Category Archives: warren ellis

Blackgas, Crossed and the bloody one-upmanship of Ellis and Ennis (also featuring the Jacen Burrows ‘kinder trauma’ effect) (2006-2009)

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’).

links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackgas
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossed_(comics)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacen_Burrows
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Ellis
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garth_Ennis

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.

The Boys #21 – the forces of right make it wrong (2008)

This issue of Garth Ennis’ ‘The Boys’ is up there with the best of the year -(The Walking Dead #48, Kick-Ass #3, Mighty Avengers #13, Judenhaus). It came out around 10 days ago, but I have only just got around to reading it, and I need to express my admiration for it.

This is the 3rd part of the current story arc ‘I Tell You No Lie G.I’, and recounts the involvement of the super-team ‘The Seven’ in that worlds version of 9/11. The President has all the intel on the planned terrorist atrocities and the Military are primed to intercept the threat. On the day, all but one of the hijacked planes are intercepted and shot down, but the last plane is ordered to be left alone. Why? So ‘The Seven’ can use their powers to save the plane and the passengers and kill the bad guys. There is a vested interest in this, in that the Vice-President is heavily involved with the Company who ‘own’ the Superheroes who comprise ‘The Seven’. This sort of superhero involvement would generate lots of good press, and lots of money-making opportunites as a result. Cash from chaos and bloody murder.

Things do not go to plan. The Superheroes are ill-prepared to face the threat and their incompetence soon becomes apparent. Uncompromising and blackly comic in its narration of the hijack rescue as it is lacerating in the anger toward the collusion between Industry, Government and Military, this issue is angry and shocking, and a fantastic read. The art matches the bleak storyline, as it judders towards its Munich massacre/UA Flight 93 conclusion.

The Boys is a brilliant title, dark, comedic, crude, bloody and a smack in the face of the belief that because there are Superheroes, they must be doing the right thing and are beyond reproach in their actions, and these actions (of course) only have consequences for the villains. Recommended (get the first 2 Trades and work your way up to #21)

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’.