Or – “Why Do I DO This To Myself?”
Y’know when you have a bad tooth, and any time you touch it with your tongue, it jolts a little lightning bolt of pain down your jaw and makes your whole head ache? But, even so, you can’t help but futz with it with the tip of your tongue all day, constantly stabbing your own nervous system with meaningless little barbs, the immediately regretting it, just because you can’t help yourself?
That is my relationship with the Crossed franchise. Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
Previously, in Crossed: Badlands: They are the Crossed. No one knows exactly what causes it, but they are possessed of a mysterious, contagious fever that possesses them with a strange fugue state, causing a red cross-shaped rash on the face and a complete lack of restraint. The basest, most unthinkable, horrifying things you’ve ever considered and felt ashamed about? That’s Tuesday morning to them.
And they’re everywhere. And they want to murder you, as soon as they’ve run out of horrible things to do with your various parts.
THE COVER ITSELF NEARLY TURNED ME AWAY…
When the first issue of Crossed came out a few years ago, I was really excited. Ennis’ interview and solicits regarding the book emphasized its dark nature, and the implication that they’d be examining the world that comes AFTER the end of the horror movie, when the zombies are beaten back. Then, I read the first issue. My boss at the comics store (Gatekeeper Hobbies! Huntoon and Gage, Topeka! Ask us why we don’t have Crossed back-issues!) still laughs at how quickly I returned to the store and removed the book from my pull-list, and my visits to Crossed-town have been somewhat sporadic ever since. Recently, though, Avatar has launched a weekly web-comic version of Crossed, which focuses on character and the hard decisions of survival in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, which has drawn me back into the world slowly, like a feral cat lured out of the sewer with a saucer of milk. The hardest part of this review was getting past the cover, the version of which I purchased still turns my stomach. (I spent a good 25 minutes searching for an alternate cover that I would be willing to append to my review.) As the story opens, though, I found myself lulled back into a sense of security, as Ennis introduces a cast of four (an Englishman, an Irishman, a Welshman and a Scot) with a lovely reminiscence about the history of Britain as a world power and a military force.
There are some things that certain writers do perfectly, and the joy of seeing Ennis putting together a group of diverse (but manly) characters who spar and jest and respect each other is enjoyable, the equivalent of Chris Claremont writing a tragic couple parting or Brian Bendis doing a twelve page conversation that tells us everything and nothing all at once. Our foursome encounters a group of children (!!!) led by a very inexperienced priest, who try to evade a squadron of Crossed and are seconds from being brutally torn to pieces, and decides to intervene. There is some violence in the book, some terrible language, and a little bit of shock in the form of some unexpected Crossed sexual misadventures, but it comes across as much more artful than some of the more problematic issues of the past. Certain writers seem to revel in the perversity and horror of the Crossed, whereas Ennis treats them as an integral part of the story rather than a showpiece for the most horrific parts of the lizard-brain. As the story comes to an end, we’ve assembled a small cast of characters and set up a MacGuffin, leaving the rest of Ennis’ four-part arc to tear them to pieces and grind their lives into filth-encrusted dust…
THE BOTTOM LINE: NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH OR UNDERAGE, BUT… INTERESTING.
This issue really hits the meat of what I hoped and expected Crossed would be about five years ago: The lives of semi-normal people in completely abnormal circumstances. While the shock factor is there, most of the gore is left on the covers, something for which I’m thankful. The quirky trademark Ennis tough-guy squad is fun, and the fact that there are still children still alive in this world kind of fills me with hope. Crossed – Badlands #25 is a good story, well-drawn, and given the world the creators are playing in, a relatively serene episode of horror, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall. I can’t say that I’ll read this book every month (I also occasionally pick up “My Little Pony” and “Archie,” and don’t want to be on the list that buying all those books together would put me on) but I don’t regret reading this issue, save for the disgustingly organic and gorny close-up of that primary cover.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!