Ever since Namor fought the original Human Torch and ALL-STAR COMICS brought other publishers' heroes into the JSA, crossovers (both within and between companies) have basically been as fundamental to superheroes as secret identities. We've seen many over the years and, since they've come in every color, flavor and texture, there are plenty of options for a healthy discussion of favorites. I've put together a list of my top five (totally subjective and not-at-all objective) favs to stir the pot some and invite you maniacs to counter with your own top picks. Call it an editor/user crossover, how about it?== TEASER ==
You’re never going to see something like this again. Never ever. Oh, the meta conceit of an entire line of comics from "another reality" has been used several times afterward (one of them's even on this list) but you won't see this kind of inter-company cooperation solely for the purpose of “fan service” (as they say in anime circles) again.
Call it a vestige of a bygone era - - it's more special for that - - because I still haven’t gotten over the novelty of a Marvel/DC crossover with decisive winners and losers, nor that of the endlessly-clever combination of their universes which followed. SPIDER-BOY, MAGNETO & THE MAGNETIC MEN and IRON LANTERN (just to name a few) were all such unabashedly entertaining books that, fespite all logic, I truly, honestly wish that this had become an annual tradition. It was all just such fun for the sake of fun.
This continues to be just as big a thorn of controversy as it was when it was first coming out. Discussions of the appropriateness of violence in an inherently-violent genre aside, it speaks to the effectiveness of a murder mystery when it still manages to be shocking however many years later. I liked it because it pulled off the impressive feet of making a crossover event big and important without necessarily involving global catastrophes, reality warps and all-out war. Instead, it cut at the much more dangerous subject of superheroes' loved ones and the dangers that come, both inside and outside the cape community, with the sharing of secret identities.
The reveal of the killer may have been bitter pill to swallow because everybody wanted it to be a new, insidious supervillain, but I'd say it's much more fitting in hindsight, and all the scarier for its implications on the risks of trust. Also, the part where Batman desperately races home to save Tim Drake's Dad was one of the tensest nail-biters I've encountered in any comic.
The appeal of this is much like that of Amalgam - - seeing all your favorite characters in totally new guises and circumstances - - but I’ve ranked this age a little higher for how all its reinterpretations are bound to a serious and more ambitious story. Again, I still haven't quite shaken off the novelty of seeing a heroic Sabretooth, an evil, one-eyed Cyclops or mutants like Blink being active when they're dead in the regular timeline. It’s hard to argue with the influence and importance of a crossover when it’s spawned a slew of new characters and follow-up stories that are still continuing more than 15 years later. I also feel like the creators were allowed to cut loose in a way that they rarely get to on this kind of scale, and they unleashed some really wild creations like Abyss, Holocaust and Sugar Man.
We all know that crossovers run the risk of spreading too thin and losing that elusive “guiding voice” in even just the main mini-series. Long before FINAL CRISIS, this was the first crossover masterminded by Grant Morrison and it's got the tightest and most singular vision. It truly felt like you were reading comics from the future, and editorial smartly gave everybody free reign to do what they wanted for their respective "millionth issues" instead of mandating tie-in plots.
Seeing your heroes' characters' 853rd century successors is interesting enough, in itself, and it was a real treat to see how all the creators took on that creative challenge in their own unique way. While Solaris the Tyrant Sun and Kal Kent of the Justice Legion Alpha have shown up in Morrison's later Superman stories, these concepts and characters were so far out, I'd still love to see some monthly "Tales of the 853rd Century" title.
Plenty has been said about superheroes stories being the modern successors of mythology, and I can't think of any other crossover where that conceptual link has felt as direct and as exciting as it is in this. Thanos returning from the dead, collecting all the Infinity Gems and then using their power to snuff half the universe in a vain effort to win Death's affections? That definitely sounds like something out of an epic poem.
Actually, without too much hyperbole, the subsequent marshaling of the entire Marvel pantheon against this mad king's destructive love affair truly makes me think of the gathering of larger-than-life heroes that occurs on account of Paris of Troy's selfish, adulterous actions in THE ILLIAD. It feels that epic. For as often as people gripe about the drawbacks and consequences of a shared superhero universe, I return to this fairly regularly and it always reminds me of just how fun the whole conceit can be. And if you want to talk about lasting consequences, just look at how long the Infinity Gauntlet's endured as the ultimate symbol of power in the Marvel universe.
There you have it, those were my top five. Where do these rate in your top five?