Warning: contains spoilers for Infinite Frontier #5!
The two giants of the comics publishing industry have been rivals for decades – but DC Comics just admitted a key point in favor of Marvel Comics, and why the latter might be winning the race. When discussing the difference between DC and Marvel, fans will most often point out the differences in tone: in general, DC’s stories (at least as of late) tend to swing darker. In Infinite Frontier #5, written by Joshua Williamson with art by Paul Pelletier, Jesus Merino and Derenick, DC’s own version of Iron Man points out why this trend isn’t necessarily positive.
After the events of Dark Nights: Death Metal, the restoration of the DC Multiverse has begun. In this new status quo, everything is canon as opposed to only the last DC universal reboot (DC’s New 52, for example), and everyone is now aware of the Multiverse’s existence. But Darkseid has returned, and is using the opportunity presented to him by the emerging Multiverse to isolate all the Earths from each other – leaving each one alone and completely vulnerable.
As Psycho-Pirate brainwashes Barry Allen into running on a cosmic treadmill (thereby making the barriers between each Earth weak and susceptible to Darkseid), President Superman breaks the chains holding him and his team down and attempts to stop the Flash. Machinehead – of Earth-8 and DC’s version of Iron Man – stands in his way and fights Calvin; he points out that every time something terrible happens in the Multiverse, it happens because of Earth-0. He mentions the Flash creating the Flashpoint timeline, creating cracks in Earth-0’s history – but they didn’t stop there. “They splintered out into the multiverse! And some of those cracks hit Earth-8! My world! Those changes made my world harder. Darker.”
Flashpoint is quite a dark entry into the DC crossover events – with wars between Amazons and Atlanteans tearing the world apart, among other things – and it’s far from the only one. From titles like Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis and Dark Nights: Death Metal, DC Comics frequently tell stories about the destruction of all reality. In contrast, Marvel Comics’ tales aren’t nearly as horrifically dark and extreme (Civil War notwithstanding), and crossovers are usually bright, or at the very least hopeful stories. Since Machinehead is effectively Iron Man in the DC Universe, this admission from Machinehead is DC admitting that if Marvel told as many dark stories as DC, it would ruin their overall appeal and quality.
This is not to suggest that dark stories should never be told in the Marvel Universe, but constantly wallowing in despair and all-or-nothing stakes will eventually induce apathy in the reader. After all, if the universe is at stake in every crossover event, why should the reader believe one story will end any different from another? Both comic companies rarely concede any ground in this two-horse race, but at least DC Comics is willing to notice the successful strategies of Marvel Comics, and admit their own failures from time to time.