With”Crossing Midnight,” fantasist Mike Carey smashed Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” through a Junji-Ito/Hideshi-Hino brand mirror, and scattered the shards on modern day Nagasaki.
Twins Kai and Toshi, born on either side of midnight, have unusual powers stemming from an ill-judged promised made to the god of swords, Aratsu. After some mild coersion involving the dismemberment of the family dog, Toshi is taken into Aratsu’s palace, where her memories are severed as she’s tricked into servitude. Kai goes to his sister’s rescue, a tortuous journey that has him running into a magical land of Shinto kami; through an off-the-grid tent-city ruled by a retired porn star; and past the sararimen “phone clubs” where “enjokosai” ply their trade. (The more affecting chapters of “Crossing Midnight” deal with the enjokosai phenomenon, where teenage girls, or *shudder* even younger, go on “reward dates” that may or may not involve sex.) This is a story about innocence lost in a world that is as unforgiving on the spiritual level as it is on the material one. Over it all hangs the shadow of the Nagasaki bombing.
Carey (who’s famous for “Lucifer,” “The Unwritten” and who, like Brian Azzarello, was pivotal to the development of “Hellblazer”) works with artists Jim Fern and Eric Nguyen to set up an ambitious, multiple-tankobon-filling saga. Unfortunately, “Crossing Midnight” was cut short, and you’ll notice in a concluding story arc that I wish could be spirited away and never seen again. The quality of both the art and the writing take a desperate kamikaze plunge into an ending of unearned, engorged “epicness.” What began as a subtle, original animist fantasy should never have turned into a cliched matter of clashing armies.
RATING: COOL! with a SHRUG ending (coulda been a MASTERPIECE!!! if allowed to blossom.)