Story: Donny Cates
Art: Geoff Shaw
Colours: Dee Cunniffe
Letters & Design: John J. Hill
Story Edits: Mark Waid
Who, in the realms of comic book fandom, doesn’t love a good crossover event? Despite a number of confusing, bloated, continuity-busting events over the years, there’s still not much that raises a nerd’s heart rate more than a chance to see all their favourite buff boys and girls knocking the stuffing out of each other, and then complain about it afterwards. So, what happens when a smaller publisher (not that Image is exactly tiny) decides to rifle through their toy box for dudes to smash into each other? If you don’t know by now, then you’re in for a treat.
Crossover focuses on the aftermath of a huge, unexpected crossover-style event. One day in Colorado, a gigantic portal opened up and started spewing out caped crusaders and their nefarious counterparts faster than the MCU, which, as it turns out, gets quite messy quite quickly. By the time we meet our protagonist Ellie (short for Ellipsis…yep), Denver is engulfed in an energy field, designed to contain the portal and anything that may come from it. The problem with this is that walls can only keep out so much, and an unknown, but seemingly rather large, number of comic book characters are already at large in the ‘real world’. As with the incursion of any unknown quantity into everyday life, the public, whipped up by any number of performative agitators, react with fear and hatred and any artefact of a comic bookish nature is greeted with the utmost hostility. All of this means that when Ava, a young comic book character, shows up one day at the comic book shop where Ellie works, things go south fast, setting in motion a chain of events that set Ellie on a mission to get Ava home, and maybe find her own parents in the process.
In any good crossover event, one of the real pleasures lies in the inevitable giant splash pages showing a mind-boggling amount of super-folk bashing each other about and I’m happy to say that Crossover does not hold back in this regard. Using a combination of Image’s own roster of characters and some non-copyright-infringing nods towards Marvel and DC’s big hitters, Crossover revels in the opportunity to present the reader with a number of wonderfully detailed games of Where’s Wally West, but it’s not just these moments in which the art excels. The style is slick enough to be technically impressive, but has enough rough edges as to feel lived-in. This is, after all, a world in the midst of a potentially cataclysmic event. The use of Ben-Day dot shading to differentiate ‘comic book’ characters from ‘real world’ ones is a typically deft touch, a visual shorthand that knows its audience well enough to be certain that it will be understood.
The real question with any big crossover event though is: who is showing up to the party? Now, as Bigger Than Capes’ resident filthy casual, I have to admit that a good 75% of the cameos from Image’s library went over my head, but the ones that got me, got me real good. So, while I may be able to recognise Spider-Man’s glove more readily than Spawn’s entire being, there was more than enough here to give me moments of genuine ‘Oh my God, it’s that guy! I love that guy!’ joy. I can only imagine what reading this is like for a die-hard indie comics aficionado.
So, what we have in front of us here is a great-looking book that balances an interesting narrative and likeable characters with a meta-commentary on the nature of fiction in general and comics in particular, while also providing a little social commentary on refugee crises, the evils of zealotry, and humanity’s persistent fear of otherness.
If you’re concerned that you might not be that into a book full of characters that you may only be tangentially familiar with, then don’t be. There would be more than enough to keep you here if the only comic you’d ever read was Garfield. If you’re an Image fan, let’s face it, you’ve already read Crossover at least three times and have the splash art as your home screen. And if, by some bizarre circumstance, you bloody love your indie books and this has passed you by, then just go and read it. If you don’t like it, you can hold me personally responsible, because, if you haven’t guessed by now, I really like this one.