Note: Spoilers for DC Rebirth #1 to follow.
The comic-book crossover is a staple of the industry and genre, permeating now between television shows and movies from Marvel and DC. But is it a cheap ploy to drive sales from two different fan bases? Or can there be some genuine creativity and care behind these collaborations?
The latest groups of characters to cross paths include some whom many thought were off limits to the greater DC Universe at large. But perhaps we should have seen the signs coming. And though the Geoff Johns’ written one-shot not-so-subtly hints at the involvement of these characters, it all but leaves their names on the tip of your tongue.
The Watchmen have invaded the DC Universe.
While the execution and story implications at this point are more than dubious, there is plot remaining to unfold. It doesn’t bode well that the writer is taking off to get more hands-on with film production at Warner Bros., but regardless, this comic is printed and out in the wild now. This genie cannot be bottled.
So while these developments might stick out more than Dr. Manhattan’s dick in a war zone, we’ve compiled a list of some great comic-book crossovers to help you forget this ever happened.
Archie vs. Predator
By Alex De Campi, Fernando Ruiz, Rich Koslowski, and Jason Millet
The launch of Afterlife with Archie by Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa and Francesco Francavilla heralded a creative renaissance at Archie Comics. The genius realization that Riverdale’s iconic teenagers embody classic archetypes helped kickstart a new era of storytelling among the Archie gang. Last year, IDW continued that creative momentum in a crossover with one of their most recognizable properties in Archie vs. Predator.
Bear with us, but Archie vs. Predator was The. Best. Crossover. Ever.
Artists Fernando Ruiz, Rich Koslowski, and Jason Millet collaborate to create the instantly recognizable Archie aesthetic, which writer Alex De Campi deftly subverts with scenes of carnage, mayhem, and black humor. The first issue reads like a typical Archie comic, except most scenes end with a character getting brutally murdered whenever they make their exit.
The remaining three issues in the series ratchet up the intensity with each page turn, culminating in a standoff between the titular characters and an ending befitting an Archie comic. Self contained, short, and sure to incite a few laughs, there were few comics in 2015 as fun as Archie vs. Predator, and probably even fewer crossovers as good as this one (we’re looking at you, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
Plus, the variant covers and pin-ups are worth the price of admission alone. Check out that poster of Predator cutting a rug, courtesy of Faith Erin Hicks. Beautiful, capital "B."
Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth
By Warren Ellis, John Cassaday, and David Baron
John Cassaday and Warren Ellis’ superhero (perhaps we should call it Modern Age) comic-book analysis and deconstruction is the best defense this medium has ever made for four-color cape comics. Despite countless essays and think-pieces regarding the merit and maturity of superhero comics, Planetary ignored all of the bullshit and established itself as a story that not only entertained but is vital to understanding and respecting modern-day comic book storytelling.
Adding the Dark Knight to the mix, the Planetary story embraces the single issue mystery format that’s entrenched in its DNA and manages to establish itself as a great story, Planetary and Batman alike.
Cassaday and the book’s colorist, David Baron, establish the mythical and noir elements that permeate throughout Gotham City’s architecture, citizens, and culture. They use these elements to establish a narrative fitting to examine the carious interpretations of the Caped Crusader.
A murder mystery, a metatextual statement, and a tale of capes and melodrama, Planetary/Batman is a fine example of how excellent corporate comics can be.
By Chynna Clugston-Flores and Rosemary Valero-O'Connell
A comic like BOOM! Studios’ Lumberjanes shouldn’t require an introduction. Critical acclaim, cross-demographic appeal, strong sales, and a diverse cast of characters all contribute to make one of the best-received comics in the last decade and an all-ages title that lives up to its literal name.
Gotham Academy, on the other hand, is a refreshing and much needed approach to the Batman mythos —Hogwarts meets Gotham City. Focusing on a few teens in a prestigious boarding school, the cast all have a connection to Batman. Extracurricular activities consist of solving the many mysteries plaguing the school as well as one character’s particular disdain for the crimefighter.
Both comics will crossover in an upcoming six-issue miniseries. The first issue hasn’t been released yet, but just by the concept and the pedigree of the creative team alone, it’ll be good comics when we finally see the meeting between Gotham Academy and the Lumberjanes.
By Mike Norton, Rob Guillory, John Layman, and Tim Seeley
Two of Image Comics’ longest running series with unique twists to the procedural concept crossed over in a double-sided one-shot that showcased both creative teams’ talents.
Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton is about a small Wisconsin town where the dead come back to life— not zombified, but as they were before. Chew by Rob Guillory and (temporary Arizona resident) John Layman is about an FDA detective with the power to experience the last memories of any dying or dead creature — so long as he eats a piece of them.
The living dead + cannibal cops = perfect comic book.
Both teams handle the crossover with approaches unique to each title. Norton and Seeley tell a grounded, supernatural story with cannibalistic cibopath (aka food-psychic) Tony Chu helping to solve a mystery in the Wisconsin small town. On the other side, Guillory and Layman use their unique style to tell a more comedic, slightly deranged take to the crossover befitting fans of Chew. Both showcase each team while teasing both sets of fans of their unique mythologies.
By Various Writers and Artists
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Fine. We admit, this might not be the best crossover. Even when it comes to the few times that Marvel and DC teamed up to do something (like the much better the Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans or Avengers/JLA), this crossover is at the bottom of the list.
But to be fair, this culmination of the Marvel versus DC fight comics is probably the best and most legitimized form of fan-fiction comics we will ever see. Those crude doodles that decorated your binder in second grade? They all got comic books.
Just look at those designs and how goddamn ridiculous they are! Spider-Boy! Iron Lantern! Super-Soldier! Doctor Doomsday! Dark Claw! Seriously, the design impetus behind some of these mash-ups doesn’t go much beyond “their names sound cool when you combine them — MAKE IT HAPPEN!”
We got a half-hearted attempt to cash in on adolescent fantasy, but to be fair that’s pretty much in Marvel and DC’s revenue-generating repertoire at this point.