Story: Donny Cates & Robert Kirkman
Art: Geoff Shaw, Phil Hester & Klaus Janson
Colours: Dee Cunniffe
Letters & Design: John J. Hill
Story Edits: Mark Waid
So this issue kicks off with a flashback and a little bit of an explanation, primarily the explanation of why Negan would start killing off comic book creators when he found himself in the real world. It’s a really good opening sequence that sees the character come face to face with his creator and while I don’t want to give too much away, I will say that it goes probably exactly how you’re expecting.
In fact the first ten pages of this issue are written by Robert Kirkman with art by Phil Hester and Klaus Janson. The last time a guest creative team where invited into Crossover to write themselves I wasn’t a fan, but in this case I think it works nearly as well as Chip Zdarksy’s work in issue #7. While Robert Kirkman is dealing with a fairly serious matter (y’know his own imminent death) there’s a light heartedness and effort to not take himself too seriously that I just don’t think Brian Michael Bendis was capable of in his own contributions. There’s also a sincerity to Kirkman’s explanation of why he wrote The Walking Dead which makes the whole conversation feel more believable.
From there we see another interaction between Cates and Pendleton, as they discuss the events that are unfolding between Powers Division, Father Lowe and Negan following on from the end of last issue. It’s a good interaction and one that develops Donny Cates’ character within the book and shows that he’s capable of more than we’ve seen in his previous appearances. However, in contrast to Robert Kirkman’s pages, it does feel like Donny Cates’ writing of himself is a lot more smug at this point, or at least that’s the way the fictitious version of Cates is presented. There’s an acknowledgment that this arc is running away with itself, which is a complaint I’ve made frequently, and I feel like admitting this earlier within the book would’ve possibly minimised the sense that this has been a bit of a directionless arc at times.
This issue has some really strong art, to begin with Phil Hester and Klaus Janson’s depiction of Robert Kirkman’s ludicrously nerdy mansion is really fun and the juxtaposition between the location and Negan’s brutality really works to draw attention to both extremes. Geoff Shaw also has no shortage of moments to shine this issue, be it the conversation between Cates and Pendleton or the pages with Negan, Lowe and Powers Division his artwork works as well here as it has throughout the series so far.
The first arc of Crossover worked so well, and it feels like from issue #8 onwards this volume has never really focused on the story being told, the creator cameos and guest writing feels more gimmicky than the character cameos ever did. At this point I really feel like an actual anthology volume would’ve worked better here than what we’ve been given, at least that way we’d be prepared for constant variation.
This is a good issue of Crossover and in some moments it almost feels like we’re getting back to the heights of the first volume, which is something I’ve been hoping for these last few issues. I appreciate the need for tension building and working towards big events, but for me this second arc hasn’t flowed nearly as well as the first, and my rabid need for more Crossover has waned somewhat. I’m hoping the next arc can claw that interest back.