This is how the world ends.
Crossed is one of the bleakest comics on the stands. And it terms of genre-styled comics, it’s one of the best.
There have generally been two central strands to Garth’s writing in comic books. First the dramas that examine what a decent person is, and the road such a person must take in life. From War Stories to Hellblazer to Preacher this is a common earnest theme that rings out.
Then there is the scatalogical, swearified comedy of the school playground, Viz Comic characters given a longer period to play out, so we get Dicks and Rifle Brigade.
There’s also the occasional dulling down of each theme, to join them together, such as The Boys and Wormwood.
But Crossed is the first example of having both, completely indiluted, sitting next to each other, indeed, quite literally fighting against the other. The conceit of Crossed makes the repeated switch in tone a strength rather than a problem.
So was have the long march of the Uninfected, doing what needs to be done to survive, taking tough decisions and discovering what is that makes you a man – and stops you from being a monster.
Then we have The Crossed. Who revel in filth, blood and semen, raping, eating, disembowelling and killing their way across America with a glorious sickest sense of humour, which can best be summed up in one word…
This is man’s inhumanity to man, taken from subtext and recreated as unadulterated text. As Garth says, ever act of abuse has been committed by one person to another without any necessary Crossed infection. Territory that has been covered in The Crazys and Serenity, Crossed gets to do the Walking Dead trick and just extend the idea for a little longer.
Crossed is a hard read, there’s no denying that. I’ve spoken to some people who have just not been able to get through a issue. It certainly needs some kind of desensitisation to violence in comics, which makes some of the central messages in Crossed, that these things really do how, hit an audience that probably needs to know this kind of thing. Those that were troubled when playing Modern Warfare 2 in the airport scene, finding their expectations and assumptions thrown back in their face, having to deal with troubling thoughts instead of just blowing away the bad guys – well they might get a similar feel from Crossed. In a day where torture porn is rapidly becoming the horror norm, Crossed takes that and makes the reader question those assumptions.
Jacen Burrows also has a lot to do with helping the reader swallow this bitter pill. His work has the touch of a slightly snazzier Steve Dillon, going to town on detail where he needs it but dragging the eye in a simple fashion from panel to panel. Just as you discover the worst horrors, so he holds your hand and takes you to the next page. Reading Crossed is like watching a trapeze act, it seems so obvious that they must fall, but they never quite do.
And the final double-sized episode, Crossed #9, published in a few weeks – do you get a happy ending? Well, yes and no. You get an ending. A decent proper ending, that worldessly answers questions while leaving you to write your own adventures that will never see print.
It did a bit.
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