First published via ten comic instalments between September of 2008 and March of 2010, Garth Ennis’s post-apocalyptic graphic novel ‘Crossed’ offered up a brutal vision of a rage-fuelled apocalypse.  Following the success of the original ten-comic series, Avatar Press decided to continue with the ‘Crossed’ storyline, using a variety of writers over each of the following series’.

The following review is for the entire first series which was published in a single compilation volume in April of 2010.

DLS Synopsis:
It happened so damn fast.  One minute everything was as it always had been.  Everybody going about their usual day-to-day business.  The next all hell had broken loose.  On the streets men, women and children were turning into rage-fuelled psychopaths hell-bent on murder, rape and destruction.

For Stan the whole thing hit whilst he was in Jim Junior’s Diner.  In walked a guy with a rash in the shape of a cross across his face and hefting some sort of blood-dripping appendage.  Within seconds the lunatic was biting off the proprietor’s nose.

The next thing they all know the street outside has become absolute carnage.  People are literally tearing each other to pieces seemingly for no reason at all.  A plane crashes through a nearby building before nose-diving into the streets not too far off.  And then there’s a burning white flash and the entire world around them goes white for a second.  Thankfully Stan had been looking away where the exposition went off when it happened.  Kelly wasn’t so lucky.  Whilst the resulting mushroom cloud climbed upwards, Kelly curled up on the hard concrete cradling her painfully burnt eyes – all too aware that she could no longer see through them.

Ten months later and Stan is with a small group of post-outbreak survivors making their way across the desolate landscape of the US in order to get to Alaska where the population of infected should be less.  Stan knows that he owes his survival to one individual in particular – Cindy.  The mother of her young son Patrick who she always has by her side, Cindy is strong-willed and determined to survive through this hell for the sake of her boy.

But along the way to Alaska the small group of survivors will constantly be in danger from the infected – dubbed the Crossed due to the cross-like rash they develop upon their faces.  Although they still maintain some degree of control and understanding from their past-lives, the Crossed are nevertheless blood-crazed psychopaths hell-bent on rape, murder and spreading the infection.

And now one such group of the Crossed has Stan and his fellow travellers in their maniacal sights.  And it appears they’ll stop at nothing to get to them…

DLS Review:
Okay, so the premise and plot aren’t exactly ground-breaking.  We’ve seen this non-zombie post-apocalyptic set-up played out a good number of times in the likes of ‘Among Madmen’ (1990), ‘One Rainy Night’ (1991), ‘The Fog’ (1975), ‘Hater’ (2006) and 28 Days Later’ (2002) etc.  In fact, using the zombie apocalypse scenario, but swapping the hordes of undead for rage-fuelled maniacs, has become pretty much its own subgenre in recent years.  But with so much potential for wild and over-the-top post-apocalyptic madness in this simple set-up – why the hell not keep on tapping into this veritable ‘anything goes’ goldmine?

This first series kick-starts by launching straight into the violent thrills that will be the core backbone of the entire ‘Crossed’ franchise.  Indeed, first and foremost it needs to be mentioned that this is an adult graphic novel that’s meant purely for mature readers who are happy with extreme violence and graphic depictions of gore, sex, violence and torture.  The themes within each story are always strong and totally uncompromising – with brutal violence and explicit artwork accompanying the stories every blood-encrusted step of the way.

Volume One sets down the ‘rage apocalypse’ premise literally within the first handful of pages, and subsequently builds upon it with small snippets of information over the course of the next ten comic chapters.  For the most part we follow Stan and Cindy and the rest of their group of survivors as they slowly make their way towards Alaska, some ten months after the initial outbreak hit.  However, over the course of this journey we’re repeatedly thrust back in time with flashbacks from immediately prior to the outbreak, when there were a fair few more survivors in their group.  Each flashback invariably ends with either the death of a survivor or two, or a tough ‘personality shifting’ action leaving a purposefully bitter aftertaste.

Of the group of survivors we’re introduced to in this first volume, only a very few are given a good fleshing-out.  Stan is quite clearly our principal protagonist and whom as the reader we’re supposed to identify with the most.  He’s neither a hard-ass hero nor a snivelling coward.  He’s pretty much straight down the line.  Honest, trustworthy and a pretty reliable character to side with.

Next there’s Cindy who’s the hard-boiled headstrong leader of the group from early on.  Somewhat akin to Selena from
28 Days Later’ (2002), it’s undoubtedly through her actions and ruthless direction that the whole group have survived those first ten months.  Of course she has her own baggage - a gritty past and a young son to look after in this unforgiving new world.

Those two are undoubtedly the main two protagonists in the storyline.  However behind them are a bunch of secondary characters who each add their own element to the group.  There’s Kitrick who’s dealing with a hell of a lot of grief since all hell broke loose.  Thomas who’s quite a friendly and easy going gay guy.  Kelly who other than being blinded by the initial nuclear flash, and getting quite attached to Thomas, has little else going on.  And there’s Geoff who’s a quiet and reasonably reserved old fella with one hell of a skeleton in his closest.

Character and plot wise it’s pretty much the run-of-the-mill arduous trek across a post-apocalyptic ravaged America.  But where ‘Crossed’ really stands out from the crowd is with the sheer nastiness of the violence that’s unleashed.  The infected are mind-bogglingly psychotic.  They’re sex-crazed and utterly vicious about it.  Furthermore they’ve still got the skills of their former selves – so they’re able to use weapons, drive cars, plot, scheme and torture for sheer entertainment.  Throw in a goliath-sized Crossed brandishing a severed horse’s penis as a weapon along with an ‘El Topo’ (1970) style amputee-carrier – and you’re moving towards some properly crazy post-apocalyptic savagery in this first volume alone.

At the end of the day what you have here is one hell of a brutal and uncompromising introduction into the barbaric post-apocalyptic ‘Crossed’ story.  Writer Garth Ennis has set the bar high with the sheer level of ruthlessness on offer.  He pulls absolutely no punches whatsoever.  This is a vicious dog-eat-dog new world – and Ennis depicts it in all its horrific glory.  Everyone’s fair game for slaughter.  You wanna survive?  Then you’re going to have to do some pretty inhumane stuff.  Say goodbye to the old you – and welcome the ruthless new world of ‘Crossed’.

The compilation volume runs for a total of 240 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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