Mike Gold: War is over
No, not that war, I regret to say. That war is going to take a while. And probably a major turn-out at the polls late next year.
According to our good friends at Diamond Distributors, Marvel’s Civil War ends this week with the shipping of the seventh issue of the core mini-series. Joey Quesada and his roommates are to be congratulated, not only for finishing it off (believe me, I know how much work is involved) but for pulling off a remarkable task.
This whole mega-crossover event thing started inadvertently back in the summer of 1963 as a two-issue meeting of the Justice League and the Justice Society. It was a great story and an even better event. It put into action a bunch of characters most of us had only heard about, and it changed the nature of the DC universe forever. Twenty-one years later, Marv Wolfman and George Perez did a 12 part mini-series called Crisis on Infinite Earths, purportedly to straighten out DC’s continuity hiccups and train wrecks. They did a fine job. In fact, Marv and George established the benchmark for all future mega-crossover events.
Unfortunately, immediately upon the conclusion of Crisis DC did a complete re-boot on Superman and Wonder Woman. What’s the point of re-booting the entire universe if you’re going to completely alter your emperor and your empress? Of course, the well-earned success of those two re-boots led to the eventual, and continual, re-booting of most of the other characters.
Because of the success enjoyed by Crisis, the mega-crossover event became an annual staple – not only of DC’s publishing plan, but also of most other publishers with their own heroic universes. Financially, most of these puppies more than earned their keep. Sadly, the quality rarely came up to the standard of Crisis on Infinite Earths. A few were so bad they collapsed of their own weight. None had the magic of the original.
Then came Civil War. Marvel announced that those who only read the core mini-series would be able to completely follow the story. Sure, there would be sundry sidebar mini-series and one-shots, and there would be story arcs in most of the individual titles so readers could follow how the story would impact their favorite characters, but, basically, they when they structured Civil War Marvel burned up the old marketing plan.
Creatively, Quesada and Company did something rather amazing. They made it relevant to our troubled times. Joe suggests this was inadvertent; clearly, some or even most of the writers felt otherwise. There are strong parallels here to the Bush Administration, to the so-called War on Terror and, most important, to the impact of government policy on American freedoms and democracy. In some ways, Marvel allegorically covered the current Iraq War more effectively than the New York Times.
Not every spin-off tie-in was compelling, although I didn’t read every Civil War tie-in. I know I read more than I had intended, simply because the core series and its theme were so good. In retrospect, I think a lot of people are going to look at their rack of Civil War trade paperbacks and say that, in the aggregate, this was too much. Probably so, but who cares. Fans weren’t obligated to buy books involving characters they didn’t care for.
Like Galactus dropping by Earth for a bite, Civil War will continue to have its impact upon the Marvel Universe for a long time. The entire editorial staff at Marvel, including the writers and artists who went nuts designing their unique pieces of the overall puzzle, are to be congratulated. Not only did you keep comics fun, but you made it all interesting.