Writer: Doug Miers & Sean O’Reilly
Publisher: Arcana Studios
NOTE: Criss Cross #1, a tribute comic book to the late Doug Miers, is scheduled to appear in stores on July 15, 2005. It can be ordered through Diamond Distributing.
Not bad, not bad at all.
The heroine of this story is Christine, a con woman who targets criminals. In this issue, she bilks a rapist out of 12 million dollars and humiliates him. Then she gets a shot at a Nigerian warlord who ends up kidnapping her.
Writer Doug Miers died before this comic was published. As his last work, it would seem offensive to criticize it. Fortunately, the story is good. The series premise is interesting, and I liked the character of Christine. She’s like a female Human Target. I’d like to see this continued as a series or, at the very least, this story concluded.
My only complaint with the story involves sexuality. Christine says she was married to a man, but is now a lesbian. Her co-conspirator suggests that her sexuality and her opinion of men might have been influenced by specifically targeting male criminals. After she humiliates the rapist, his last victim shows her “appreciation.” It isn’t made clear whether the victim is straight or gay. (Frankly, I assumed she was straight.) These events create the implication that sexuality is more fluid than most people think. I don’t agree with that idea.
Another point: At the trial, the rapist speaks in a very unnatural and anachronistic dialect. He actually says, “See how a real man handles a tawdry wench like yourself.” Only Dr. Doom can get away with lines like that! The rest of his dialogue is more natural.
I would describe the art as “adequate.” Artist Michelangelo (Is that one egotistical guy or an alias for a whole studio?) can draw. The people look realistic and distinct from one another. But his work lacks a distinctive style. There’s nothing unique to differentiate from other artists. In fact, it looks almost exactly like the art in the Left Behind comics and Alias’ Killer Stunts. The inking also gets a bit muddy at times, especially in the scenes taking place in Nigeria. Still, you can tell who everyone is and what’s going on. It’s easy to follow, and it doesn’t look bad.
Okay, so this wasn’t a rousing review. Did you really think I was going to call this comic an unqualified success just because the writer died? That wouldn’t be fair to you, me, or Mr. Miers. I will say that I enjoyed his series Generic Comics. It was a funny satire of the comics industry and superhero genre. I’d like to see that collected into a trade book. Criss Cross is a decent book; good enough to warrant a second issue. Whether another writer can write as well as Miers remains to be seen.
What struck me immediately about this comic was how refreshing it was to have a hero who doesn’t solve her problems and defeat her enemies through violence, but rather through wit and cleverness. As a long time fan of Doctor Who and MacGyver, that approach appeals to me, and it’s fairly rare to see it in American comics. The setting is also an interesting one, in that our protagonist, the Chris of the title, operates outside of the law, but nonetheless for a good cause; so the comic is tapping into that attractive Robin Hood kind of approach, and it works well.
Also refreshing is the complete lack of supernatural or sci-fi elements here. The heroes and villains are all human beings, and their actions are all plausible human actions, but nonetheless this is a compelling and dramatic read. If it weren’t for the complete lack of things blowing up, I could see this slotting nicely onto the evening telly.
The only real problem I had with the writing were the slightly dodgy lesbian aspects; not only did this seem to come out of nowhere, but the comic veered dangerously close to the idea that lesbians are only homosexual because they hate men, have been hurt by men, or just haven't met the right man. That kind of attitude is a bit juvenile, and is at odds with the general maturity of the comic.
The art is bright and attractive, and the inking is nice and clean, veering away from that grubby bingo pen style that seems to affect other independent comics, including some of Arcana’s other titles. There’s also a sort of generic TV animation look to the art in places, and the scenes set in Africa are a bit scrappy, with a lack of detail and some scruffy-looking linework, but on the whole it’s a good-looking comic.
So for me, Criss Cross is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a mature and interesting comic, and the premise holds a great deal of potential for entertaining stories in the future. Given the death of the writer, there may not be any future issues, but nonetheless, I’d recommend this comic, if only because it provides a glimpse of what comics can do if the U.S. industry could get out of its rut.
Synopsis: Think of a female Bruce Wayne with a Lara Croft twist whose husband has been killed and is now tainted against men, and you’re really close to the overall premise of Criss Cross. Swedish-Bikini-Team gorgeous Christine Cross is a modern day Robin Hood. Should make for some interesting reading…
Artistic Critique: I’ll have to say that the artwork wasn’t awesome but was definitely as good as you’ll see anywhere. (I’m kinda snob about artwork—Jim Lee, Frank Miller (some of his work), anything done by either of the Romitas, Mark Bagley, Benes, most of the Kuberts’ stuff, you know what I’m talking about). The book is worth the cost for page 10 alone!
The writing is creative but a little stiff. It’s only the first issue, and everyone’s trying to get the characters down. I think that after a couple of issues, everything will “groove in” properly and become more like that comfortable pair of old blue jeans.
Personal Notes: I never knew Doug Miers (ironic about the last name – I mean, how many “Miers” guys are there running around?), and in fact, I didn’t purchase this comic. It was a reviewer preview copy, but after reading about Doug, I would have certainly purchased at least a couple of copies. I have become acquainted with him through the eyes of his friends, family, and coworkers in the tribute in the back of this issue. You see, Doug was an independent creator, agent, and retailer who never made it to the likes of Marvel, DC, etc., but was always out there working and promoting the comic industry. It’s obvious that he will be missed…
What did you think of this book?
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