The "Pilot Season" project from Top Cow is always one worth checking in on, with its group of first issues that try to balance the demands of delivering a strong, self-contained comic and enticing reads to want to read more. It's a chance to see creators who may be doing your favorite books in a few years (Jason Aaron and Jonathan Hickman are both alums) and it's another sign of Top Cow working to fight against the image many have of it. The third "Pilot Season" book of the current crop, "Crosshair," definitely fits that mold with lots of action and an intriguing plot that demands close reading.
Former black ops soldier Justin Weller has been living a peaceful, suburban life for the past ten years, but finds himself under attack by his old team and, as a result, in the middle of a much larger and complex scheme that involves him having to kill the president. "Crosshair" is very high concept, borrowing liberally from "The Manchurian Candidate" as writer Jeff Katz admits in the text piece at the end of the comic, and is bold in its presentation of that concept. There are few explanations of what's going on, the story just going on its own accord, counting on the readers to keep up and leaving out enough to, hopefully, make them want a full series that will provide a more comprehensive view of the big picture.
That approach is refreshing, but can easily backfire is enough information isn't provided to keep things moving. Sadly, that's the case at times in this issue. Some of the driving points of the story, like Weller having a mental trigger activated, are introduced so casually that they don't register as strong as they should. Everything is presented on the same level, probably to suggest that it all matters, but that also makes nothing matter. If anything, the story comes off as being on autopilot. Actions occur simply because the plot demands it, not because of any cause or effect.
Allan Jefferson's art suffers from the exact opposite problem: overemphasizing characters. His art style shifts between softly shadowed figures that are simple but dynamic and overly detailed characters that are striking but incredibly static. On the second page, in the final panel, Mother doesn't fit in with the rest of the characters, because the line work is much slicker and more defined. It's like Jefferson mixes cartoonish and realistic characters, often depending solely on how much focus the character has in a panel. This is particularly distracting in the action scenes where Weller alternates between the two styles. Both are attractive, but create very different effects; the more realistic, detailed style especially hurts any scene with quick movement, because it's so overly drawn that any sense of energy and movement is non-existent.
"Crosshair" #1 is a promising issue with lots of potential. The complex conspiracy at its heart is a little underdeveloped for what could be the only issue of the series we'll ever see, while the art is very inconsistent between two different but solid styles. Despite these problems, the creators did accomplish one important thing: I want to know what happens next.