Alternate Cover: Crossovers – Good and Bad

What are the best crossovers that Marvel and DC ever unleashed? James has some suggestions...

Crossovers do sometimes work...

Despite crossovers getting a fairly bad reputation in comics for “forcing” readers to part with extra money in order to get a story that, by and large, doesn’t service the characters so much as shoehorn them in as an afterthought. With both major comic companies currently in full crossover mode with Marvel’s “Secret Invasion” and DC’s “Final Crisis” it’s hard to remember exactly what we’re all getting so worked up about.

Even so, some Crossovers can be looked back upon fondly, given the test of time. Here I pick the best crossovers Marvel and DC ever did (and mention some of the ones we wish they hadn’t done.)

Marvel: Age of Apocalypse

While it’s hard to fully appreciate this crossover if you’re not deeply interested in the X-Men and the hundreds of mutant characters that exist in the Marvel Universe, those that DO understand it are free to appreciate the sheer intricate majesty of it all. Even though it only featured the X-Men, it easily hammers any prior or subsequent attempt into the ground.

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When, due to a time-travel hiccup, Professor X is killed before he can form the X-Men, a dark future emerges where the mutant supremacist Apocalypse runs America. To reflect the events of the crossover, every single X-Men-related series was re-titled, re-numbered and given a fragment of the plot to tell in isolation, before all the issues converged on the final special issue, “X-Men: Omega” in which the correct timeline was restored.

Perhaps it’s because the event featured some of the industry’s biggest names and characters at the time, or perhaps because it was simply one of the tightest crossovers ever told, but the event is fondly remembered – not unjustifiably – by just about everyone who ever cared to read it.Missing out:Civil War: Hero Vs. Hero as all super-powered beings are commanded to register their identities with the US government and some object. A lacklustre ending and the occasional inability to present Iron Man as anything other than a goose-stepping lunatic both harm the credibility of the otherwise fairly timely plot ideas.

Secret War: A godlike alien transports all the major Marvel heroes and villains to a planet, where they fight, before going home. Better than a crossover literally created to sell action figures should be, but seriously, it was still a bit TOO light on story.

Onslaught: When An Xavier-Magneto hybrid entity attempts to take over the planet, the plot ends with many non-mutant heroes being “killed”. As full of awesome moments as it was, editorial failings left the crossover floundering with severe logic holes that harm the story.

DC: Crisis on Infinite Earths

As if it was ever going to be anything else. Say what you will about the precedent this series firmly established that would make DC Universe continuity nothing short of incomprehensible over the next few years, but there’s a good reason it’s been used as the basis for about six of DC’s other major events over the past couple of decades – it was simply that good. It virtually established the idea of a line-wide crossover, leading Marvel to follow suit shortly with similar projects.

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Even now, there are classic moments in Crisis that, largely due to George Perez’s brilliant art and Marv Wolfman’s masterful handling of the myriad plot threads, have become part of comics’ collective memory – the deaths of Barry Allen (The Flash) and Kara Zor-El (the original Supergirl) spring immediately to mind. While much of the action did stay contained to the parent series, a fair number of crossovers existed, and ultimately it turned out to be very important, spinning out a new “unified” DC Universe continuity that lasted…well, for a fair few years, at least…Missing out:

Armageddon 2001: 10 years in the future, the world is in a bad shape due to the actions of villain – or rather, hero – “The Monarch.” Time-travellers come back to the “present” of 1991 to discover the identity of the Monarch. Readers figure out the twist too quickly, and the ending is hastily changed so that it makes no sense, upsetting everyone involved – especially Hawk’s fans, when he was set up to take the fall.

Zero Hour: The Green Lantern goes nuts and becomes a villain. Ties in loosely to “Crisis” in an attempt to fix continuity problems. Partially succeeded, but the changes didn’t stick. Kyle Rayner became the new Green Lantern, and kicks off a decade of whinging from both the character and Hal Jordon’s fans.Identity Crisis: Ralph Dibney’s wife is murdered and DC’s heroes attempt to find the killer, uncovering a huge conspiracy of mind-wiping and memory extraction that turns hero against hero. Unfortunately, the main plot revolves around a previously minor super-villain becoming a rather too-gleeful rapist, and it was all quite poorly handled.

Unfortunately, since neither current crossover is anywhere near completion, only time will tell where Secret Invasion and Final Crisis are going to end up – but it’s a fairly safe bet neither will topple the best crossovers…

James Hunt writes Alternate Cover every Monday. Last week’s is here