Imagine our real world, where superheroes are just in comic pages. Now imagine if those superheroes came to life and invaded our world, tearing apart the “real.” That’s what Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s Crossover is about, following a two comic shop workers, Ellie and Otto, who stumble across a superhuman little girl, Ava, despite a government crackdown on “supers” who still ravage the world.
The pacing in this issue is sluggish due to padding. Most of #2 consists of Ellie and Otto arguing about what to do with the girl, and ultimately the plot doesn’t progress much further than the back-and-forth dialogue. Also, while not as obnoxious as the first issue, the meta jabs (like mentioning Brian K. Vaughan, calling attention to its “hacky” first act, and constantly reminding us that Ellie will fall in love with Ryan) aren’t clever and so upfront there’s no subtlety, diminishing any humor. Cates never was as subtle writer though, which is a pro or con depending on how much you like all his other work.
But those are surface problems that are more nagging than substantial. The real problem with Crossover is its protagonist, Ellie. It’s a shame, because the other characters are more dynamic and fun to follow. Otto lovingly represents every curmudgeon in every comic store. Ryan represents the prime demo of comics: disaffected, guilty white men easily swayed by flights of fanciful fanaticism. However, when it comes to Ellie…she’s as nondescript as her character design (complete with a Robin-style “mask”). She’s a perfect protagonist who, for all intents and purposes, immediately wants to help the super-human kid whose name is…let me check…Ava. Ellie lacks concrete flaws, conflict, or personality other than being a plucky protagonist.
While I understand this is likely the point, Crossover, despite its gargantuan story, is very reserved in its storytelling grandeur and scope. Most of these issues have been people (including Cates butting narration) giving exposition about all these cool superhero antics…but relegates the protagonists to dusty shacks to talk and not act. One has to feel bad for Shaw, who does his best to yield visual interest to every scene, no matter how low-key.
Speaking of which, Geoff Shaw continues to do commendable work, like I said, giving every panel and page, whether action-packed or not, a lilt of dynamism in his compositions and expressivity. He handles scale very well, able to make tableaus flow by not bogging the pages with an overabundance of details. Nor does he skimp on backgrounds, able to make the majority of dull locations pop with a lived-in aesthetic. Part of the artistic effectiveness here of course should also go to Dee Cunniffe on colors and John J. Hill on both letters and design. However, Shaw isn’t perfect, drawing Ava with a too-large head and fumbling the consistency of several characters, albeit smaller players, namely Nathaniel Abrams Pendleton who looks like Bobby Kennedy in some panels and William H. Macy (or maybe George Bush?) in others.
Overall, Crossover has an ambitious premise, but Cates’ limiting of scope chains the story and his artistic team to mundanity and draggy pacing/storytelling.
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