Crossover is a 44-page anthology set inside the framework of a larger story: the Australian super-villain prison known as the Tank has experienced its first successful breakout, and it’s a doozy---over a hundred super-powered baddies are on the loose. Against this backdrop, we are slowly introduced to the book’s many characters via a series of vignettes, and gradually their stories begin to interconnect, culminating in a desperate battle for the fate of the free world. It’s a cool set-up, and the news updates interspersed throughout the book do a great job of establishing the increasing desperation of these events. There is a real sense of dread that builds in the book, as the villains always seem to have the upper hand. Where things start to break down is when we zoom in on the individual characters. Almost all of them were created in the '90s, and it shows. That’s part of the fun, to be sure, but it also impacts the storytelling. For instance, there are six characters in Crossover who wear a full-face mask and a visor, which makes them difficult to tell apart. In another sequence, done in black and white, a hero in a full bodysuit fights a villain wearing a full bodysuit. Needless to say, I had a hard time following the flow of their combat, since I couldn’t discern who was who.
Part of the problem is that there are far too many characters, a result of which is that you don’t care about any of them. There were a couple of really cool stories---the standout being the tale of an over-the-hill hero being forced to fight his ageless alien nemesis after all of the younger heroes are obliterated. Another story involves two brothers, one good, one evil, who steal a super suit back and forth between the two of them. It was almost awesome . . . almost, but the entire time, I couldn’t shake the sense that this story could fit almost seamlessly into an issue of Axe Cop, which is written by a grade-schooler. That’s the crux of it, really; since Crossover’s source material is inherently kind of silly, it doesn’t really work being directly adapted into a serious story.
Further complicating things, the art feels a bit amateurish. As I said before, many of the characters look similar, and the overall design is somewhat uninspired. I get that these heroes and villains were most likely lifted from school notebooks, but more could have been done to distinguish them and solidify their personalities. As it is, the artwork doesn’t look all that different from the original drawings in the book's appendix. Comic book art is not easy, to be sure, and there is much that can be forgiven if the writing is really solid. Unfortunately for Crossover, neither element is really up to par, and the experience suffers for it.
Though the concept is super fun, Crossover isn’t the joy to read that it should be, and ultimately falls short of its potential.