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.Â 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.Â 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:Â Everybody has evil thoughts, terrible impulses, horrific little fantasies that they know that they’ll never act on…Â 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.Â Human natureÂ being what it is, most of us have probably had a moment whereÂ some lizard-brain part of us considers whether or not some specimens of our fellow humans deserve to continue breathing.Â (For me, it always seems to happen in traffic…Â Woe be to the motorists of Topeka should I ever gain reflexive telekinesis.)Â 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.”Â The Crossed have swept through the cities likeÂ 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.Â 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.Â One of their own starts to make a noise, and the band turns with gleeful, horrible smiles and attacks HIM.Â Why?Â 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.Â When it’s clear that theÂ danger has passed, they slip out of the underbrush and begin skulking along.Â We’re introduced to the newest member, Brett, who rubs everyone the wrong way, but is still a key component of their survival.Â (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…Â which sets me right off.Â 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.Â It’s torture porn at it’s most horrible…Â The characters stop to rest, and nearly come to blows over whether or not to cross the desert.Â 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.Â He tries to shoo it away, but ends up falling for the mutt, and amazingly decides to adopt the thing.Â He will never survive the “zombie apocalypse” like that.Â As they prepare to start off again, one of the characters, and older man named Geoff,Â makes the completely insane assessment that this is all kind of “nice.”Â Â 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.Â Everyone prepares for him to come out of the closet, and heÂ does…Â sort of.Â “I’d torture them until they were dead and cut them up into pieces, and then bury them under my house.”Â
Okay, I’m out again.Â Â Geoff thenÂ 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.Â “In the morning,” says the narrator, “Geoff and Kitrick took a walk, and Kitrick came back on his own.Â Five days after that, we started out across the desert.”Â
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.Â 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.Â 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.Â It’s hard to assess this issue for me.Â 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.Â 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.Â Whereas ‘The Boys’ strives to make it’s characters relatable, even a dyed-in-the-wool sumbitch like Butcher,Â even the sympathetic characters of ‘Crossed’Â are made more “realistic” by acting more like @$$holes throughout.Â 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!Â Now, look over here!Â Isn’t THAT sick?”Â The art (by the excellent Jacen Burrows) is crystal-clear and well-handled throughout, which makes the whole thing that much more horrific.Â In the final analysis, Crossed #6 ends up with a cumulative 1 out of 5 stars.Â More than any review I’ve ever done, I’m certain that I am not the target audience for the material…Â 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.”