Overview

Pilot Season: Crosshair #1

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Pilot Season: Crosshair #1

Credits

  • Words: Jeff Katz
  • Art: Allan Jefferson
  • Inks: Jordi Terragona
  • Colors: Michael Atiyeh
  • Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Oct 6, 2010

No challenge is bigger for a writer than nailing that first issue. Not only must he or she show a solid grasp of the basics of “good” writing - well-rounded characters, intriguing and logical plot, etc. - but these need to be amplified to a greater degree than in any other issue of the book.

A first issue also needs to strike a balance between providing and holding back - too much of the former and the book will lack subtext or suspense; too much of the latter might make it incomprehensible or confusing. Both extremes imply a weak grasp on craft, and, most importantly for a first issue, risk losing readers. Sadly, Pilot Season: Crosshair #1 shows both extremes, resulting in a product that’s barely “TV movie” good.

Inspired by the Frankenheimer movie, The Manchurian Candidate, Crosshair takes us into the mind of Justin Weller, a former soldier shaken out of his reinvented life as a suburban family man by a death squad comprised of old military friends. The attempted assassination serves as a “mental trigger,” embedded through programming he’d undergone in his former life, that prompts him to try and assassinate the U.S. president - AKA “Mother,” his former boss and the one who “pulled” his trigger.

The problem isn’t so much that Katz swipes the movie concept; it’s that Katz doesn’t spend enough time showing how he’s put a spin on it. Katz also fails to emphasize the “mental trigger” and programming angle enough for readers to register it; in fact I didn’t pick up on it until I read Katz’s afterword. The result is an action-driven story with little (apparent) causality and too much (often tautological) exposition. Katz devotes too many pages explaining how Weller managed to secretly rig an entire neighborhood into a battleground for just the kind of situation our hero finds himself in.

Word balloons and captions crowd panels, the majority of which either state the obvious or feel downright creepy (Weller spends too much time talking to himself, which is strange because Katz also uses captions to show Weller’s thoughts, so the switch seems arbitrary). Some dialogue appears awkward and obvious, such as when Weller, long after the start of a gunfight, says “action first, questions later” - you don’t say, Mr. Weller.

For the most part, Jefferson’s art style suits the story. Bodies look fluid during action sequences, and Jefferson uses the ghost trail effect to convey movement in a single panel, adding to the script’s kinetic pace. That said, the expressive eyes of characters foregrounded in full page spreads has a stagy effect that pulls you out of the chaotic situations depicted - Weller looks a little too sinister; bystanders look a little too frightened. The result is a degree shy of melodrama.

The problem with Crosshair #1 is it started with too much of a bang: the book is too action-packed, with little breathing room to provide more information on Weller’s programming and “mental trigger.” The result is like the first five minutes of a movie that hooks its audience with explosions and near-misses, only stretched out longer than we’d like, with little in the way of context and character to make us care about what’s happening. The concepts in Crosshair have great potential, but they’re only as good as the level of craft conveying them: a seaside view is useless if the house’s foundation won’t hold.

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