Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Eternal Debate - Part IV : Final Crisis vs. Secret Invasion (The Tie-Ins)

And by eternal, I mean for the past 12 or so months. You could not go anywhere in the Internet (well, at least the sites I frequent) without finding a conversation about either Final Crisis or Secret Invasion. Or both. This year's events from the Big Two felt incredibly long, by design or by circumstances, but they are now officially over (Legion of 3 Worlds notwithstanding), which allows us to look at both events objectively, or at least as objectively as comic book readers can get.

That is where I come in. I want to look at the different aspects of both events, measure them up against each other and see who comes up on top. To do so, I have chosen several categories (or rounds) which will allow me to compare both sides of the 2008 Special Edition Event Coin. If you have not yet read both series in their entirety, there will be spoilers ahead. Oh, yeah, and the point system may or may not be arbitrary or what most people consider fair. You have been warned.

This is day four of the Eternal Debate, with Secret Invasion taking a lead of 2-1 against Final Crisis.

The Tie-ins

Ask any comic book fan what three aspects of their hobby frustrates him or her more than anything and they will probably tell you the following: continuity (and the disregard for it), volumes (deciding what volume a given comic book is part of) and useless tie-ins, almost always stemming from big events such as Secret Invasion and Final Crisis. Depending on who you ask, and how cynical that person happens to be, tie-ins are either a shameless money grab by the Big Two trying to cash in on the popularity of big events or just a chance for other writers to explore themes from said big events. The truth is that they are probably a bit of both, but there is no denying that some tie-ins are actually very good while others are almost completely useless and only partially related to the main event. The amount of tie-ins in the past year for the two events I'm reviewing is incredible, according to my hand count on Wikipedia, there were more than twenty Final Crisis and around one hundred or so (holy $#!&) Secret Invasion tie-ins.

Final Crisis had a smaller set of tie-ins that were for the most part released as mini-series and one-shots, the most notable exception being the tie-in in Batman's title that were also part of the highly publicized R.I.P. storyline. One of the most exceptional aspects of the Final Crisis tie-ins was that Grant Morrison wrote five of them, and these issues played a very big part to understanding the events of Final Crisis (Morrison himself has released a reading order , and his tie-ins are indeed there). Of course, this is a double edged sword because there is a huge amount of comic readers that did/do not purchase all of the tie-ins, either because of event fatigue or the dwindling economy and shrinking wallets. According to the sales numbers, only about one out of two people that bought Final Crisis 03 also bought the Superman Beyond 01 tie-in, meaning that there's a good portion of the readership that is missing a chapter in their Final Crisis storyline. To make matters worse, the hardcover and paperback collections of Final Crisis are being released as two parts (the main event and a companion book), it almost seems that they are purposely trying to do the opposite of what Morrison says. While the Morrison-written tie-ins are almost essential to understanding the story, the rest have been only tangentially related to the main event but at the same time overall enjoyable (most of them by Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka). As I mention in the introductory paragraph, there is still one tie-in that has not ended, Legion of 3 Worlds, which is kind of ridiculous when you consider the events in this mini-series happen before the events of Final Crisis.

Marvel opted for a different approach for their Secret Invasion tie-ins: they seemed to have thrown everything at the wall and hoped that it would stick. Almost every Marvel ongoing series felt the repercussions of the Skrull invasion in their pages, while the ones that were in the middle of an important story arc were given a special mini-series (such as Fantastic Four, Thor and Spider-Man). Looking at this from a marketing point-of view, this is a genius move from Marvel's side because it forces almost every one of their readers into reading a part of the event. The problem with dealing with such a huge amount of tie-ins is that the end-result is a mixed bag of stories ranging from good, such as Guardians of the Galaxy, to bad, like X-Factor (a title that has only suffered every time it gets dragged into an event). In addition to the above-mentioned tie-ins, there were also several one-shots and special mini-series to further showcase just how global this invasion was. The Secret Invasion tie-ins took place in several locales around the world: Washington (Thunderbolts), San Francisco (X-Men), United Kingdom (Captain Britain and MI13), Wakanda (Black Panther), and even the moon (Secret Invasion - Inhumans). The Black Panther's Secret Invasion tie-in is my personal favorite of the whole bunch; written by Jason Aaron, we not only see the Skrulls in very different light (as soldiers who are just caught in a war and want to head home), we also see the Black Panther deal with the heavy burdens of being a ruler of a land while at the same time battling the Skrulls in a way that would make The God of Prep-Time proud.

DC and Marvel took different approaches to their big event's tie-ins this year. I (obviously) have not read them all, but in sheer terms of quantity Marvel would have won this round. Even if the results weren't that good, the Secret Invasion tie-ins really did help to convey the global (and universal) scale of the Skrull invasion in the Marvel Universe. On the other hand, some tie-ins felt very forced or useless and just harmed the ongoing storyline of some titles. The Final Crisis titles aimed for quality over quantity, with each tie-in focusing on very specific parts of the DC Universe such as the LEGION, Flash, Batman and Checkmate. The only fault (and sadly, it's a big one) that I can find with them is what I mentioned above: if the tie-ins are fundamental to understanding the main story, then they should have been part of the event. I feel that both of the Big Two, while having vastly different approaches, handled the tie-ins in a successful manner with only minor missteps. Therefore, this round is declared a draw and each company adds a point to the scoreboard.

PS: I realize I should have done the post about the tie-ins before the post about the spin-offs, just because it would have flowed better thematically. It's only my fourth day in the blogosphere, I'm allowed to make mistakes.


  1. I think the biggest problem with Final Crisis' tie-ins is that they aren't tie-ins in the traditional sense.

    Legion of 3 Worlds, aside from that one off panel about memorizing the Miracle Machine, is not related to Final Crisis in any tangible way. Rage of the Red Lanterns just makes me scratch my head. Rogues' Revenge had Libra ina couple of panels, so I guess it counts? Resist and Submit are the closest things to tie-ins, but neither is really necessary or properly followed up on. Finally, Superman Beyond is absolutely essential to understanding Mandrakk and the themes of the final issue, yet was excluded from the main story for some reason.

    All in all, it's like they decided to just mess with the fans even if they only had a handful of tie-ins, which is worse than the 100+ issues Marvel threw at the wall, if you ask me.

    PS: The Black Panther tie-ins were amazing. I love Jason Aaron.

  2. The only Final Crisis tie-in that I did not read was Legion of 3 Worlds (just not a big Legion reader), but I inferred that much just from reading online reviews.