Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Crossover By Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw


Part of my "strategy" for getting myself to post here more regularly is to focus on the things that I'm reading, watching or listening to that get me excited. My last review here on my blog was a part of that, and this one fits that bill too. Today I am looking at the comic Crossover, published by Image Comics, with writing by Danny Cates (mostly) and art by Geoff Shaw (also mostly).

This is a book that has been on my to read lists for a while. For comic fans of a certain again, most of the time we've been fans have been marked by the summer events or big company crossovers. From the JLA and JSA summer meetups of my childhood, to the first really big events like Secret Wars or Crisis On Infinite Earth, the crossover has been an important part of comic book reading.

These events are the subtext of Crossover, which Cates recontextualizes into a more personal kind of story. My introduction to Donny Cates' work came with his run on Marvel's Doctor Strange book, and after that I checked out a couple of his other Image Comics books. God Country is an interesting book that I would definitely recommend checking out, if you haven't. I don't think I'll get into his Venom run, mostly just because I was never a fan of the character.

So, what is Crossover? This is one of those "what if comic book super-heroes were real" type of stories, but not in the way that we typically see where suddenly a powerful super-hero appears in the world, and everything changes. Well, actually it kind of is like that, but different than we usually see. You know those crossover events that we see from the Big Two comics publishers, like Civil War or Infinite Crisis that turn into a big fight between all the important characters? Well, Crossover about one of those big fights, but for some unrevealed reason the fight spills out into the "real world," and suddenly super-heroes and super-villains are duking it out in the skies about Denver, Colorado.

The comic implies that EVERYONE from comics has been ravaging the city of Denver for years now, but in reality, the only characters we end up seeing in the books are a number of characters published by Image, some characters that Donny Cates created over at Dark Horse Comics (along with a couple of Comic's Greatest World's characters, which if you know...you know), and along with a few oddball characters like Mike Allred's Madman. That's not to say that these characters are unimportant, but it is a far cry from the assumptions that the story (and the marketing of the book) want you to believe.

Would it have been cool to have seen Thor or Superman leap into a scene during this book? Yes, of course it would have been, but ultimately it didn't happen, and the current corporate structuring of the Big Two comics publishers probably means that we're going to see fewer and fewer crossovers between them and other comics publishers over time. I hope that changes, but it doesn't feel like it will.

The are a lot of twists and turns to the story of Crossover. The writing in the book is engaging. I seriously doubt that I would have read the two trades that make up this story in the course of one night if the writing had been bad. The writing sucked me into the story, and I honestly did not see the big bad of the first arc coming (I'm not going to reveal who that big bad is, but I think the reason I didn't see this character coming was because I haven't really read the book they originated from, also published by Image Comics).

The art by Geoff Shaw was also really good. He did a great job with the original characters in this book, and he rendered the characters from other books in ways that were recognizable as the style of their original artists, but at the same time obviously being his own art. The couple of guest artists involved in the book mostly draw characters that they are associated with (I'm also not going to name those characters, or creators, to keep down the spoilers), but while it was cool to see them doing their characters again, at the same time the transition from one artist to another during an issue could be jarring. If you haven't seen Shaw's art in a comic before, I think that Crossover is a good introduction to his talent and creativity as an artist. Even if the big cliffhanger at the end of the first arc does him dirty.

Now, unfortunately, there is a good chance that what we've gotten so far with the Crossover book is all that we're going to get, due to personal happenings with the creative team. That is a shame because this is obviously a book that had a plan, as much as Cates tried to make it look like it was random during the book. I will get in line to pick up the next book, if we get one, but for now I am just going to enjoy what we have been given by the creative team.

If you're a fan of weird crossovers, comic book meta commentary, or personal stories set against a backdrop of huge, sweeping stories being told, you should probably check out Crossover. I am late to the show with discovering this book, but if you haven't read it yet you really should pick it up now. It is definitely worth the read.