Gamma Squad's Ultimate Guide To Comics For Beginners, Part Four: How To Navigate A Crossover

One of the biggest problems for new comics readers, especially people focusing on Marvel and DC, is when said companies dump a crossover in their laps. Crossovers can be intimidating, with a lot of comics you “have” to read, so here’s how to handle them.

A crossover is what it sounds like: The plot of one book crossing over into another, possibly several others.

Crossovers generally come in two flavors. One is a central book telling a story while other books in the same “family” tell side stories and fill in details like where some characters went, what others are up to, and so on. A good recent example is Death Of The Family, wrapping up this week in Batman #17. Another kind is a multi-part story-arc that crosses two or three books, like Marvel’s Minimum Carnage. Still a third will have a miniseries that ties into all the books, although this is rare and usually reserved for massive “events”, like Marvel’s Avengers Vs. X-Men run.

The key thing to remember, with crossovers, is that you’re unlikely not to know exactly what’s going on. As we discussed in Part Three, comics are written to be as accessible as possible to new readers.

Also, as companies would like you to buy their books, there will usually be a checklist included, so if you really want to pick up everything in a crossover, you can.

Crossovers can be a mixed blessing. The idea, of course, is that you read books you wouldn’t normally and maybe stick with them after the crossover ends. And a well-written one can be a lot of fun; every long-time fan has one favorite crossover.

That said, some of the worst books in comics have also been crossovers. This is for two reasons. First, that crossovers went from unique, rare events because a creative team had a story they needed to tell with beloved characters to carefully planned out editorial mandates designed to boost sales: No book from DC or Marvel will be able to avoid a crossover for long. Secondly, really, it’s just sheer numbers: When you’re knocking out one or two of these a year, they’re not all going to be classics.

So, how do you handle a crossover? Start by remembering this: You’re not obligated to buy every single book in a crossover. If you don’t like the story, vote with your wallet. Secondly, ask the guy behind the counter at your FLCS, or research some reviews, about the other books in the crossover. Honestly, crossovers tend to magnify the good and bad qualities of the writers behind them. Also remember that wikis can fill in the gap if you don’t want to read, or can’t afford, to buy some new books.

Always start with the books you’re reading. It’s always good to dip into another series, now and again, but if you don’t like the story, keep your money for comics you do enjoy.