Superman was a child’s wish for a man to be stronger and better than everyone else. Shazam is a magic word turning a man into a superman. The Fantastic Four go on fantastic adventures. Comics have their origins in the fantastic, the monstrous, and the wondrous. Adventure is the heart of the field and I got to finally read Donny Cates for the first time. I’m not sure why I hadn’t done it, because I’m a big fan of his wife’s work (Megan Hutchison is amazing and I’ll review something of hers in a future column) but I hadn’t read any of his stuff. I vowed to change it.
What clinched Crossover for me was the afterward. Donny talks about his near-death experience echoed something close to home. I knew this would be a great book before I read it. And it was.
Story by: Donny Cates
Illustrated by: Geoff Shaw
Colors: Dee Cunniffe
Letters: John J. Hill
Editor: Mark Waid
Cover: Geoff Shaw and Dave Stewart
Crossover is literally a crossover between comic books and the real world. Somehow, someway, superheroes and villains from comics are transported to the real world and wreck havoc. Cates describes this like a virus. They are spreading everywhere and creating chaos.
Ellipses Howell is the main character that works at a comic shop, and in this world, that job comes with a lot more risks. She walks into a comic shop filled with protests, and a divided culture. We meet Otto, the owner of the comic shop, and a bit of a dick. Inside the comic shop, they run into Ava, a character from a comic book that’s not a super. You can tell she’s from the world from the pixelated dots all over her.
Her discovery causes chaos in the shop, and the attention of a nameless preacher, who seems of the fire and brimstone variety. Meanwhile, inside the comic shop, Ava informs Ellie that she knows Him, and it’s implied that whoever “He” is, is responsible for the crossover we see today. Ava tries to the draw the picture. Outside, the nameless preacher pressures his son, Ryan Lowe to join in the destruction of the comic shop.
As the destruction comes around her, Ellipses looks at the picture and recognizes the character.
That’s the plot, but there’s so much nuance in this comic. The narrative telling the story is intriguing. It may be Otto based on the narrative, but there’s a ton of nuance. The voice is passive, calm and the tense is past. The events in the comic have already happened and we’re catching up to it one issue at a time.
Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent is the first thing you read inside the comic. Otto wearing the shirt saying “Wertham was right” is a nice call to this quote in the story. It tells the reader this matters without beating you over the head. It’s also important to note that right after the quote there is a meta-commentary on stories in general. Stories are a virus that spread, which is an interesting idea about stories themselves. What is the nature of stories? The idea of stories as a virus taking over is a clever take on a Grant Morrison quote about stories. Donny is a fan of the medium and is very knowledgeable about this history of the craft. He uses it quite well here. I mean, even the title tells the reader that it’s an event. Crossovers are big summer blockbuster events. I really dig how clever Cates is. Kudos to him.
The art isn’t just pretty to look at but adds so many layers to the story. The comic book pages are drawn closer to a more silver age style. Dee Cunniffe’s colors create that comic feel, and when they go to the real world, the colors feel a lot more contemporary to today’s works. It adds a nice layer to the world-building. Coloring characters in red dots is also a genius way to showcase the difference.
I don’t know whose idea it was, but Geoff Shaw’s cover was sheer genius. It adds to the metafiction feel this book creates. Geoff’s art is as versatile as Cunniffe’s colors. There are layers, the characters look great, and I know in future issues when superheroes and villains show up, that this team together will handle this no problem.
This book is clever, passionate, and a love letter to comics. This is a story about stories, and about comics and love and hope. It’s fun. I really enjoyed this issue. I think you guys will too.
My podcast is now on video! I know do four video episodes a week, and one audio a weekend. You can watch them on Twitch and participate by commenting throughout the episode. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday are standard interviews. Upcoming Guests this week include Rachael Tomayo, Suzy Vadori, Tony Phillips are my guests this week. On Fridays, I will do a drink and draw. My guest this week is Mog Park. Feel free to subscribe on my Twitch , Youtube, or my Patreon page to help support the new show.
If you still want to listen to the podcast, you can do so in the usual places. Sundays are still storytime days. Right now I’m reading Alice in Wonderland with a guest. Right now, you can listen to my conversation with Randy McCharles.
My first freelance article appeared on Anime Herald. You can read my write up on what pop culture can learn from Japan here. I’m proud of this one. My editor Samantha Ferriera did an outstanding job making me a better writer. Let me know what you guys think about it.
Finally, I’m hoping to do one last release in 20/20. The title is called Lights Out, and it’s my homage to Fahrenheit 451. Stay tuned.
That will do it for this column. I got one more I want to do this year. Stay inspired and keep shining in the darkness.