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Review – Crossed Family Values #1 (Avatar, 2010)


When I first heard about this sequel to ‘Crossed’ I was sceptical. I figured ‘Crossed’ to be something that would not, could not be done – how do you follow up on something as grossly unique and sick as Crossed? Well, it has been done, minus Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows, and all I can say is WOW. If anything, the intensity, fear, gore, terror and depravity of humans and the ‘Crossed’ is more pronounced, more keenly felt in this terrific drama from David Lapham – yes, David Lapham, recently of ‘Young Liars’. He has done Ennis’ creation proud, with a barnstorming opener that manages to fit in family drama at its rawest, a siege, and, of course, the ‘Crossed’. My god they are a terrifying, awesome enemy. The art, by Javier Barreno, fits in well with the Jacen Burrows stylings of the original ‘Crossed’, and that is not meant as a slight. His art is brilliant in its staging, it capturing of the everyday and the apocalyptic.

If you were a Crossed fan, I don’t need to tell you that you need to give this a try. If you are a Lapham fan, try it, but be prepared to be more shocked, as this is no ‘Young Liars’- it is much more ‘out-there’. For the rest – if you think of your worse nightmare, of vivid, bloody, needless slaughter, of desperate struggle and a nihilistic, darker-than-dark atmosphere pervading everything….well, if you want to read that in comic form, dive in! ‘Crossed Family Values’ #1 is out now.

It is not easily forgotten, and it has me hooked. This could be something I did not expect to say, but this could easily outstrip the original ‘Crossed’ in terms of quality, drama, terror and excitement.

Review – Crossed #9 (Avatar, 2010)

Ennis delivers a decent finale for this tale of an apocalypse most evil and vile. There is even a little hope – maybe – at the end. In between is a neat summation of all that has gone before. The Crossed are out in force, trying to hunt down the survivors we have followed over the last 18 months or so. How those survivors fare is well handled by Ennis and Burrows, with the gruesome and gory mixed with the moving and heroic. The two central characters, Cindy and Stan, become more likeable (and more human, more reflective) in this last issue – something I feel Ennis has not really infused into this story up to now.

One day I will go back and re-read this curious series (probably when the hardcover comes out in the spring). I think I will enjoy it more as a collection rather than the experience of the episodic (and infrequent shipping) nature of the single issues. I don’t think I have ever read a comic book that has shocked me and disgusted me more than this title. But there is more to Crossed than shock value. It is a story of survival against immeasurable odds, of the moral choices that have to be made in order to survive. It is also a story of a terrible enemy – a genuinely terrifying adversary, one that far more interesting and captivating than the survivors in the early issues. By the end, here at issue #9, some survivors have managed to make sense of the Crossed – of their evil, vile compulsions – and have therefore won a crucial victory. They know that the Crossed can be beaten. They can anticipate what they might do next, they can act to do something about it. They have to do it with violence, and through killing, but it shows that there is hope. However small.

Hope. I did not think that would be my lasting impression of this book. But I guess Ennis has surprised me with Crossed in a lot of ways. I am going to miss this title, because although we know Crossed is making a return (with David Lapham at the helm), it will not be Ennis’ & Burrows’ Crossed.

Crossed – there is more (2010)

In other news, that happy and life affirming* series, Crossed, has taken a surprising turn. You may well have thought that with the upcoming issue #9 (of 9), that that would be that. But no. The world of the ‘Crossed’ will live on this spring. But Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows will not be the creative team. Instead, we will have the estimable David Lapham, who most recently gave the world the thoroughly twisted rock n’ roll acid nightmare of ‘Young Liars’, and art by Javier Barreno. Interesting in so many ways – and a lot of them are dark and perverse and you do not want to think too long and hard about it. But one point of interest is the fact that you don’t get many creators ceding creative control over of an owned title like Crossed to another team. More about it here;

I think it is going to be immense, disgusting, perverted and shocking, but also rather brilliant. We shall see – it’s out in May. Lapham talks it up here;

Depending on your state of mind, you may or may not want to have a look at the grisly, macabre, disturbed and blacker than a black hole humour of Jacen Burrows Crossed covers. He is doing the new series covers as well you know. If you are easily offended, then do not click here – seriously;

* I am taking the piss. For ‘happy and life affirming’, read ‘thoroughly dark and depressing, savage and bleak’

Review – Crossed #8 (Avatar, 2009)

So, we reach the penultimate episode of Crossed. After the shocking, terrible events of #7, this issue is more reflective, gives more detail on the wider consequences of the infection, and brillaintly shows how tensions are resolved amongst the survivors in this tragic, devastated world of the Crossed.

There are attempts to try and attempt closure, to allow some to grieve. There are moral choices that make sense in this altered world, where the summary execution of a human because of their treatment of an animal is logical, believable, even justifiable.

Short on the shocking imagery that has made this title somewhat notorious, this issue actually goes a lot deeper in exploring how people survive in this post-Crossed world. It is probably the finest issue to date – immensely readable, sensitive in its portrayal of the choices people make, and how people deal with loss – and it seems to be hitting its stride just as the curtain is about to fall. Maybe Ennis will consider a volume 2 of this title. Maybe Ennis will end the upcoming finale on an unremittingly bleak note (there is certainly a lack of hope throughout the series’ run). I am just glad that Crossed has become more than a one-trick pony, because despite some imagery that is so shocking it is not easy to forget (or even to justify), this title has matured into a terrifying, gripping tale of survival in a world where joy and hope are all but extinguished.

Review – Crossed #7 (Avatar, 2009)

In which all vestiges of hope for the future are extinguished.

After what seems months, a new issue of Crossed arrives. In it, the survivors are on the run from the pursuing ‘Crossed’, led by the very big, really angry ‘Horse Cock’ man. They cross terrain! We see a Crossed barbecue! There is water action. The whole thing is pretty thrilling, the sense of fear the Crossed instill very much at the forefront of proceedings.

The ending is sad and brutal and pretty shocking and – wait for it – handled with an amount of subtlety that is not always present in this series. Yes it has the trademark ‘Crossed’ savagery, the expected sharp tongue and brutal choices, but it is done in a particularly sensitive way.

I am trying to say that I enjoyed this issue. Whatever lies ahead, this issue was a turning point, for several reasons – although all hope seems to be gone, at least the Survivors started to show some spirit – there was the beginning of a fight back, of resistance, of turning and confronting fear. With 2 issues left, this series is firmly back on track.

Crossed – another example why the best horror is in comic form (2008)

Out now as an issue 0 (and cheap at under £1 – you shouldn’t expect to pay more than 75p) this is the new Warren Ellis title, with art by Jacen Burrows. It starts off with a startling first page;

and from there it gets more and more nightmarish, anarchic and nasty. Told from the perspective of a young man seemingly content to drift through life, the text is sharp, concise and knows when to drop a startling, sickening observation on the madness that ensues. Although there are only 11 pages, this truly is a showcase on how to get readers locked into a story. The horror is bloody, disturbing and visceral – I found myself turning pages and wondering how much more perverse and gory it could get. That is a recommendation, by the way. Great way to end the issue as well. Burrows art keeps up with the manic thrills and does a good job of illustrating a towns descent into hell.

As horrific and post-apocalyptic as it gets, Crossed is on my pull list, joining the likes of Kirkman’s ‘The Walking Dead’ and Guggenheim’s ‘Resurrection’.