I have to admit, you were a stronger man that I was, in regards to the clone sage. I was one of the tons of readers that briefly turned away from Marvel Comics during the Spider-Man clone saga you referenced. I think it did drag out way too long, but I also think he had tons of other flaws (my main complaint being the fact that in order to read the story at the time, you had to buy Amazing Spider-Man, then the exact story would continue in Spectacular Spider-Man, then the exact story would continue in Spider-Man, etc... so I felt like they were trying to force readers to buy all four comics, and it didn't seem like a temporary story telling method. I couldn't afford to buy all 4 spider-man titles and I was annoyed that I was completely lost just buying Amazing Spider-Man.) I remember also walking away from Marvel at the time, because of all the seemingly pointless "deaths" (such as Wonder Man, Mr. Fantastic, Thunder Strike, and I can't remember the others.) I still remember being extremely excited about the changes in Wonder Man's powers in his own monthly series, watching him fight the Hulk and team up with Spider-Man, then his series gets inexplicably canned, only to find out that he "dies" in the first issue of Force Works. Who in the world thought that would be a good idea anyway? Did we ever get an answer behind that crap? I've wanted someone to blame for years.
Sorry to get off on a tangent, but that particular Wonder Man death has never been cool with me. I guess one other points we really haven't made about these cross overs is the delays in shipping (or production.) I don't remember a time when Marvel had so many books that weren't coming out on an orderly schedule. I know the lateness was mostly a problem before the start of the Secret Invasion, but it sure made things confusing for a while there.
If I had to choose, between no cross over and a cross over, I'd almost always choose a cross over. However, I think my preference has more to do with getting a guest character or two in a series I like, rather than the storyline of the cross over. For example, some of my favorite runs on comics have been the Fantastic Four when Reed and Sue briefly left the FF (and spent some time with the Avengers), while Crystal and Sharon Ventura became new members of the team (I always thought having Crystal around made things great.) I loved seeing the Beast in issues of Wonder Man. I loved reading Quasar with the continued guest appearances of Makkari of the Eternals, and I'm loving the continuing appearances of Wonder Man in issues of Ms. Marvel. So... I think I'd be perfectly happy if most big cross over events were just replaced with cross over characters, such as the Human Torch in Spider-Man, and everything else mentioned.
I'm still enjoying Secret Invasion, and I have to admit that I can't wait to read Secret Invasion 4 when it comes out. I don't know how things are going to turn out, but... one thing that I am hoping for (as a dark horse dream) is that somehow this will all end with the resurrection of the West Coast Avenges.
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