Comics | War of the Blockbusters: Comics’ Big Two publishers square off with universe-redefining series 

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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Big Summer Showdown!

Just as movie theaters are gearing up for blockbusters, comic shops everywhere are preparing for the Big Two publishers—Marvel and DC—to go head-to-head with huge, status quo-changing events. Marvel has superscribe Brian Michael Bendis writing Secret Invasion, and Grant Morrison is taking on Final Crisis at DC. It’s time to sit back and learn what kind of wild superhero ride you’re about to get caught up in.

Both projects are the culmination of themes and elements littered throughout books from both companies for some time. Bendis planted the first seeds of the massive Skrull invasion story in his first arc of New Avengers more than three years ago. DC also has been building towards Final Crisis, saying that it’s the end result of things that began more than 20 years ago with Crisis on Infinite Earths and continued through both Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis.

Marvel’s Secret Invasion is the story of the Skrull Empire, an alien race able to change shape into whatever or whoever they might feel like. In the Marvel universe, it was recently discovered that Elektra—one of Marvel’s biggest villains—had been killed and replaced by a Skrull impersonator. This set off a chain of events that left everyone wondering how a Skrull was able to slip through the cracks and remain undetected, and for just how long it had been there. This caused more of a rift between the heroes of the Marvel universe, who have been at odds since the end of their Civil War and the death of Captain America.

The first issue has already shipped, and it was revealed that three more fairly prominent characters had been killed and replaced by Skrulls. Bendis—the guy fans either love dearly or hate with a passion—and scores of other writers have been dropping hints all over their monthly books: Whom can you trust? It’s been fun to go through back issues, speculating who’s a Skrull and who isn’t; countless Internet message boards are populated with threads for just that purpose. Secret Invasion has raised the excitement level of a summer comic event—and even some of the most skeptical fans have embraced the series. So far, it’s off to a great start.

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Over at DC, Morrison—every pretentious comic fan’s favorite writer—has been hinting at huge things to come in Final Crisis. While Secret Invasion is self-contained for the most part, Final Crisis has been boiling through the DC universe for years. Casual fans might feel a bit left out and confused because of DC’s penchant for using obscure characters as the focal point of huge, universe-spanning stories. Over the past couple of years, the creators have taken a step away from Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as key story elements and focused on more of the background characters. While that may be the case at the moment, it’s hard to imagine a huge event that doesn’t hinge on at least one of the stars of the DC universe.

There has been speculation that one of the big plot points in Final Crisis is the death of Batman. Morrison, who also pens that hero’s monthly title, is currently in the midst of a story arc called “Batman R.I.P.” He has also said that as soon as that arc is complete, there is a Final Crisis tie-in story that acts as an unofficial last Batman story. With The Dark Knight hitting theaters this summer, and DC owned by Warner Bros., it’s probably a safe bet that neither Batman nor his alter-ego Bruce Wayne will be biting the dust any time soon. With Morrison at the helm, though, anything is possible.

So grab your wallets and get down to your local comic shop. Summer is going to be a fun ride.

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