Event Comics: A Survival Guide

This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics

Of all the barriers to superhero comics, none is so tall and daunting as the dreaded Event Comic. You can be cheerfully plugging along with a book when suddenly everyone is 75 years in the future, and they’re fighting someone who picked a fight with your hero’s cousin in an issue that hit newsstands in 1981.

Ethan Van Scriver, Marcelo Manolo

Ethan Van Scriver, Marcelo Manolo

Convergence and Secret Wars are particularly intimidating because they’re combining decades worth of alternate continuity into giant free-for-alls. Blogs are full of people who are super excited because the Hell King from the Zero Flash Age of Logan is back, and the implications for the future of Cloudface Girl are astounding. At around that point, things may seem so hopelessly convoluted that you consider walking away.

Please don’t. Because Event Comics are more manageable than they seem.

I’ve got some tips to ensure you make it out alive.

Narrow Your Focus

There are roughly 40,000 Convergence books, and a presumed 7 million Secret Wars stories. Part of what makes event comics so off-putting when you’re new to the hero game is the feeling that you have to read all of it. I promise, you don’t have to grab every comic with the event logo on the cover.

If you really want to read every tie-in for an event, go for it. But you probably don’t. Read the main book, and check out the side stories that appeal to you. If a book you’re reading has an event tie-in, you should probably read it. Sometimes, it will be completely out of continuity (glaring at you, Age of Ultron). Sometimes, though, it will be relevant to that character after the event is over. You can skip tie-ins in books you don’t normally read. If events in a tie-in are vital to the main story, they’ll get a shout out in the event book.

Read it Like a Kid

Most people who got into Marvel or DC comics as kids didn’t start cleanly at the beginning of the comic universe. They may not have even been at the start of an arc. So they just accepted the story world as it was presented and figured the rest out later. Cape Guy is Angry at Hat Guy? Okay, cool. Maybe Cape Guy and Hat Guy were best friends until last month, maybe they are life-long enemies. You’ll learn as you go. For now: Cape Guy is Angry at Hat Guy.

If you don’t know whose poor, neglected son caused the Age of Apocalypse, you can still read Secret Wars. If you can’t tell Flashpoint from Zero Hour, you can still read Convergence. Roll with the story that’s in front of you. Cape Guy is angry at Hat Guy.

Go Beastmode on Research

You know that thing I just suggested? I don’t do that. I want to know everything that has ever existed. So I research. Most of my DC knowledge springs from being curious about something in DCAU, then falling down a wiki-hole. People at your local comic shop may be a help, too. Or you can find a newbie-friendly place online to talk comics and ask questions

*pointedly glances at our wonderful comments section*

And now to our last tip…

Just Skip It

In the last three years, I’ve skipped more events than I’ve read at Marvel. And at DC, I didn’t even register that some of them existed. Not because they were bad; they just didn’t relate with what I was reading. You can read the Fraction/Aja Hawkeye run without ever knowing who Ultron is. Gotham Academy: Endgame is a good read, even if you don’t know it’s an event tie-in.

Even if the you read a book that launches straight out of an event, you’ll pick it up from context. Convergence and Secret Wars are both slamming the brakes for their respective universes, and it’s hard to say what things will look like afterward. If you try to jump in after the dust settles, no one is going to demand the code phrase that could only be assembled by decoding the 8th word bubble on the 10th page of each issue. I stopped reading X-Men for about 13 years, and hopped back in after right Schism. I was aware that a bunch of mutants lost their powers, I had no clue that the X-Men had ever moved to San Francisco, and I didn’t know why the schools had split. A couple of issues in, I knew enough to get by. Two schools, both alike in dignity, etc. As I went on, I also dipped back into the era I missed at my leisure. I’m speaking from experience when I say that you can just dive in and sort it out as you go.

Superhero comics look like a giant, tangled web of continuity. It’s because they are. But no one knows all of it, so there’s no reason to let that stop you.

Plus Convergence: Question is really good. It’d be shame to miss it just because you don’t know Renee’s middle name.

 

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