So, as I'm considering the massive marketing machine that has for so many years been the multi-part crossover, Marvel and DC are in the midst of their BIGGEST CROSSOVERS EVER!!!!
I am, of course, talking about Marvel's "Secret Invasion" and DC's "Final Crisis". The two have taken decidedly different approaches to the crossovers, and the effect is quite interesting.
Marvel have apparently been building the secret invasion for years. Or rather, Brian Bendis, the evil genius mastermind behind the crossover, has. Years back, when he started up New Avengers, Bendis alluded to a sinister force within S.H.I.E.L.D. Little or nothing was ever mentioned of it again, the House of M came and went, as did the Civil War, and all of a sudden the Skrulls invaded and everything made sense. The main series, Secret Invasion, is a surprisingly stand-alone story. We have invasions of Skrulls, and heroes doing their best to repel them. The really interesting bit is when you follow not only this title, but Bendis' two Avengers titles as well. In these, he travels back to various events he set up all those years ago, and shows how they were actually pieces of the invasion. One likes to think he set it all up. I really believe he did, because that makes the last few years of Avengers comics even better than they already were. And they were pretty amazing. Of course, Marvel has the invasion spreading out into all of their titles, which really does give the feeling that this event is impacting all the of the heroes and forging changes in the shared universe.
DC, on the other hand, have gone a different route. As far as I can tell, the Crisis is not impacting any of the currently published titles. Instead, we have a number of mini-series branching out of the main one. I have to admit to having a soft spot for Final Crisis, as it is written by my favourite comics writer, Grant Morrison. But it just doesn't seem to have the impact that Marvel's invasion is having. I feel a little hypocritical writing that, as one of my biggest problems with the previous Infinite Crisis series was that you have to have read 5 or 6 other series for it to make any sense whatsoever. Final Crisis seems to mostly stem from Morrison's mega-crossover (which will be discussed in greater detail in a later column) "Seven Soldiers", most specifically Jack Kirby's New Gods and their fall to Earth. Perhaps I'm jumping the gun, and once the series, which is only 3 issues strong so far, gets more steam, it'll bleed into the other series. However, as my fellow comic fans will atest, an important part of following one hero or another is trying to keep straight just when in the hero's life a particular even happens. If Batman is undergoing a mental breakdown in his own title, when are we supposed to assume that he was captured by the Apokaliptan gods in Final Crisis?
(Try geeking out more than that. I dare you.)
So, the verdict, so far, is that the "Secret Invasion" event seems to be hitting more emotional highs than "Final Crisis". The action is faster, the consequences more far-reaching. "Final Crisis" seems to be a self-contained story, rather than the crossover it was advertised (or assumed, perhaps) to be. Morrison has said that if DC hadn't allowed him to do the story in official continuity, he would have done it as an All-Star title, which perhaps explains why it doesn't seem to be having any affect on the DC universe. Again, with "Secret Invasion" more than half done, and "Final Crisis" not quite to the halfway point, it may be too early to tell which is the better story.
But don't take my word for it. Go read them. They're both excellent.