Civil War II and the Fall of Event Crossovers: An August Prophecy


Very recently, Diamond finally released the numbers for August.  Aside from DC and its Rebirth soft-reboot dominating the charts, one more thing comes through clearly:

Civil War II, Marvel’s lengthy ‘summer’ crossover event, has not proved a sales juggernaut like its predecessor and namesake.  The only Marvel title to break the top ten this month, Amazing Spider-Man, didn’t have anything to do with the event.

Civil War II, August 2016, By the Numbers

Forty-five separate titles figured into the crossover event for at least one issue.  In August, those titles included (in order of popularity, according to Comichron):

  1. Deadpool (50, 51)
  2. Invincible Iron Man (55)
  3. Captain America: Steve Rogers (58)
  4. Spider-Man (59)
  5. All-New All Different Avengers (61)
  6. Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man (65)
  7. Civil War II: Choosing Sides (67)
  8. All-New Wolverine (72)
  9. Uncanny Avengers (74)
  10. Civil War II: X-Men (79)
  11. Guardians of the Galaxy (84)
  12. Civil War II: Choosing Sides (88)
  13. Uncanny Inhumans (89)
  14. Captain America: Sam Wilson (91)
  15. Ms. Marvel (95)
  16. Civil War II: Kingpin (97)
  17. International Iron Man (98)
  18. A-Force (101)
  19. New Avengers (102)
  20. Ultimate (103)
  21. Civil War II: Ulysses (107)
  22. Power Man and Iron Fist (110)
  23. Civil War II: Gods of War (112)
  24. Captain Marvel (114)
  25. Astonishing Ant-Man (115)
  26. Spider-Man 2099 (116)
  27. Rocket Raccoon & Groot (124)
  28. Spider-Woman (129)
  29. Squadron Supreme (130)
  30. Thunderbolts (136)
  31. Venom: Space Knight (141)
  32. Scarlet Witch (143)
  33. Mockingbird (157)
  34. Agents of SHIELD (158)
  35. Nova (163)
  36. Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat! (196)
  37. Uncanny Inhumans (300)

Forty-one issues, and only one in the top fifty?  Seventeen in the top 100?  That indicates a problem.

Civil War Stats

Let’s compare the numbers for the first Civil War, as well.  Thirty-seven titles were involved in that crossover, and in August of 2006, the numbers looked like this:

  1. Civil War: Front Line (10)
  2. Wolverine (12)
  3. Civil War: X-Men (14)
  4. Fantastic Four (17)
  5. Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways (23)
  6. Heroes for Hire (26)
  7. Ms. Marvel (33)
  8. Ghost Rider (39)
  9. Thunderbolts (40)
  10. Cable/Deadpool (44)
  11. Sensational Spider-Man (45)
  12. X-Factor (52)

I’m going to stop here because I think it fairly illustrates my point.  Eleven titles in the top 50 of August 2006 were involved with Civil War.  That’s eleven times as many as in 2016.

So, what does it mean?

Something has gone horribly wrong with Civil War II.  I would like to argue that at least part of it is crossover fatigue.

As a fan, I spend a lot of time worrying about where my favorite Marvel characters will go next.  As an X-Men fan, my anxiety is usually higher than your average fan, anyway, but moving on.  I know that pretty much every summer, Marvel will pull a crossover event.  Last summer, Secret Wars pretended it would upend the status quo of the 616 continuity.  In 2014, it was Original Sin and AXIS.  2013 gave us Infinity and Age of Ultron.  2012 Avengers vs. X-Men.  2011 Fear Itself.  2010 Shadowland.  2009, War of Kings (hey, Vulcan!).  2008, Secret Invasion.

Anyway.  Marvel has had at least one major crossover event every year since Civil War.  People quite simply are getting tired of having the story they care about — the solo series, the team book, etc. — interrupted by some event that they don’t.

Marvel faces a saturation point problem here.  People don’t want to be bothered with these crossover events, because there are so many of them.

Additionally, having a new ‘status quo’-changing event roughly once every six months (20 events, divided by 10 years since Civil War) makes it difficult to maintain readers and creates a huge mess for new readers alike.

Frankly, it’s exhausting to be a Marvel fan.

Where to Go From Here?

Marvel needs to pay attention to these numbers from a business perspective and, hopefully, from an artistic one.  Civil War was new and important in its day; Civil War II is old hat not even pretending to be something new.

If you must have a crossover event, make it matter.  House of M, Civil War, Avengers v. X-Men.  Those events still matter in the scheme of things.  Their consequences still ring down through the years since then.  Civil War II, on the other hand, killed two characters — Bruce Banner and Rhodey — but has seemingly no lasting effect otherwise.

Marvel of course has plenty of time to course-correct!  Don’t worry, Marvel fans;  if they know what they’re doing in terms of business, they’ll figure it out.


 

Murphy Leigh

Murphy is a vaguely femininish malady who spends most of their time worshipping at the altars of Lois Lane, Chloe Sullivan, Jean Grey, and Wanda Maximoff. Their first confirmable event-memory is Princess Leia at the start of A New Hope. Has more in common with Lex Luthor than Lex Luthor would probably like to admit.

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  • Scott Bechtel

    As interesting the article is you have a huge error, in your numbers. The Civil War II issues at the bottom of the list are actually second printings and or past issues from pervious months. Not the current issues. Sorry, keep up the good work though.

    • Thanks for the tip! Sorry about that — I’ll get right on revising it.