06th Nov2020

‘Crossover #1’ Review (Image Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Donny Cates | Art by Geoff Shaw | Published by Image Comics

This book is like one of those film trailers you see over and over months before the film itself actually comes out. I’ve been hearing about Crossover for a while, and anticipation has been building steadily. Unlike most trailers, though, advance word didn’t give away all the good stuff to come, just that there was good stuff to come. Written by Donny Cates and drawn by Geoff Shaw, this is from a creative team with good form. Responsible for Image series God Country and Thanos Wins for Marvel, these two have good form, and I’m hoping Crossover lives up to expectations. Let’s take a look.

First off, what an incredible cover. Loved it. Cates jumps straight in with what I guess will be the philosophical heart of the book, ‘what exactly is real?’. It’s an interesting point. Is Superman less real than you or me? Is he more real than you or me? Our time on Earth is limited, but Superman is, effectively, immortal. He was here before us, will be here after us. He’s real. If he’s real, then so are other stories, myths, and legends. Which is why, in January 2017 in Colorado, every supposedly fictional comic book character ever created appeared. It was the ultimate super hero mega summer crossover event. In real life. Unfortunately, super powers and the real world don’t mesh well, and a lot of bad stuff happened. Eventually, one of the supers put an energy force field dome around Colorado, and cut it off from the rest of the U.S. No one outside knows what is happening inside.

Meet Ellipses Howell (you can call her Ellie). Ellie lives and works in Utah, and is not very popular. Ellie is a cosplayer who works in a comic book shop, and comic books are not very popular right now, due to the ongoing Colorado situation. Some religious fanatics are very, very unhappy. This is where we drift into meta territory, very popular in the comics field at the moment. Pop will eat itself, right? In Ellie’s comic book shop, we see her manager refusing to buy ‘government approved and mandated corporate’ comics. Comics featuring cowboys and cops, but no masks and capes. Otto, her manager, wears a Wertham t-shirt, which gives you an idea of Cates whole approach here, and the inspiration for the story. His comic book store is popular and busy, as he’s one of the few places left selling pre-event comics.

This is, it seems, Ellie’s story, and we learn that this whole world is her escape, her release valve. The comic book store is her sanctuary, the cosplay her mask against reality, her defence against a real world that has turned nastier in recent times. Then, something big happens. Otto and Ellie discover a stranger in the store, a young girl called Ava. Thing is, Ava’s a character from a comic book, and she should be in that dome in Colorado. You’ve never seen a shop empty so fast. Otto wants to hand her over, Ellie doesn’t. Ava tells Ellie there is a man in the dome who can take people out, and she got separated from him. Ellie is particularly interested, as it turns out her family are trapped inside, if they are still alive of course. Then the store is firebombed. We have to wait until nest issue of course to see how this all shakes out, but the identity of the man who can get people out the Dome? It may be a ‘Super’ surprise.

Wow. I read Crossover #1 twice, just to soak in all the stuff Cates has thrown in here. The central story is good enough, but there’s a ton of background bits, nods to comic history, some love for comic book retailers, a nod to cosplay, and even potentially a love story. I love the tongue-in-cheek nod to comic book crossovers throughout as well. Superb writing. Geoff Shaw’s art is equally impressive. Seemingly very simplistic at first glance, but on closer inspection lots of subtlety in the line art, fantastic layouts and pacing, and just a pleasure to look at. The double page spreads at the start are stunning. A perfect creative team.

If, like me, you have read comics for a number of years, this one tugs at the heart strings. It manages to put on a page the sense of wonder we all felt as kids picking up comics. The thrill of escapism. The magic of those times and places hidden away on a few pages of print. This captures that feeling, and makes you remember all over again just why comics are so amazing.

This wasn’t an issue of a comic book so much as a love letter. A love letter to fans, and the characters they love, equally.

I couldn’t have loved it more.

***** 5/5


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