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.
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.
Note – this is a picture of a Happy Tree. It is not the cover of Crossed #6. The cover of Crossed #6 does not have a happy tree on it. The cover of Crossed #6 depicts an attack in a fast food restaurant and is not very nice at all and I would rather look at the Happy Tree instead.
For anyone interested, my relationship with this title is troubled. It did (and still does) evoke a reaction from me, which is more than can be said of a lot of comics out there, but it’s difficult for me to actually determine if I actually like ‘Crossed’. Then again. can you really like a title like Crossed, which seems determined to imagine the worst scenarios that can be visited upon normal human beings, and then illustrate them for the purposes of comic book entertainment. Regardless, I stick with it, I keep it on my pull list. I started off with issue #0 last year, and I am not about to give up now. Its a 9 issue limited series (10 if you count #0), so we are two thirds of the way through it now.
There is not a lot to Crossed, really. Most everyone in the world has been infected with some sort of virus that causes a nasty looking rash to appear on their faces, making a cross, meeting somewhere around the bridge of the nose. Check out the covers, that will give you an idea. These people, the Crossed, are psychotic, driven only by murder and mutilation and sex, and these proclivities can be configured by these miscreants in such a way that all 3 can be implemented at the same time. They (the Crossed) are pretty creative in how they murder and mutilate and rape, but, you know, how nice is that? It’s not an admirable quality to be ‘creative’ in the ‘art’ of death and violation of fellow humans. Naturally, there are a few survivors, but none of them are particularly interesting, though I do have sympathy for the self-reliant woman (whose name I do remember – Cindy) and her son (whose name I have forgotten). I want them to make it through this horrible business. There are others that have been around for pretty much the whole run, including a bearded guy with glasses, that I don’t know the name of. He is just sort of there, and occasionally speech bubbles appear near his mouth and……anyway, there are some others who are relatively new.
Take this issue as an example (seeing as I am supposed to be reviewing it). There are some new guys. They are a gobby survivalist who thinks everyone owes him because he had some tinned food and bottled water. Fair enough. There is a guy who, in flashback, we learn lost his wife and children on the beach to the infected. There is another guy who keeps himself to himself – an elderly guy, never really had any friends before. Want to take a punt at what sort of thing he was into before the ‘Crossed’ apocalypse? Lets look at the clues – isolated man, keeps himself to himself, never had friends before, repeat – AN ELDERLY MAN WHO HAS NEVER REALLY HAD FRIENDS BEFORE. Do you think he could be a bit, y’know, weird? You’ll just have to read and find out, but you probably will not be surprised by the ‘reveal’ near the end of the issue.
Sorry, let me just clarify – these characters (gobby guy, beach guy and elderly isolated guy) – did they just wander in on this issue? I am having trouble remembering. I am waiting for something horrible to happen to someone, at the hands of the Crossed and its making me lose concentration when I read this title. Then I get to the end of this issue (or book, or chapter, or more appropriately ‘part’, considering the amount of offal and limbs that are served up to the reader during an issue of Crossed) and….dunno. It just leaves me with the memory of some hideous deaths – I mean, young children being clubbed and stabbed to death and dismembered, it’s hardly going to leave you with a smile on your face.
Will I continue to keep Crossed on my pull list? Yes, although I cannot explain the reasons why. It’s like a bad relationship that has gone on far too long to get out of. I will just keep hanging on in there, figuring that it will get better. There are 3 issues to go. Do I like Crossed? No. Are there comics out there that do this apocalyptic survival thing better? Yes indeed – try The Walking Dead, there are characters in that title that you care about and can remember the names of. Its horrific without being so in your face explicit to the point of being offensive. Thats what Crossed does. Thats what Crossed exists for. Maybe it really does exist as an exercise in showing inventive ways of murdering / abusing / violating human beings. The fact that there are survivors in this story is not to provide an insight into how humans would deal with this kind of terrible ordeal. For example, would a 9 issue run be enough to truly understand how a man would cope with seeing his wife decapitated and his young children stabbed and bludgeoned into red paste? Maybe you could begin to get a sense of the horror and loss, but in Crossed, it is dealt with in, as a rough estimate, a page or two. It reads like this – guy loses family in terrible way, and as a result he is a bit withdrawn and a bit sad about it.
So, what are the survivors there for? I think they are there to be tossed to the Crossed at intervals to provide a ‘shock’ factor like ‘ohmygod they just killed one of the main characters!’. But let us not forget – THERE ARE NO MAJOR CHARACTERS IN THIS BOOK. NO-ONE QUALIFIES AS REMOTELY INTERESTING OR ENGAGING. WELL, APART FROM CINDY AND HER SON.
So, by the end of issue 6, maybe the penny has dropped. Maybe Crossed is just a very bleak, depressing way to spend your money on a comic book. Maybe there will be no real insight into anything, whatsoever, other than you can look at the pretty pictures of death and misery, blood and gore, pain and suffering.
Its nice and sunny outside. I am going to look at that picture of the Happy Tree again.
Check this out.
Two comic book (limited) series, written within a couple of years of each other. Both deal with apocalyptic scenarios, both written by British men who publish some of the most important and entertaining comic book titles in the US. Both of the titles in question are controversial, bloody and grim. The titles are ‘Blackgas’, by Warren Ellis, and ‘Crossed’ by Garth Ennis. The point of this post is – are these titles the product of a game of bloody one-upmanship between Warren Ellis & Garth Ennis, to produce the most hideously gory, depraved and debased comic books in mainstream US comic publishing history?
These titles share some similarities. Examples?
1) Both titles are set in an apocalyptic situation.
2) Both titles have the majority of the human race transformed into brutal, merciless killers, yet the aggressors retain some intelligence, which marks them apart from other apocalyptic scenarios where the human race is destroyed by itself (and where, typically, you would expect to see zombies as the root cause).
3) At the heart of both titles is an exploration of the unspeakable horror that humans can wreak upon fellow humans.
4) Both of these titles do not shy away from portraying the full horror of events. The weak and innocent (babies and children, as examples) are not spared the ignominy of brutal and painful violation and death. I would guess that for a ‘realistic’ portrayal, Ennis and Ellis are being honest in their storytelling and not shying away from detailing atrocities, and describing events how they probably would unfold. I understand that. Trust me, if you haven’t read either title before, the writers and artists make you bear witness to some horrors (and it is my opinion that the titles wallow in these atrocities a little too much at times. I am thinking specifically of the ending of #1 of Crossed, and the Maternity ward scene that occurs in Blackgas Volume 2).
5) Then we come to Jacen Burrows, who is a creative link between the 2 series. As the regular artist on ‘Crossed’, and as a cover artist on ‘Blackgas’, he seems to be creating a bit of a niche for himself as an artist that deals in the detail of scenes of peril of children, as well as some of the more creatively stages scenes of death, mutilation and destruction of the human body in mainstream comics. In some of his double page spreads, there is a real ‘Where’s Wally’ vibe to the detail, where you can pick out lots of individual scenes of murder and grief.
Whatever your opinion is of these titles, it is hard not to agree that they are certainly transgressive, and I believe that both ‘Crossed’ and ‘Blackgas’ have pushed the boundaries of the depiction of horror in mainstream comics. I would welcome any comments on what others feel about this Blackgas / Crossed & Ellis / Ennis thing. Are Ennis and Ellis on a bet or what? Does Ellis mind that Ennis seems to have taken some inspiration from Blackgas to produce Crossed? Are they all wallowing in despair and pain, like a print version of the various torture porn films from a few years back? Should we just applaud the fact that they are producing some groundbreaking horror titles? In ‘Crossed’ I think we have a genuinely terrifying enemy in the afflicted, i.e. the ‘Crossed’, but whether the whole story bears up to closer scrutiny is still unclear, several issues in (for instance, I still care little for most of the non-infected ‘survivors’).
http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=5916 – Warren Ellis talks ‘Blackgas’
http://www.zeros2heroes.com/component/option,com_pablog/Tag,Crossed+%232/ – Simply the best review of a comic book ever, it also happens to be a review of Crossed #2. If I could choose a comic book review to take on a desert island with me (and hey, why not?) this would absolutely be the one.
They’re behind you!!!
Very good installment of this ultimate sex/horror apocalypse. The fear is very real. The ‘crossed’ are finding new ways to get sick and twisted (these are not ‘zombies’ – these are monsters and savages, at the mercy of their bloodlust and sexual urges) and the survivors continue to try and avoid the crossed and reach relative safety. There is a very tense scene towards the end of ths issue involving a bridge, and it is during this scene that you understand again what the sick thrill of this book is – it is the fear. The fear of the crossed turning up, chasing you, catching you…it doesn’t bare thinking about (you don’t have to, because Ennis and Burrows spell it out enough throughout the issues so far).
This is horror at its most distilled. Pure fear, pure horror. I have been critical of the book in the past, but when it really hits it’s stride there is no other comic book out there that generates this sort of tension, fear and suspense – or the complete lack of hope (though to be fair, Ennis manages to add some real humanity into this issue, involving food, and it is jarring as it is so opposite to all the blackness swirling throughout the book).
It may not be to everyones taste, but ‘Crossed’ is one of the most distinctive titles out there at the moment, pushing and testing the boundaries of what is acceptable fare for comic books. It needs to be respected at the very least, but there is also a very keen understanding of horror running throughout.
A highlight of the week.
Warning – Spoilers!
This is a late review – this was actually released a couple of weeks ago, but I only got to go through it yesterday. By coincidence I got to read this directly after The Walking Dead #58, and so, while maybe a bit unfair, I did make a comparison between the 2 titles. This is not going to be me eulogising Robert Kirkmans title, however – I do that enough elsewhere on this blog. I think Crossed has a fear factor more intense than The Walking Dead, and there is a real intense feeling of all pervasive dread and terror that the more character driven Kirkman title cannot match generally speaking.
But this is the problem that Crossed #3 has for me – there is a lack of the ‘crossed’ and so the focus is on the survivors and the way the world has tilted so far that they do unspeakable things in order to survive. Ennis is a great writer, but the issue didn’t really draw me in like #2 did. I prefer the human cast when they are being hunted to be honest,as opposed to being the hunters, as they are here. I am not really engaging with many of the cast either……..it may take a few more issues for that to happen, I don’t know. The shock value is there though, and children are again involved in some truly awful scenes. I guess you can rely on Ennis to provide that controversy, though in this case you couldn’t really engage with the victims as they were never really ‘fleshed’ out in the story – within a few pages they had been dispatched- you’ll know what I mean if you read it. The art is very good, and Burrows can rely illustrate these little pockets of hell, and larger 2 page spreads where the madness of the infected makes you feel sick in your stomach. The covers are suitably sick and perverse, especially the Santa one….
There is an excellent review here that encapsulates my feelings about ‘crossed’ to a great extent.
I will still be with it for #4. It still has its hooks in me. Just about.
There is something very, very unnerving about the Garth Ennis / Jacen Burrows ultra-horror title ‘Crossed’. Reading issue no.2, it was the equivalent of watching a horror film through your fingers, your hands up against your face, waiting for the inevitable and very bloody pay-off.
After the gruesome, blacker-than-black humour of issue no.2, where I sounded my reservations, I actually think I am beginning to understand it now. Ennis and Burrows are showing that in the terrible world they are creating, anyhting is possible, and the depravity unleashed is beyond some peoples comprehension. However, just because they can show it laid bare in its primal, evil squalor does not mean that they are going to show it.
Economy is the key with issue no.2, and it works magnificently. You go through the issue fearing the worst, and in that sense, you are almost in the experience with the survivors who aren’t ‘crossed’.
The characters who make it through to the end of the pages feel like survivors, and are actually starting to feel more rounded and less like devices with which Ennis and Burrows can work out their sex and gore mojo. Maybe that’s the plan and next issue Ennis will throw it back in our faces, giving them all unimaginable deaths……
We reach the ‘end of the first year’ according to one of the characters, at the end of issue 2. It will be intriguing to see what Ennis and Burrows produce next time. What was looking tired, formulaic, survival horror, with an emphasis on the outre horror that mainstream comics probably haven’t dared publish before is now looking like it has more substance and a more immersive quality than I gave it credit for. There are still some ridiculously gross moments, but they don’t seem as bad as before. I am looking forward to issue 3 – and I never thought I would be thinking like that a month ago.
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’.