Another month, another comic event! That’s what it feels like, anyway, to many comic shop regulars. The high stakes and potentially universe-altering stories are designed to get more customers picking up the books, while possibly grabbing a new reader to the main character or team involved. In years past, we typically got a major event once or twice a year from each of the Big Two comic publishers (Marvel & DC). However, as the years go on, the amount of “big events” have increased. Which then begs the question, for those unfamiliar, “What even is a comic event?”
What is a comic event?
Even that definition has changed significantly over the years. At one point, it was sort of the annual “big thing” a comic universe would do. It is a way for many books to eventually cross over into one big story. They can be fun, large, and complex stories that revolve around a specific character or team. The stakes are usually very high, with a major consequence as a result.
And yes, in many of them, a beloved character tends to die. But don’t worry, these are still comics and those deaths typically never last more than a calendar year. Events didn’t happen that often – but when they did, they got attention. Once one event ends, there’s time to settle and look at the ramifications. If done correctly, you have a whole new sandbox to play in as a creator, and the readers can enjoy a fresh take on the character or plot.
It can be extremely rewarding as a fan to see things unfold. However, the number of events seem to multiply as the years go on. In 2022, we experienced four titled events from Marvel: the new year event Death of Doctor Strange, the spring event Devil’s Reign, the major summer-fall event A.X.E. Judgment Day, and the winter event of Dark Web.
Guide to comic events
Comic event fatigue
It’s time we talk about the elephant in the room—comic event fatigue. Comic events are a lot to keep up with. Every event comes with its own tie-in issues, spin-offs, and of course– its main story. This has led to what many call event fatigue. Essentially, just being done with it all. Worn out by just trying to keep up. But here’s how I deal with event fatigue and what eventually makes a good (and bad) event.
Read what you want!
It sounds oh-so simple. While it is, many people have difficulties with this. However, it’s the best and easiest way to deal with the dilemma of what to read. If you don’t want to read a comic event, you simply don’t have to. This especially goes for tie-in issues. Many events have a tie-in issue for a character that doesn’t get a lot of page time. And honestly, that is probably the best part of modern events!
Do you just want to read the main story? Awesome! Hear that one of your favorite characters is getting an issue from the event? Sweet, pick it up! However, you shouldn’t have to read every story in order for it all to make sense. And that’s what leads to what is and isn’t a good event.
Comic event breakdown
A good event should consist of one simple rule: If you can follow the entire story through its main book, then it did its job. The tie-in issues should be for bonus stories. Extra coverage of what is going on, in and around that story. Recently, I think “Death of Doctor Strange” did this to perfection.
There were several tie-ins to that event that answered “What would happen to (insert character here) if the Sorcerer Supreme died?” Getting a story for White Fox and Elsa Bloodstone was fantastic. And it made perfect sense that these stories were being told due to this event. But you didn’t have to read those. They were, simply, extra tales for characters that don’t get a lot of page time. They also provided some great stories out of the main book (which hardly even addressed these tie-ins, and could’ve been read completely on its own).
Chip Zdarsky’s Devil’s Reign comic event—a story about Kingpin running for Mayor of New York—did fairly well with this balance until a critical moment happened in one of its tie-ins. Suddenly, in the main story, there were drones flying around the city and a heavy presence of Fisk’s Thunderbolts. A moment that occurred in the “Villains For Hire” tie-in stories, which wasn’t heavily mentioned in the main book. This wasn’t vital to the overall story, but it definitely felt like I missed something by not reading those tie-ins.
Remember the rule for comic events
A good event provides massive, character altering changes, for long-term readers to enjoy a fresh take on that character. Many times, comic events serve as “key points” in a character’s overarching story. However, they do often come in an over-abundance, and you may just sit one or two out. In the end, that’s okay because it comes down to the simple rule—read what you want.