Wake Up And Smell The Coffee: Random Thoughts & !%^*ing Crossovers

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Why does DC do it? I ask myself this question over and over again. I’m sure there are many reasons for crossovers, but mostly attributed to sales and marketing. The latest, “Bruce Wayne: Murderer?” and “Bruce Wayne: Fugitive”, is just their latest ploy which… I dare to say… I think I’ve figured out. It doesn’t really dull the pain, it only bolsters my belief that DC editorial doesn’t really believe they can hook readers with good art and stories anymore. They believe they have to force us to buy their books. Allow me to paint a picture for you.

With December 2001 right around the corner, DC began to realize the full potential of Dark Knight 2 and what it could mean to their most popular franchise. What could they do to send some of those DK2 readers to the monthlies? How could they pull it off? Let me ask you all something… what would you do if you weren’t reading comic books and someone offered you a Batman book for ten cents? That was all they needed, people. A spark, an idea… the perfect hook. A ten-cent comic book that in actuality, was part 1 of a 19+ part storyline. Don’t let this two-part crossover nonsense confuse you, they could have easily solicited it as one but it’s easier on the eyes when split up. They trick the Dark Knight readers into buying the 10-Cent Adventure, which is in actuality only an introduction to another issue. Then they proceed to force every Batman-related title sans one onto those potential customers. Once “Murderer?” concludes, “Fugitive” remains in play until July, which gives DC just enough time to flood the market with as much Batman product as possible. Sound too far-fetched? Then why is it July? Is it sheer coincidence that Kevin Smith, Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker have two new Batman spin-off series slated to launch at that time? If you think it’s all by chance, then you must honestly believe DC editorial to be run by idiots.

This may be one of the best creative lineups for Batman ever, but I have no interest in paying for the books I don’t usually read or my favorite titles now ruled by someone else’s plots. That’s why I avoided “Our Worlds at War” and “Joker: The Last Laugh”. I buy these books to read the stories therein, not what Jeph Loeb or Chuck Dixon thought would be cool to see across the entire line. Ed Brubaker has quickly become one of my preferred Batman writers, but this is the single most crossover plagued title in DC Comics. “Batman Dies”, “Officer Down”, “Our Worlds at War”, “Joker: The Last Laugh”, “Bruce Wayne: Murderer?” and now “Bruce Wayne: Fugitive”. An entire year - twelve complete months - of crossovers in the last 20 months, almost immediately after a 2 year long crossover concluded, Cataclysm/Aftershocks/No Man’s Land. Hell, that’s 10 months in the last 13. Is it me, or has the change of Batman group editors done little to slow down this festering marketing gimmick? Maybe it has nothing to do with the editors and it’s a company concept. Makes sense considering the patterns. The most frightening aspect of this that the number of monthly Batman titles will soon eclipse the X-Men titles. You heard me right, folks. Think on that for a while and then for kicks imagine your friendly crossover. The horror…

While the ongoing portion of the franchise is going to blazes, I noticed a wonderful Batman trade was solicited this month. Detective Comics’ own Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett created an awesome 6-issue mini-series last year, Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood. The title is somewhat confusing, as the story is really about the Huntress while Batman retains a supporting role. Sure it’s another pathetic marketing scheme, but don’t let the name of a book keep you from missing out on a fantastic story. This was the series that finally told me who the Huntress is and why she cannot and will not work under Batman’s rules. Definitely some of Rucka’s best work at DC, he also brings the enigmatic Question along for the ride.

One of the other interesting offers I noticed in the latest solicitations was the Marvel hardcover collection, Spider-Man: Deluxe. The book is pretty much a sampler package of the current Spider-Man titles, wrapping together various material from what is arguably the best work seen from the franchise in a decade. First up is the initial Amazing Spider-Man 6-issue story arc by J. Michael Straczynski (creator of Babylon 5) and artist John Romita Jr. (Incredible Hulk), followed by their now famous World Trade Center stand alone tale. With the inclusion of the WTC story, the contents already expand past that of the recent Amazing Spider-Man: Coming Home trade paperback. But there’s more…

They have also included several issues of Spider-Man’s Tangled Web, featuring the phenomenal single issue story “Severance Package” by Greg Rucka and artist Eduardo Risso (100 Bullets) and the two issue villain/character study in “Flowers for Rhino” by writer Peter Milligan (X-Force) and Duncan Fegredo (Chasing Dogma). Next up is a single issue of Peter Parker: Spider-Man by regular writer Paul Jenkins (Sentry, Witchblade) and artist Staz Johnson. A peculiar choice considering it is an issue hardly representative of the series itself, but a great read all the same. Completing this package is writer Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man) and penciler Bill Sienkiewicz’s three-issue story arc from Ultimate Marvel Team-Up. Depicting “Ultimate” Spider-Man’s first encounter with the “Ultimate” Punisher and “Ultimate” Daredevil, I can’t really find any reason for its inclusion due to the out-of-continuity existence. However, it would be far too absurd for me to complain about anything that includes art by Sienkiewicz, with an accompanying script by Bendis no less, which can only result in some very provoking noir.

Anyone looking to make a serious dive into the one of the most exciting periods in Spider-Man history should look no further than this book. Unless you’ve got some serious dough and you can afford the complete trade paperbacks of each series….

Parting thoughts for this edition? If you haven’t seen the Nickelodeon series Invader Zim, by the creators at Slave Labor Graphics, you are probably going to Hell. No one wants that, so check your local listings. See you around.

Born and raised in Tampa, FL, Drew Reiber is a part-time student with aspirations of someday writing those comics he so loves to rant about. He’s still on a buzz from the X-Treme X-Men 2001 Annual but is hoping that will wear off before someone mistakes him for some kind of drug addict. You can find his other column at (http://hometown.aol.com/nolansnewsstand/), which has a similar name, but different content.

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