Or – “Never Be Afraid To Reassess Your Opinions…”


Several months ago, I reviewed the first issue of Crossed, and found nothing of worth within the pages.  Because it was a Rapid-Fire Review, I didn’t have a whole lot of space to cover what I disliked about the issue, but the primary problem that struck me was yet another use of the “child in danger” gambit to try and up the emotional ante.  Still, the combination of what I couldn’t say in such a small space and my appreciation of Garth Ennis’ work (along with some of the less generous opinions regarding recent review of ‘The Boys,’ another Ennis joint) have caused me to return to the scene of the crime and to verify whether my first impression was indeed one I would stand behind.

Previously, on Crossed:  Everybody has evil thoughts, terrible impulses, Cr1.jpghorrific little fantasies that they know that they’ll never act on…  I’m sure that even the most pious among us has, for a fleeting second, entertained the vague notion of doing things that are illegal, or stupid, or dangerous, or unwise.  Human nature being what it is, most of us have probably had a moment where some lizard-brain part of us considers whether or not some specimens of our fellow humans deserve to continue breathing.  (For me, it always seems to happen in traffic…  Woe be to the motorists of Topeka should I ever gain reflexive telekinesis.)  Crossed is the story of what happened one horrible morning where people stop holding back, where SOMETHING (be it disease, or conspiracy, or some sort of existential evil) affects a portion of the populace, removing that little voice that says, “Don’t.”  The Crossed have swept through the cities like a plague, and the few remaining unaffected humans have been forced into a nomadic existence, a world where no help will ever come, where no place is safe, where no one is sure that they’ll actually survive…

This issue opens with a horse, starved and tortured, running at full tilt away from an unseen horror, dragging behind it a severed leg, the strong implication being that someone has been drawn and quartered in the medieval fashion.  Our intrepid band of survivors hides in the bushes as it passes, and not long after are greeted with the unwelcome sight of a dozen Crossed (the rash on their faces being the dead giveaway) intent on mayhem.  One of their own starts to make a noise, and the band turns with gleeful, horrible smiles and attacks HIM.  Why?  It doesn’t even matter in the long run, as the creature is quickly attacked with a machete and left to bleed, inches from the hidden band of normal survivors.  When it’s clear that the danger has passed, they slip out of the underbrush and begin skulking along.  We’re introduced to the newest member, Brett, who rubs everyone the wrong way, but is still a key component of their survival.  (In a world full of people who will kill you for a thrill, he’s pretty much the lesser of 16 or so different evils.)

A momentary discussion ensues of how Kitrick and Geoff, two of the longer-term party members, survived their bout with flu in the mountains, and we’re given a flashback of what happened to Kitrick…  which sets me right off.  Suffice to say that my dislike of child endangerment gets a real workout, and the horror doesn’t end until the man is struck with his wife’s severed head.  It’s torture porn at it’s most horrible…  The characters stop to rest, and nearly come to blows over whether or not to cross the desert.  Our narrator (I don’t know his name, and it’s never given) steps out to take his turn on watch, only to find a dog following them.  He tries to shoo it away, but ends up falling for the mutt, and amazingly decides to adopt the thing.  He will never survive the “zombie apocalypse” like that.  As they prepare to start off again, one of the characters, and older man named Geoff, makes the completely insane assessment that this is all kind of “nice.”  Geoff goes on to explain that he never had friends previously, and sometimes he’d meet young men, pick them up and take them home.  Everyone prepares for him to come out of the closet, and he does…  sort of.  “I’d torture them until they were dead and cut them up into pieces, and then bury them under my house.” 

Okay, I’m out again.  Geoff then explains that he knew something was wrong when one of the Crossed fell into his clutches, and wouldn’t stop haughing as he tortured the kid.  “In the morning,” says the narrator, “Geoff and Kitrick took a walk, and Kitrick came back on his own.  Five days after that, we started out across the desert.” 

We’ve had some spirited discussion of whether or not The Boys is all shock and no substance, but Herogasm’s most depraved sex scene doesn’t quite stack up to what we see here.  My issue has a wraparound cover taking place in a fast-food restaurant which features blood, beatings, and a man forcing another man’s head towards the deep-fat fryer.  There’s some interesting character work in the issue, especially as regards Geoff’s confession, but it ends up being covered in a thick layer of blood and gore and much of it’s power thus lost.  It’s hard to assess this issue for me.  Blood and gore, ala the ‘Saw’ movies isn’t in itself a deal-breaker for me, and ‘Night of The Living Dead’ is a fave-rave, but there’s just too much focus on the horrible things that the Crossed are doing, with this issue featuring the graphic on-panel murder of not one, but TWO children, a moment that just doesn’t sit right with me.  Yes, it doesunderline the reasons why Kitrick has had it bad, and why he’s silent most of the time, but somehow it’s just TOO MUCH.  Whereas ‘The Boys’ strives to make it’s characters relatable, even a dyed-in-the-wool sumbitch like Butcher, even the sympathetic characters of ‘Crossed’ are made more “realistic” by acting more like @$$holes throughout.  I will say that the issue felt much more balanced than #1 did, and gave the character moments a little bit more room to breathe among the dismemberments and violations, but I’m still unsure of what statement this comic is making other than “Look at how creepy THIS $#!+ is!  Now, look over here!  Isn’t THAT sick?”  The art (by the excellent Jacen Burrows) is crystal-clear and well-handled throughout, which makes the whole thing that much more horrific.  In the final analysis, Crossed #6 ends up with a cumulative 1 out of 5 stars.  More than any review I’ve ever done, I’m certain that I am not the target audience for the material…  Still and all, having revisited the review that I most regret, I discover that, while I may have underestimated the charms that this title may have, but I’m still completely put off by the book, and I feel like I finally have the answer to “How Much Shock Value Is Too Much Shock Value.”


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. July 18, 2009 at 1:35 am — Reply

    Oh. God. I have never heard of a comic that was this flat out DISGUSTING. I was semi interested in hearing about the series until I saw a preview of it online that had a shot of a guy getting beaten to death with a horses “nether regions.” And if that disturbs you, good. It means your human.

    I really have to wonder what people are reading this, but I’ve got to say that this is one of the few comics that can turn me off from just viewing a single panel.

  2. July 18, 2009 at 8:13 am — Reply

    Wow, I thought my limits had been reached when Ms Marvel was being hit with a sledge hammer on panel. Mathews review was graphic enough, I’m never going to pick this up even out of curiosity. As they taught us in school, shock value has no value.

  3. July 18, 2009 at 10:01 am — Reply

    I wouldn’t say “no value.” The dichotomy of Crossed is that is DOES have a plot and some interesting characters, and unlike many similar “zombie” stories, seems to be going somewhere.

    It’s just going by the John Wayne Gacy scenic route.

  4. Gaumer
    July 18, 2009 at 10:07 am — Reply

    I get this. Yup, it’s violent and disturbing. But so is life. And thats what this book is trying to show.

    Sure, these Crossed zombie-like things are despicable but the point being made is how despicable the survivors are.

    This book is a takes something so ugly and compares that to humans in a way that shows just how ugly humans really are.

    It does take a little bit to get over ALLLLL of the crazy stuff going on in this book, but I believe there is an underlying story with meaning under all that blood and gore.

  5. July 18, 2009 at 12:01 pm — Reply


    I regularly read the Walking Dead for my “Zombie” fix. The great thing about that book is that the emphasis is more on the lifestyle that the survivors have to lead under these conditions and less on the zombies killing people.

    And even when something terrible does happen to one of the main characters like a murder or a zombie attack, I’m not thinking of how gruesome/awesome that decapitation was, I’m thinking about how sad I am that one of my favorite characters was just killed.

    But hey that’s just me. And I’m sure that I’m not the target audience for this work. At all.

  6. Gaumer
    July 18, 2009 at 1:00 pm — Reply

    I’m not sure if I am making the right point.

    I don’t see this as a zombie book. I see this as a look into human nature.

    An example is this issue: this guy the group has come to befriend admits he was a serial killer before things went to crap. What do they do to this friend? They kill him. The humans kill their friend because of what he is. Its the same reason they kill the Crossed (zombies) because they are monsters. Even though this guy did nothing but be a friend to them.

    In another they kill a bunch of kids that resorted to cannibalism. They do this to protect other people who may fall prey to these monsters. Just like the Crossed, they kill them because of what they have become.

    I’m not defending this book to the point of me thinking its the best thing ever, but it does have some redeeming quality under all the rape and sodomy. I think the graphic nature of the art IS overdone to the point where it makes the book a major turn off to a lot of people but the way it deals with human nature is cool premise.

  7. TheEnd
    August 13, 2009 at 9:53 am — Reply

    I’m with Gaumer on this one. I’ve read almost everything that Ennis has put out and I can say he is one of the only reasons I still read comics (i.e.: The Punisher: Max). This book is NOT for everyone, and in fact I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I first picked it up; but the underlying point is that it is MEANT to disturb the readers.

    “Remember YouTube?” – asked in the first issue, is referencing how people watch death and injury videos online for ‘entertainment’, calling out what they feel is ‘fake’ or ‘unrealistic.’ The evening news showing war and crime footage becoming an everyday event where nothing is real or shocking anymore because it is happening ‘somewhere else’. This book takes that fact and uses it to smack you in the face and scream ‘WAKE-UP!’

    Yes the violence is graphic beyond belief, yes character motivation can, at times, be questionable – but I find the value in seeing a world where the violence and pain and terror that is so often portrayed for entertainment purposes, being portrayed as actually having an effect on those that witness it – call it ‘the chickens coming home to roost.’

    Readers only viewing the graphic violence on the page for what it is and not attempting to delve into the deeper message are missing the point: How would you deal with having those that inflict torture, pain and death no longer being relegated to your TV or computer screen but rather having them knocking on your front door?

    In terms of the crossed themselves, as stated in The Night of the Living Dead – “We are them and they are us…”

    • August 13, 2009 at 11:21 am — Reply

      Readers only viewing the graphic violence on the page for what it is and not attempting to delve into the deeper message are missing the point: How would you deal with having those that inflict torture, pain and death no longer being relegated to your TV or computer screen but rather having them knocking on your front door?

      That’s a very valid point, but as with any message by any media, there will be a portion of the population who don’t care to consider the question, much less view a possible answer. This is by no means a bad book (in fact, there are passages in issue #5 that are quite beautifully done) but it is a story that alienates me on several levels, notably the repeated murder of children (yes, it’s one of my triggers, but everybody has them.) My problem with Crossed is simple: it doesn’t come across as a story that is trying to wake me up to the violence inherent in the system, it comes across as a story that’s reveling in it, that’s trying to one-up the violence we see on YouTube and the evening news and spice it up with rape and dismemberment and a little sexual deviancy.

      As always, your mileage may vary.

  8. TheEnd
    August 14, 2009 at 9:31 am — Reply

    I understand what you mean about the scenes with children, they get to me also, but I try to view them as: “if that last murder scene didn’t phase you, maybe this will…” kind of seems like Ennis trying to horrify readers at all levels, or a sick game of one-upmanship. What gets me personally is pain inflicted on animals and with the introduction of the lost dog in issue six, I’m left waiting, as the tension builds, for the inevitable…which I’m sure will hit me like a ton of bricks.

    I still think the fact that this type of fiction writing/artwork can elicit such strong emotions from the readers says something about the work itself – definitely a polarizing concept, but sort of a litmus test for the reader: “How much can you handle?”

    Definitely NOT your run of the mill comic, and NOT a typically cliche zombie story.

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