Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw transport readers from point A to point B on the S.S. Crossover #4, a bumpy yet beautiful ride that might make some seasick. It’s OK, though, because Madman is the charming and disarming wind in this ship’s sails, overshadowing most of Cates’ original creations.
Crossover with what?
Cates has been offering readers a premise for four issues now that one must wonder if it’s doomed for failure. The ultimate crossover between all comic books in a series that can’t actually feature any of your actual favorite characters begins to feel like a drag the longer you sit with it. The constant wink-and-nod references to the things readers can’t have stop being cute, and begin to make readers think, “maybe I would rather be reading Batman or Dr. Strange instead.”
It seems that truthfully, all readers are going to get here are C-list heroes and Cates’ own original creations. This isn’t a drag of C-list heroes though, as they are often the most fun elements of the series. What is a drag, though, is the over-pronounced presence of Cates’ own original characters. In a story sold as a fantasy-fueled crossover of comic book worlds, it comes across as vanity to have the Paybacks the focus of much of the story. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if Cates hadn’t teased Doctor Blaqk as both Superman and Doctor Strange earlier in the series.
This isn’t to say readers should have expected Superman or Doctor Strange to show up in this series, but rather to say that Cates is largely failing to deliver on relevant surprises, or on the exciting premise of this book.
In contrast to all of that, Cates’ work shines most in this book, and Shaw’s too for that matter, when it focuses on Madman. His presence in this book is exciting, but even more than that Cates writes him in such a kind, lovable manner that he’s impossible not to enjoy. He’s consistently the most heroic character in the book, and that’s a simple concept that shockingly works really well in superhero books. However, this only exacerbates Cates earlier issues because readers can notice how comparatively better Madman’s presence in this book is to anyone else’s.
From the first few pages, though, it’s fairly evident that Shaw is the star of this book. His work is dynamic and exciting, and the pop-art aesthetic given to the real-world comic book characters never gets old.
He also makes a conscientious effort to fill these characters with as much emotional weight as possible. Most of the time the story is succeeding, it’s because you can connect with the sudden glee Shaw is depicting Ava with, or the consternated decision making of Madman. These characters are full of personality and detail under his pen and the book is immensely better for it.
A part of the world being so detailed, though, is that Shaw is presumably also sticking these wink-and-nod references in the background and it’s only fair to say that it’s getting old on his part as well.
The standout piece of art in this book has to be the singular action scene focusing on Madman. Shaw makes Madman the coolest and most fun character in this book in two pages. It’s framed excellently as he transitions through snapshots of zany violence that for one of the first time realizes the reality of comic book characters in the real world. In all of it though, Shaw continues to infuse Madman with this rogue-ish personality that elevates the rest of the book.
While the latest issue of Crossover shouldn’t convince any diehard Cates fans to jump off, it doesn’t seem to do much to convince new fans to stick with it. Maybe if there was promise of more Madman-like reveals it would be worth sticking around, but the book’s final reveal seems to solidify that this is a work by Cates about Cates’ body of work.
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