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Event Comics & Posse Cuts: So What So What’s The Scenario?

March 8th, 2012 by | Tags: , ,

It’s hard to come up with a solid working definition of event comics. Is Blackest Night an event or a crossover? Is there a difference? What about Civil War? House of M? Kree-Skrull War? Some people look at event comics, whatever definition of event comics they subscribe to, as a cheap cash-in, a waste of time, or everything that’s wrong with comics. My personal definition is a little nebulous, but it boils down to event comics being those comics where big action goes to get bigger. It’s where you go to see people you’re familiar with come out of their comfort zone (or ongoing series) and do big things. When properly executed, event comics are great. When done poorly, they suck. That’s true of anything, though.

When trying to define my idea of event comics, I came up with a pretty apt comparison. Event comics are the posse cuts of comic books. Posse cuts are an integral part of rap these days. You gather up three or more emcees and tell them to get to work. DJ Khaled has made a career out of creating innumerable posse cuts, and classics like A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario,” Noreaga’s “Banned From TV,” and Cool Breeze’s “Watch for the Hook” still go hard years or decades after they came out.

Noreaga’s “Banned From TV” is a classic example of a posse cut. He enlisted Big Pun, Cam’Ron, Nature, and The LOX for the first full song on his NORE tape. The only thing all of them have in common is that they’re all New York rappers who were buzzing hard at the time or known for being reliable spitters. “Banned From TV” is the rap equivalent of the NBA All-Star Game. You might not want to see Derrick Rose play with Carmelo, Dwight Howard, LeBron, and Dwyane Wade all the time, but once a year? It’s a treat. It’s usually a hot mess — but it’s a treat.

This is true of “Banned From TV” as well. Big Pun is undeniably the nicest rapper on the track, but everyone who showed up is more than capable of acquitting themselves well. And yet, it’s unassuming and underrated Nature that steals the show with the very first verse. Even if you were a Nature stan back in the day, this probably came as a huge and pleasant surprise.

There’s always someone who blacks out on a posse cut and steals the show. Nicki Minaj absolutely won Kanye West’s “Monster,” out-rapping three of the hottest rappers in the game with a lopsided flow. Busta Rhymes did it on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario.” TI’s smash hit “Swagger Like Us” showed us that he could out-perform Lil Wayne at the height of his Best Rapper Alive period. Posse cuts are guaranteed to be full of surprises, and that’s what makes them so delightful.

Divorced of any intent beyond just making a cool song, posse cuts are essentially artist showcases. You listen to posse cuts because you want to see how these people work together and so you can pick sides once the track’s done. Who has the best verse of Wu-Tang’s “Triumph?” (It goes Ghost, then GZA, and then Meth.) What about Cool Breeze’s “Watch For The Hook?” (Gipp Goodie.) Or Khaled’s “Holla At Me” (Paul Wall, or maybe Rick Ross.) and “We Takin Over” (It’s TI, and then Weezy a close second.)?

I wouldn’t buy an album of just posse cuts (sorry Khaled), but they serve a valuable purpose, and a lot of their appeal is shared in event comics. On the most basic level, they’re cash-ins. People will check on an event if someone they like is in it, just like you’d listen to a posse cut if your pet rapper is featured. It increases your potential audience. Events and posse cuts also tend to be light in content. You’ll rarely hear a posse cut about pain or love. It’s always just a chance to have someone really go in.

It’s true in comics, too. You’re not going to find a heart-breaking work of outstanding emotional resonance in an event comic. At best, some character you have an irrational affection for might die and you get a little weepy like a cry-cry. But really, you’re buying those comics because you want to see Spider-Man punch Doctor Doom or Superman light up whatever forgettable arch-villains Wonder Woman has.

When I think of the relatively few event comics that I’ve enjoyed, they’ve been high on action and maybe a solid medium on melodrama. X-Cutioner’s Song was a fun ride because you ended up with the three baddest X-Men at the time — Cable, Bishop, and Wolverine — fighting, teaming up, and then battling bad guys. The stakes were high, every character got a chance to talk about the focused totality of her psychic powers or smoke cigarettes in the dark, and I finished the book pleased that I saw a sufficient number of cool scenes for my money.

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9 comments to “Event Comics & Posse Cuts: So What So What’s The Scenario?”

  1. I think that once a comic loses its specific authorial voice I tend to lose interest, which is why I check out of most crossovers. Final Crisis, while basically a huge mess except for the Superman Beyond stuff, couldn’t have been written by anyone but Grant Morrison which is why it felt so disconnected from most of the stuff that went with it. By comparison Fear Itself didn’t have even an iota of the fresh and exciting Matt Fraction, it just read like his mostly snooze inducing Iron Man/Thor work with more stuff blowing stuff. I know that not everything he writes can be Casanova and that a lot of the dull homogeneity is editorially mandated but jeez.

    I think I prefer the antithesis of this, which is when a writer can bring that specific voice to a handful of linked titles, like Johnathan Hickman is doing with Fantastic Four/FF/Secret Warriors/S.H.I.E.L.D. I feel much more rewarded for noticing the little hints and references among all of those books than I would if I ever intended to buy all four hundred facets of Avengers vs X-Men, which has the innovative premise of “see all of your favorite trademarks that we own punch each other, which side will Wolverine choose!?” without any other hook to draw me in at all.


  2. @Brian J:

    That’s ‘more stuff blowing up’, stuff blowing stuff would have been much more exciting.


  3. X-Cutioner’s Song was the first crossover (x-over) I encountered. So it was basically mind blowing to me. Later, not as much because Fatal Attractions came six months later and I gradually realized that they do this just about every year.

    In my biased, X-Men-centric experience, most crossovers/events seem to end with somebody “important” “dying,” but it tends to lack the emotional resonance that such a story might have if it were left in the hands of that character’s contemporary primary writer to handle alone. I don’t know. You’re right, a lot of cool stuff happens in comic book posse cuts. Nowadays it seems like most of the stories of prominence are event/crossovers. Which is sort of like an album full of posse cuts. I’m a Wu-Tang fan, so that’s workable to me. It just makes me feel that they could drop the pretense of having non-event books.

    Good stuff to think about.


  4. I wish Marvel’s events had anything half as substantive as any given 2 seconds of Triumph.
    “Juggernaut has a Hammer now, huh? Has he turned into a swarm of bees that turns into a fiery motorcycle gang yet? :smugbert:


  5. I think the big events are mostly PR hype. Don’t think the music-to-comics relationship works here. Every album is over-hyped nowadays. And probably every comic series. Hell, maybe it is appropriate. Darkest Night was something that from start to finish had no umph other than turning superheroes into zombies as an idea. It’s like a standalone TV episode done up like a Star wars trilogy in comic terms…. just to make money… with no real consequences. Dc planned to make changes to some characters and Darkest Night became an excuse/vehicle for changes. Posse ( more than one artist? ) albums are becoming common place these days so as not to be big event at all.


  6. – An issue of X-Cutioner’s Song was the first comic I remember reading. Apocalypse rises out of the sea, half-dead from being taken out of his science oven too soon or whatever, finds the X-Men in his house and just squashes them. Style’s unbreakable, shatterproof.

    (Also: Jubilee getting a page or two to just spit venom at Strong Guy; Gambit and Rogue muttering comments in the back of a briefing like smart ass high schoolers)

    The issue ends with (yeah) Wolverine and Bishop banter-brawling their way through Department H to run into Cable, who just kind of sighs about it being one of those days.

    God, I love that issue. People get punched in interesting ways and everyone has smartass comments about everything.

    – Thinking about what you said, events comics never get that Nicki-Minaj-on-Monster breakout character or creator. New characters feel too pushed, old characters feel too expected (yeah, Mark Millar, I know Spidey can rip through four dudes like a pinball, I read that Ditko issue where he goes Jackie Chan on the Enforcers). Creators don’t get enough voice.

    The only breakout moment (as opposed to just a cool one) I can think of, off the top of my head, is Conner Hawke and Atom taking down Darkseid in JLA: Rock of Ages. Not really an event, but it was still that kind of “wheeeere did that come from!? Holy shit!” feeling I got when I first heard Minaj on Monster.


  7. Pardon my grammar but…

    That was the baddest last sentence ever.


  8. Georgi vodka is disgusting.
    As far as the cypher is concerned, though… Decent.


  9. How about posse cuts in the overarching events themselves? Dark Reign: Zodiac is the coolest thing I’ve seen done by Marvel, in every possible way. It failed to get me into Dark Reign or into Marvel, but it came close and it was enough that I cared A LOT about a Marvel comic.