A muddy message and confusing themes drags down an interesting concept with great art.
What happens when the real world collides with fiction? It’s a well-used trope that’s perfect for meta-commentary, parody, adventure and satire. However, it’s a delicate line that’s difficult to walk down.
That’s where Crossover #1 finds itself. It’s an interesting story and set up. But it doesn’t stick the landing. It was created by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Dee Cunniffe, and John J. Hill.
A massive cosmic event has drawn a super-mega event into the real world. Much of the state of Colorado has become a battleground. Now, years later, superheroes are hated and feared and one young comic fan is about to face the challenge of her life.
There are sparks and ideas here that are good. However, they’re never taken at more than the most basic level of execution. It’s a comic that tries to pound the reader over the head with how clever it is while actually falling short.
Two of its major themes are also highly problematic, at best. By making superhero fans- a largely cishet white male group- an oppressed minority, Cates tries to make a metaphorical connection, but instead seems to prop up the failings of the gatekeepers and the non-progressive side of fandom. If Cates is trying to make a different point, he falls short, and I hope in future issues that can change. It’s also a bombastic plot that uses tropes and characters that it can’t deliver on, with character teases and a last page twist that makes a promise that would be impossible for the story to keep.
The other place where it falls is in its depiction of religion. The story is set in Provo, Utah, a city with a very specific religious identity- it’s about 90% Mormon. However, the story opts for a high generic evangelical take on Christianity with preachers wearing Catholic chips on their collars, protest signs that echo the Westboro Baptist Church, and a shocking level of violence. There’s no nuance to the depiction of faith, especially as we’re told that one of these violent church-goers is actually our secondary protagonist.
In using a setting that has such a specific identity, it rings false that the story would use such a generic version of evangelical extremism. It makes the setting feel more like a location pulled from a hat, not a strong sense of identity for the story.
However, there are redeeming qualities to the issue. It’s an interesting concept, and Ellie, our lead, is actually the most interesting character that the issue gives us. She’s fully formed and well-rounded. The art is also fantastic- Shaw gives his best, shifting into a style that echoes his past work but feels more like DC or Marvel house style, while Cunniffe’s colors set a morose mood that isn’t without hope.
In the end it’s a highly ambitious debut that ultimately falls short. It shows potential and could turn around, but for such a highly anticipated and hyped issue, we needed something much more.
Crossover #1 is available now from Image Comics.