Iron Circus’ newest book of erotica was a disappointment. I loved the idea of a varied bunch of fans hooking up at a convention — I was hoping it would be as fun as Dramacon, but with actual sex scenes — but I never got enough information about most of the cast to care about what they were or weren’t doing to each other.
Niki Smith originally serialized the chapters that make up Crossplay online at a pay porn site, which explains why they’re so choppy, since there, it’s more about the payoff than the story. In a graphic novel, though, I find it annoying not to be given enough information to be able to remember which fan is which or who likes whom.
The design is strong, with compelling individual images, and an unusual way of dropping out black lines in backgrounds or to create a more dreamy feel. I just wish more characters had more memorable scenes to better help them stand apart to the reader. The emphasis is on emotion — crushes, lust, uncertainty — instead of more old-fashioned basics, like making sure the reader knows what everyone’s name is. The dialogue is plenty realistic, but I wanted some more guidance. Instead, I felt like visiting someone else’s school reunion, where they all already knew each other and forgot to welcome the new kid to the group. I find the sex hotter when there’s more solid story behind it, as in Iron Circus’ earlier Yes, Roya.
There are so many characters that there’s also not much space to establish what a convention is like for those not as familiar with them. Con-goers will recognize a bunch of the elements, but again, it’s best understood by those who already know.
Crossplay is very much of the moment, though, with all kinds of relationships, including same-sex hookups and gender play (and useful information on binding and remembering people’s pronouns). Those who can’t get enough of that kind of erotica (given its relative rarity) will likely enjoy the effective sex scenes regardless. (The publisher provided a digital review copy, although I also pledged for the Kickstarter.)