Comics and crossovers have become almost synonymous in the last 30 years; companies have interconnecting webs of crossovers happening all year long, whether they’re between one or two of their titles, or line-wide rebrandings. Sometimes these can be legitimate avenues for readers to discover a new character that they wouldn’t normally take a chance on, but they can sometimes start to feel like an easy attempt to make some money by forcing you to follow disparate storylines that tie in tangentially to a crossover.
In the interest of a crossover, companies will sometimes share their characters, to try and spread the love across the board — it doesn’t happen as much anymore, with the peak crossovers like the Amalgam universe or JLA/Avengers over a decade past. But when they were popular, boy were they popular, with companies using any tangential relationship or resemblance between characters to make a crossover happen. And while the ’00s brought us things we remember fondly, like JLA/Avengers and high quality intercompany crossovers like “Civil War”, it also brought its fair share of crossovers that… they’re not bad, they’re not good, they just kind of are. Check out our list of the 15 most useless crossovers of the ’00s!
15. SUPERMAN VS. PREDATOR
Someone in the DC editorial offices sure loves ’80s action movies involving extraterrestrial threats — before the release of Superman vs. Predator, they’d already pitted Batman against the Predator and Superman against the Aliens (from Aliens). A group of scientist bent on genetic cleansing based on science discovered in a downed alien ship must contend with Superman –but the Predator senses a worthy foe in Kal-El, and Superman has to fight on two fronts.
Aside from the sneeze in the general direction of a plot, the three-issue miniseries features artwork by Alex Maleev, whose career was about to truly take off with his star turn on Daredevil with Brian Michael Bendis. If this book really does it for you, track down the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sequel, Superman and Batman versus Aliens and Predator.
Six years after the massively popular Jim Carrey flick, The Mask, DC and Dark Horse hoped to do the wackiest crossover there ever was — Joker/Mask. The Mask comics have always been for a much older audience than the film, but the comic was a stalwart at Dark Horse for the better part of a decade; two years earlier, Dark Horse and DC had a successful comedy caper comic with the Superman/Madman Hullabaloo, so they were looking for lightning to strike twice.
Unfortunately, this four-issue miniseries fails — though it does introduce intriguing concepts, such as The Joker having a strong enough will to become a two-headed Joker/Mask entity to remove the Mask from himself, rather than having to be tricked into removing it. Although, Batman does trick him into removing it, by telling him his jokes are tired and stale — someone should have told the writers.
13. GHOST/BATGIRL: THE RESURRECTION MACHINE
With Dark Horse and DC starting to dig deeper into their roster for characters to crossover, Ghost and Batgirl were bound to come up. The Resurrection Machine, released in 2001, is of a type of crossover that leans very heavily on one universe as opposed to the other; it puts most of the heavy lifting on Ghost’s universe.
The story is nominally about the rescue of six Two-Face hostages, but ends up focusing more on an evil super-scientist who had been keeping himself alive since the Civil War who kidnapped the hostages from Two-Face. It’s admittedly a pretty cool concept that never quite pulls it off in execution, and it suffers from that specifically early-2000’s artwork–the early years of digital coloring makes everything look off these days.
12. GREEN LANTERN VERSUS ALIENS
Published in 2000 over four issues, the DC/Dark Horse Green Lantern Versus Aliens mini-series is both not a ton of fun, and a reminder that for a long time, DC wasn’t sure what to do with Kyle Rayner outside of the context of Hal Jordan. The book opens with a decade-earlier prologue in which Hal exiles a bunch of Xenomorphs to Mogo, and the remainder of the book is Kyle Rayner trying to clean up the mess.
The book was published right in the heart of Hal’s absence between Zero Hour and Green Lantern: Rebirth, and even with art by Rick Leonardi and Mike Perkins (back when Perkins was only inking), the book shudders under the weight of far too much backstory. The Xenomorph is the perfect killing machine — there shouldn’t need to be that serious of a prologue for that, and that means you too, Prometheus and/or Alien: Covenant.
Published at the end of 2000, at the very tail end of Grant Morrison’s tenure on JLA, this is what DC decided to publish. They had tasked Morrison et al to revamp the Justice League, to make them cool and relevant again. And then they made them team up with Witchblade.
The host of the Witchblade turns out to be an old school chum of Barbara Gordon, and on a trip to Gotham to catch up, the artifact jumps hosts to Oracle. The JLA spends a lot of time wondering how they can possibly defeat her, until the Witchblade starts hopping from female member of the Justice League to female member of the Justice League. It ends up feeling like an excuse to exploit Wonder Woman, Huntress, and Oracle, especially since the book apparently didn’t even warrant an appearance by Witchblade creator Marc Silvestri as an artist.
10. ALIENS VERSUS PREDATOR VERSUS THE TERMINATOR
This one isn’t quite an intercompany crossover — as far as comic books go, the Predator, Terminator, and Xenomorph are all denizens of the Dark Horse Universe. In Aliens versus Predator versus Terminator, the creators were throwing anything and everything from those films at the wall to see what would stick — as a good indicator of the kind of story you’re looking at here, it relies heavily on the canon of Alien: Resurrection (that used to be the worst thing you could say about an Alien movie).
The lead character is a Ripley clone who stumbles onto the project of an evil super-scientist to create new “Crypto Terminators,” and attempts to make sense of itself. It fails, nobly, in the attempt, but the sheer amount of plot zigs and zags, teleporting aliens, and proto-Crypto Terminators they managed to fit into 96 pages is truly staggering.
9. BATMAN/DEATHBLOW: AFTER THE FIRE
This might be the highest quality book on this list, due entirely to the creative team of Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. Before their Luthor or Joker books, they made their bones working together on 2002’s Batman/Deathblow: After the Fire. Deathblow is assassin Michael Cray, a Jim Lee/Brandon Choi creation during their time at Image, and he never meets Batman one single time during this mini-series.
It’s a narrative device by Azzarello that keeps the two heroes apart, as the book takes place in two separate timelines — one ten years before, with Deathblow, and the other in the “present” day, with Batman, trying to finish a case that Deathblow left unsolved. The book has a lot of atmosphere, but the plot gets lost sometimes in the sheer expository weight of making Batman fans care enough about Deathblow to buy all the issues.
8. JUDGE DREDD VS. ALIENS: INCUBUS
2003’s Judge Dredd vs. Aliens: Incubus has the most interesting publishing history of an on the list — as a co-publication between Dark Horse in the States and 2000AD in the UK, the story was released as a monthly mini-series by Dark Horse as well as in the weekly 2000AD progs. That kind of arrangement would be impossible in this day and age of the instant Twitter spoiler; the fans would revolt.
The story is definitely carried by the Judge Dredd cast; the use of the Xenomorph has almost just become a stamp to put on a story to give it a space-horror vibe in shorthand. In this iteration, a child who was cast out into the Cursed Earth grew up to become a space pirate, and of course, he hit up some seedy intergalactic places and came back with Xenomorphs, leaving Dredd and co. to clean up the mess.
7. THE AUTHORITY/LOBO
For awhile, before Deadpool became the ascendant ne’er-do-well in comics, Lobo was the baddest bastich in the known universe. He was originally intended to be a parody of the hyper-macho characters of the late ’80s and early ’90s, but instead he ended up being representative of the trope, up to and including its logical conclusion — the musclebound idiot who trips and falls into getting his bounties.
To really play up the tonal dissonance of Lobo, DC and Wildstorm teamed him up with the Authority for two separate one-shots, Jingle Hell and Spring Break Massacre. The relatively strait-laced Authority have to submit to Lobo’s buffoonery, as the books were largely created by traditionally Lobo-focused creators, such as Keith Giffen, Alan Grant, and Simon Bisley.
6. SUPERMAN/TARZAN: SONS OF THE JUNGLE
Superman/Tarzan: Sons of the Jungle, a 2001 crossover between Supes and the Dark Horse incarnation of the Lord of the Jungle, takes what you know about Superman (that he’s an alien who was raised by a couple in Kansas) and instead, asks: What if he had been raised by apes instead? In this version of the story, Kal-El lands among the apes and becomes “Argozan” and Tarzan lives the life he would have originally led, as the English gentleman Lord Greystoke.
It’s a remarkably dull story, but Carlos Meglia’s art breathes a lot of fun into the script. Eventually, Lord Greystoke decides to switch places with Argozan, deciding his true home is the jungle. There’s really just no reason for this book to exist, aside from a very thin thematic line between the two origin stories.
Mercifully, the shortest of all the crossovers on this list, this 2005 DC/Top Cow co-publication mostly notable as one of the very small handful instances when the Flash gets outrun. The Justice League meets the Cyberforce when the JLA arrives in Budapest to help Cyberforce fight some cyber-zombies; they join forces to try and find something called “Godtech,” which can supercharge members of the Cyberforce and also raise people from the dead, because why not?
By the end of the one-shot, the JLA and Cyberforce have turned on each other, as the JLA tries to resurrect a fallen member and Cyberforce needs to reform one who’s been corrupted. Velocity, a teenaged member of Cyberforce, tricks everyone, uses the Godtech for herself, and outruns the Flash into the land of the dead to return the JLA’s fallen member. It’s truly bonkers.
4. MARVEL ZOMBIES VS. ARMY OF DARKNESS
They might as well have called this 2007 crossover, because why not? After the events of Marvel Zombies Return and Dynamite’s Army of Darkness: The Death of Ash, Ash Williams ends up alongside a zombified Sentry in an alternate Marvel Universe. Warned by a prophecy that an army of the dead is coming, Ash tries to warn everyone in the Marvel Universe of a Deadite invasion — but in classic Ash fashion, he’s wrong.
The series was written by Chew’s John Layman, and features some art by Sean Phillips, Ed Brubaker’s other half, but like the other Marvel Zombies series, it struggles under the weight of its own references. Each issue has a different cover by noted table-thief Arthur Suydam, and each one references a classic Marvel cover, so this series may be more fun to go digging in dollar bins for singles than picking up the collection.
3. FREDDY VS. JASON VS. ASH
Sometimes too much of a good thing just turns it into way too much of anything. Take, for example, Wildstorm/Dynamite’s Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash. Taking place as a direct sequel to both Freddy vs. Jason and Army of Darkness, our heroes/villains have been scattered; Freddy technically lives inside Jason’s head now, while Jason periodically communes with him in a trance state; and Ash is helping to open S-Mart’s newest location in Crystal Lake, where he mistakes Jason’s work for that of Deadites.
The book takes a convoluted path to the inevitable final, three-way confrontation — even bringing back Freddy’s body for good measure — before they go their separate ways…until the sequel. It just wouldn’t be a slasher comic without a sequel (although, for the record, Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors kind of rules).
2. PUNISHER/PAINKILLER JANE
Painkiller Jane is one of Jimmy Palmiotti’s characters from the years before he and Joe Quesada launched the Marvel Knights imprint that set Quesada on track to become editor-in-chief. She was killed after a 12-story fall from a building, and returned to seek vengeance (but in a provocative way, it seems like is the point?).
She’s had several revivals over the years, most recently with a run at Dynamite. In 2001, Marvel Knights published a one-shot Punisher/Painkiller Jane team up written by Garth Ennis, in which she falls in love with him at first sight, leading to a kind of Harley Quinn-esque dynamic for the duration of the issue. The concept has its funny moments, but for a man whose sole motivation is to punish all criminals for the death of his wife and child, he makes for a lousy rom-com leading man.
1. BATMAN/DAREDEVIL: KING OF NEW YORK
In 2000, DC and Marvel still occasionally liked to play nice with each other. Their recent publishing slate at the time had included Marvel’s Daredevil/Batman: An Eye for an Eye in 1997, and 2000 brought the DC/Marvel joint, Batman/Daredevil: King of New York. The books were intended to reflect the flavor of their titles at the time, so the Daredevil-led Eye for an Eye was written by D.G. Chichester and illustrated by Scott McDaniel (the team on the main Daredevil book), and the Batman-led King of New York was written by Alan Grant and illustrated by Eduardo Barreto.
The book itself follows the Dark Knight and the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen as they try to prevent Scarecrow and Wilson Fisk from releasing Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin over all of Gotham. It’s messy, but us continuity nerds can apparently take solace that Gotham City is not supposed to be New York City.
Which of these crossovers is the worst to you? Let us know in the comments!
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