Crossover n ° 10: AKA with automatic insertion
Metatextual stories always straddle the line between complacency and self-mockery. A character who breaks the fourth wall or a story that knows it’s a story needs to be handled with care, otherwise he falls into the traps of a postmodern attempt at cliché humor or subversion of the structure. That’s why, depending on the race, a character like Deadpool can be refreshing and hilarious, or hacky and played. The premise of Crossing is esoteric and an attempt to blur the line between reality and history, and finds mixed results in this context. Crossing # 10, written by Donny Cates and art by Geoff Shaw, colors by Dee Cunniffe and lettering by John J. Hill sees screenplay and art tasks shared with Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming and colorist Nick Filardi.
The book opens with a deliberate choice to engage with the book on a metatextual level, showing an image of the first page of the script with doodles and notes in the margins, then cutting to Shaw’s rendering of the script. This is the first idea that the book goes beyond its use of comic book tropes and story elements, and intends to fit as text into the world of the book. The group realizes that someone outside of the various creators of the characters going through is writing this story and dictating the actions of the plot. It becomes clear in the middle of the book who may be the suspect and is confirmed on the last page. It’s a revelation that logically makes sense for the series, but it’s a prime example of the walking that line mentioned at the start of this review. It’s an effective cliffhanger, making the reader wonder if this suspect and plot element is going to feel natural to the story, or if it will be a self-centered insert into the story. It’s a twist that should get the benefit of the doubt but is a bit on the nose.
Bendis and Oeming’s team reunite for an interlude featuring their characters from the series owned by their creators Powers. Bendis himself is no stranger to the metatextual and fourth wall breaking rhythms in his comics, having used the storytelling technique to reinforce just how the Purple Man has appeared in his critically acclaimed Marvel series Alias. The interlude of this series sees Bendis being questioned by the detectives of Powers and is later joined by Oeming, as the comic book makers are murdered across the country. It’s a fun break away from the main plot, and the charm and humor of the streak is a bit noticeable in an otherwise mediocre issue. The gift and curse of the series is the use of other creators, such as the pit stops of Crossing are infinitely more interesting than the destination.
Shaw’s art and Cunniffe’s colors are always the triumphs of this book, perfectly balancing various comic book styles while making a clear distinction between the “real” world and the “comic” world. Using classic comic book aesthetics, especially Ben-Day points, indicates that a person is not from the Crossover world, but has traveled from one of the different comic book universes. This artistic choice, paired with a simpler color scheme, ensures that comic book characters always appear and stand out on the page, even when fully integrated into the unfolding of a plot point. This contrasting style is brought out even more in the Bendis / Oeming interlude, as the art moves from the Shaw style to the Oeming style of the original. Powers book, indicating to the viewer that writing is also in transition. It’s fun to see Bendis and Oeming’s riff in the pages of the interlude, and the gadget pushes the plot forward, causing detectives and the original characters to start looking at the bigger picture.