Friday, September 12, 2008

MARVEL vs DC: Summer 2008

Well this past Summer has certainly been a most interesting one for the 'Big Two'. During this time we got to see both companies present their readers with their annual Summer event books, replete with a long list of tie-ins, such as the obligatory one shot specials, related mini-series and the countless number of tie-in issues of each company's regular titles.

The Marvel event book this year is Secret Invasion, and is focused on the Skrulls efforts to systematically infiltrate and then invade the planet Earth with the belief that it is the promised land for the Skrull race.

The DC event book this year is Final Crisis, and primarily involves the rebirth of the various New Gods characters (after their recent apparent demise) and a cunningly orchestrated assault on the heroes of the DCU by the reborn forces of Apokolips.

Although both Summer events are still unresolved as of the time of my writing this, I am pretty much ready to declare a winner here. Before I declare it though let me be clear: I was definitely anticipating both of the Big Two's event books this Summer - there really was no bias here at the outset. (honest).

After reading a number of issues of both series, as well as a number of the tie-ins (yes, I am a sucker for them every year) I would have to give the victory to ...


Now here is how I reached my decision on this.

Storywise, I have to admit that Secret Invasion had me more engrossed in its storyline early on; after the first two issues I was really wanting to see where the story was going to go next with all of the Skrulls devious infiltrations starting to bear fruit and their traps being sprung on the confused and bewildered Marvel heroes. Of course a decent start to a story isn't too hard a task for someone like Brian Bendis, the writer of this mini. I suppose where it started to go downhill for me was probably at about the third issue; by that point despite the interesting peripheral stories that Bendis was telling, the main storyline was starting to feel bogged down, with major heroes of the story standing around stuck in the Savage Land fighting each other as well as a group of apparent Marvel hero imposters. I knew it was eventually going to move ahead to a (hopefully) entertaining climax, I just felt that I was being asked to wait too long to get there. You know it is a bad sign when the crossover issues are more entertaining than the actual main series and that was where I was at by the third issue. Ironically, it was the Bendis written crossovers that I was enjoying more than his main event book. This is actually more of a compliment on the writing of his current Avengers titles rather than saying anything negative about Secret Invasion. However, crossover issues shouldn't have to be the saviour of the main book and unfortunately for Secret Invasion they are.

Artwise, secret Invasion was nothing special. I seem to be in the minority of people that actually don't mind - heck, even enjoy Leinil Yu's artwork on the New avengers regular series. For some reason however, even though many of the same characters are in it, I wasn't getting the same level of enjoyment from Yu's work on Secret Invasion. I will keep buying it and reading it to see where it all goes because I am still enjoying it to some extent, just not to the level I was at the start.

Interestingly enough, my experience with DC's Final Crisis has been almost the exact opposite to that of reading Secret Invasion; for me Final Crisis started out a bit slow - as I sometimes find Grant Morrison's work is guilty of doing, but really started to peak my interst after a couple of issues. Morrison has been subtley building up the tensions throughout this story while drawing many different threads together. On the surface the storlines seem to be disparate, but it is becoming evident that they will all be eventually tiying in towards a very big climax. Morrison's plotting here is very reminiscent of aspects of his work on 52. I have to wonder though if there was any kind of a company mandate for having the return of a certain scarlet speedster or if it was all from the mind of Morrison. These first few issues have beared rereading because Morrison is giving us so much detail in his scripts; there is some effective layering going on here.

The J G Jones artwork has been very solid so far and has really been fitting the mood of the story. Jones has a knack for drawing super heroes as pretty normal looking peole and is quite effective at capturing the feel of a chaotic and gritty environment (ala Bladerunner), and that style really suits the story here. Obviously I will be following this series to its conclusion as well.

There you have it, I picked an end of Summer winner even though we have not yet reched the end of this Summer's events. Okay, maybe it was a bit premature on my part but i was feeling the urge to somehow mark the passing of this year's Summer events, even though they will still be with us come Halloween...