Friday, 11 May 2012

Comic Book Review | Crossed Vol. 1


Preacher was great, wasn't it?
 
And Preacher co-creator Garth Ennis has written some other stuff that I've enjoyed... though "enjoyed" might be a poor way to put it. Let's say "been gripped by." Or better yet, "been unable to look away from," like the scene of some horrific crime you just can't help but gawp at. I refer to his initial run on Punisher, of course, and nominally to Hitman too, which was published concurrently with Preacher, in the best years of Garth Ennis' career.

But it's been a decade since these three series ended, and most everything of Ennis' I've read in the intervening period has either soured me or simply sickened me. Here's looking at you, Chronicles of Wormwood... and War Story... oh, and The Boys. Particularly that latter; a more disgusting book than The Boys I do not know, nor would I want to. Then again I could only stand to read the first six issues. Maybe it gets better?

In any case, if there was even a miniscule part of me that still believed Garth Ennis was a halfway decent writer, then Crossed has killed it dead. Killed it dead and fucked it in the eye-socket with the severed horse's organ this first volume's antagonist - Horsecock, none other - carries around in lieu of a more socially acceptable weapon. Because Garth Ennis is at the helm. And that's what Garth Ennis does, these days.


Amongst the other highlights: the murder of a man because he's being a bit annoying; panel after panel of excruciatingly graphic depictions of randy zombies raping men, women and children alike; and most appalling of all, the calculated execution of an entire class of primary school kids, supposedly to save them from the horrors of surviving a Crossed apocalypse. I mean, fair enough: it's not pretty. But maybe it's prettier than a bullet in the brain, fired at close-range by someone who's supposed to be taking care of you.

But then, the alternative's not nearly as shocking, is it? And that's what Garth Ennis has made his name trading in: disgust and discomfort. The repugnant and the perverse. Indeed, there's really not a lot else to the first collection of Crossed. It's The Walking Dead with stumpfucking and - in stark contrast with the ensemble Robert Kirkman has gathered together with such tender loving care for his transmedia success story - a cast of characters even the most affectionate individual would have a hard time giving a crap about. I mean, Ennis clearly doesn't, and I've forgotten all their names already. Even the Wikipedia page could care less what this motley lot are called.

Meanwhile the world of Crossed is as ugly as the survivors who run willy-nilly around it, though it bears saying that it's rendered exceptionally well. Indeed, Jacen Burrows, whose pencils I've come across before - paired with the words and the worlds of far better writers than Ennis, including Alan Moore and Warren Ellis - is easily the best thing about this book. Ably supported by Juanmar, whose muted colour palette is only interrupted when blood follows, as invariably it does, Burrows' clinically clean lines leave little to the imagination, which is perfectly in step with Ennis' very direct script. You could describe them as dispassionate, perhaps, but then they'd have to be in service of scenes such as these.


To think a four time Eisner Award-winning author has fallen to this. It's enough to make one wonder whether Hitman and Punisher and Preacher were just happy accidents.

I don't doubt Crossed will have its fans, including people who sincerely believe Survival of the Dead represents the peak of George A. Romero's career of achievements, and those folks who love SAW VI above all other SAWs, say. The easily pleased, in other words, and that's putting it politely: a measure of restraint that may never again appear in the same sentence as the words Garth and Ennis.

In any event, if they want Crossed, then by the dead, they can have it. It's mean and it's nasty and it has no heart. It's cruel and unusual, and singularly spiteful to boot. Crossed is practically cancerous, so it might come as something of a surprise to you that I have every intention of reading the next volume. Maybe it's morbid curiosity, but I should say there's nothing inherently wrong with the premise behind this series in and of itself, and given Garth Ennis' absence, Family Values - written by Stray Bullets creator David Lapham - might just be alright. It certainly couldn't be any worse than this nauseating drivel.

18 comments:

  1. Ennis sure has fallen off form hasn't he? Preacher was really good, but like you, I haven't been impressed by him in his recent efforts.

    He seems to specialize in cranking out lame comics that focus on extreme violence, and dick jokes.

    To give you fair warning, I doubt you'll enjoy Lapham's Crossed work either. I haven't been impressed by that guy either.

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  2. I couldn't get past issue two of The Boys, so well done on making it through to six. (I was kind of shocked to find myself the subject of derision for that POV, btw. It's satirical, apparently. It's alllll satirical - the misogyny, the homophobia, the lack of characterisation, the strange portrayal of sex as nothing but degradation, the reliance on gross violence as a story telling device - all of it, satirical. And if you can't get that you might as well be dead. Dead and fucked by zombies, it would now seem.) You can keep it. There are far more graceful ways of showing people that the world is a crock of shit.

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  3. Family Values is even worse, I strongly recommend you avoid it. In fact, it is so bad it actually makes Ennis' Crossed almost palatable.

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  4. Right, so I read Family Values, and it was - as almost everyone in the comments suggested - abysmal. Oh well. Guess I'll leave this series be. After Stray Bullets, I'd expected rather better from David Lapham...

    Also, the hell with Jennifer Blood. You brought this on yourself, Ennis!

    As to the so-called satirical value of Ennis' work... I'm right there with you, Celine, never mind the mob mindset. Last I heard, satire certainly didn't require bestiality and disembodied genital weapons, but give a messed-up mind free reign and in invitation to the apocalypse; I guess that's where some folks go.

    They can go alone.

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  5. I absolutely love/dislike The Boys. Intelligent and funny (I should add that I'm completely contemptious when it comes to superheroes, I just can't get over how silly they look-but thats my prejudice)) but still way over the top at times with gratuitous sex and violence.
    Crossed however, is vile on all counts and I'm with the Ennis haters on this one. I've flicked through Jennifer Blood and that looks juvinile as well. Hope he turns things round before he turns completely into Millar, The Insane Clown Posse of the comics world.
    Chris.

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  6. Crossed and The Boys are the greatest comic books of all time! You people are a bunch of panzies! Go read Spider-man! The great thing about these comics is that they show how things would really be in crazy situations and scenarios like they portray. I am so tired of fluff and politically correct BS. Crossed is amazing!

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    1. Spoken like a true underdeveloped youngster.

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    2. Another idiot.

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  7. The first crossed was the best of them, even though it was already only for shock value, it at least had some plot development. I love zombie-apocalypse style comics so every time I read the next Crossed series I hope it will be better then the last and touch on the "bigger picture" of the plot. Unfortunately, the most recent one I read, "psychopath" has just left me once again feeling like I just read something dirty with absolutely no point to it.

    As I write this, I KNOW I'm going to be downloading the next one because I find the potential this comic has to be huge...they are wasting the potential for good stories in this world they have created on repeated rape and torture scenes.

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  8. Ennis is still capable of some really strong comic writing. Check out 303 (a one off published by Avatar) and his WW2 tales in War Stories and Battlefields. The problem is that he has tried to outdo himself down the years by turning up the grotesque violence all the way to eleven and more. Also, I have to say that there is some good writing in Garth Ennis' run on Crossed; if you can get past the obscenity, but the follow up work by other authors IS pretty much as unpleasant as it gets; and artistically worthless too.

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  9. Crossed is a truly weird, but good read. I'm not sure why I didn't catch onto this earlier. Enjoy Ennis old works and didn't pay much attention to Avatar. Just recently also discovering Lapham's Ferals which is truly weird but wasteful in its own right but also refreshing to all the superhero retcon/reboot crap and box office movie hysteria the rest of the comic industry is currently eating.

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  10. I'm new to The Crossed series and just finished Volume 2.

    To start of; I absolutely hate the zombie genre. It's a boring and overdone genre, that only really exists for shock value.

    I like The Crossed even though it is technically a "zombie" book. The difference between the Crossed and traditional zombies (or rage ones) is that zombies are depicted as undead creatures from fantasy. They're not real. Because of this, there is no actual fear of them, or any emotional attachment to them. The Crossed (again, I've only read Volume 2 so far), are very much living breathing people that have lost all remorse and sanity. This is very real, as people such as this have, and still, exist with similar traits. Even more so, everyone is capable of evil but we have our concious that help us keep that in check. The Crossed are simply ones that don't. It's horrifying to think that this darkness is within all of us and it could be so easily unleashed by the drop of a blood (ie. the influence of another). The true horror of the book is not the gore, but the fact that we all can become the Crossed.

    Side note, for the Spider-Man haters. Without people like Stan Lee and Steve Ditko you wouldn't have had series like The Crossed or The Watchmen or anything else that you deem "better" than Spider-Man. Spider-man, Batman and Superman that indie Elitist oh-so hate are the number one reason more people are starting to get into comics. This means more traffic for comic book shops, which means more likelihood of one of them being exposed to comics like The Crossed (example: Me). This generates revenue for Avatar, which gives that company the capital to publish more comics, which in the end keeps your pompous asses happy.

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  11. Have you tried "Crossed: Wish You Were Here" ? It's serialised (close to 50 episodes by now) and legally free (at www.crossedcomic.com).

    I think it helps that it follows the same characters over an extended period of time, so there's character development and world building. Also, from what I've seen in it and from what I've heard about the others, as violent as it can get, it seems to be avoiding on the whole the excesses of the others.

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  12. Silverbullit4 July 2013 04:03

    Silverbullit

    Indeed vile but uses this to explore territories that few dare touch. Few can stomache it, but there is humour in a Texas Chainsaw way - sort of laugh and vomit simultaneously. And an absolutely brilliant colleague of Kranburn, Preacher, Hermann's Jeremiah, The Boys, Brit, and The Walking Dead. (Makes TWD feel like a Winnie the poo.) In my humble opinion this is an incredibly important comic as it brings back fear there other has retreated from cowardness, politics reasons. And people do not deal well when borderlines are moved. I appreciate that frights are not joked away, and that the comic reliefs are on cliches and the industry. For the open minded is Crossed bursting with possibilites. I heard complaints about the characters, but I actually find their choices unpredictable and fresh. And I kneel to the rare occations when I cannot predict every last puny detail to the letter. Big thanks from Sweden!

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  13. Does the world really need this? Why not read about some of the REAL stuff that is going down in the world (Lords Resistance Army anyone?). Why the need to explore such a nihilistic fantasy?

    I have read Garth Ennis in the past but I'm shocked to find he finds the need to write this. Is he having some kind of existential crisis? Does he need help?

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  14. Read a few issues of Crossed last night and then deleted the whole lot.

    What a complete utter piece of garbage. Sure, the art is great – in terms of technical style and quality, but the things out of Ennis's head that the artist has been asked to portray are things nobody needs to see.

    Even if this mess of a comic reached some glorious, perfect ending that justified all the violence and had some insightful statement to make about humanity – sorry, if this is what Ennis wants to work on these days then he's lost me forever.

    Utter depravity, and I loved Preacher – and also The Boys. Crossed is simply the result of a writer on the slide, trying to out do a genre that he's seen have a resurgence and from there, trying to profit from it by escalating every thing about it.

    What has happened though is moments of shock so severe that any heart, or depth to the story is barely even noticed – or instantly forgotten the next time you see a giant horse penis being swung at someones face, children being murdered or a young girl being torn limb from limb while her parents are cut open and sodomised\raped.

    Back to Planetary for me. Hopefully that helps me forget the tripe I had the displeasure of experiencing last night.

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    1. Totally Well Said....I agree!!!!

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  15. I guess Crossed's purpose is to shock and horrify. In stories that's usually done by a bad thing happening to really really really really well-developed characters. Is having a really really really really really bad thing happen to nothing characters equivalent? Sorry, Mr Ennis. No.

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