.

DC’s The Night of the Owls

Interior art work for The Night of the Owls

Interior art work for The Night of the Owls

This is the most recent and only non Marvel entry on my list. This is partly because I’m not much of a DC reader so tend to give the big crossovers a miss but also because (from my experience) DC tend to use the big event to ret-con their characters. However I did read all of 52, the weekly comic and Zero Hour several years before that.

Nightwing tie in issue

Out of all of the New 52 series that I read for any length of time, Scott Snyder’s Batman run proved to be one of the most interesting, initially. The tale of a secret society embedded in the very heart of Gotham is a fascinating idea and obviously they would end up pitted against Batman when they’ve decided that he has gained to much notoriety in the city. During the run of issues there are some truly wonderful moments and inventive story telling by the writer and artist. When it gets to the crossover stage, all of the Batman family are called back to Gotham to help out.

To be honest, the ending of the story isn’t that great, it’s a little bit formulaic and an anticlimax to the wonderful build up, however, just like Secret Wars, it introduced me to a number of characters that I’d not been reading before. Because of The Night of the Owls story line I stated to read the Batwing, Nightwing and the Batgirl titles, therefore I have to consider the event a success. None of the tie ins were necessary while reading the story as it unfolded in the main Batman title but in a way they were the best bits because they introduced the various other characters to new readers and used the crossover story as a doorway into their worlds.

Marvel’s Civil War

Civil War banner

Civil War Banner Art

The Marvel Civil War storyline was the first one that I really got invested in. It came at the perfect time when I had enough disposable income to collect everything linked to the story and had no real responsibilities to make me question if I really wanted to buy the post-war Ghost Rider tie ins. I pretty much got anything that was linked to the original 7 part miniseries which meant I had a lot of reading for two whole months.

On the whole most of the tie ins were worth reading even though they relied on knowing the events of the main story. However, if you were only reading, for example Moonknight, you wouldn’t have to buy every title to get what was going on, in fact the first issue of Civil War would give you all the information you would need. This line wide event did its marketing job very well because it brought  lesser know comics to the attention of readers. Suddenly the ‘Cable and Deadpool’ comic was being read by people who knew nothing outside of the normal Avenger related titles.

Civil War #3 cover

Cover for Civil War #3

Do I need to do a story run down? Okay, after a disaster in Stamford, where a super human battle caused the deaths of over 200 people, The Superhero Registration Act is passed into law meaning that anyone with Super powers has to register themselves with their respective governments. Reed Richards and Tony Stark are supporters (for various reasons) and Steve Rogers is not, with every single hero (and villain) in the Marvel Universe taking sides. Then it is a case of ‘ Let battle commence’. And it does across the pages of almost all (if memory, and the vast box of Civil War related comics in my cupboard, serves me correctly) of the Marvel superhero titles. Some are better than others and depending on which characters you liked prior to the event would depend on which titles would appeal during the event. The Fantastic Four and Spider-man titles were greatly affected where as the likes of The Incredible Hulk and Ghost Rider were barely touched.

The main story is very well written and manages to stay central to the story, allowing the tie ins to deal with the peripheral scuffles. It focus’ on the big hitters which is what you want from an Event and there is enough story for these central characters to fill all of the miniseries. It is possible to read just the Civil War title without any of the other comics but some of them add real substance to the narrative and the Spider-Man titles are at their best for years.

If I had to recommend just one Event story, Civil War would be it. It’s got everything and involves everyone and has some shocking, surprising, edge of the seat narrative. I still find the Peter Parker reveal at the press conference a ‘sudden intake of breath’ moment. This is the story that I have reread the most and the one I would most likely lend to a friend.

Today Events and Crossovers are looked down on and seen as a gimmick although they continue to sell really well, so much so that there tends to be several from each of the Big Two publishers each year. There are many more big, title wide storylines that are worth reading. I have already stated I am not much of a DC reader therefore their events tend not to have much of an impact on me but when they kill off one of my favourite X-Men in the Second Coming storyline, I sit up and take note. There are also smaller, less known crossovers that have emotional impact on the people that read them, the Mys-Tech Wars is one that I very nearly used here but decided that not that many people would have even heard of the central characters never mind the story itself. But it had an effect on my reading in the early 90’s.

Everyone has soft spots for these types of stories so why don’t you share your secret crossover loves with us in the comments below. When you start to think about it, I’ll bet you’ll be surprised how many crossovers you actually like.

JCDoyle

JCDoyle

Lover of comics and Art and Sci-Fi in multiple media. Currently teaching my kids the ways of the Geek (while protecting my first editions)
JCDoyle

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