First published within a single compilation volume back in January of 2015, the eleventh instalment in the post-apocalyptic ‘Crossed’ series was entitled ‘Crossed Volume 11: Badlands’ and contained two stories: ‘Savior’ which was written by Justin Jordan with artwork by Georges Duarte and Geanes Holland (Badlands issues 57 – 61), and ‘The Folly’ which was written by Simon Spurrier with artwork by Rafael Ortiz (originally published in the Crossed 2014 Annual).

Savior

Seven months ago Jane Thomas’ world fell apart in a matter of seconds.  The same would have been felt by any parent, if they too found their young daughter had plucked out the eyes of their infant brother.  The crossed virus had hit, and in one fell swoop, had torn apart the life and blood of their picturesque suburban home.

Luckily for Jane, she had Esperanza and her brother Alejando to step in and do what needed to be done.  She’d taken the two into her home, giving them a second chance at life.  Now they were stepping up to the threat and through that, paying Jane back for the life she’d given them.

Jane and Esperanza had been on the run ever since.  Hiding and running from the Crossed.  Always trying to stay one step ahead.  Since Alejando had become Crossed, he’d been on a bloodthirsty mission to catch up with them.  Nevertheless, Jane still held up a hope of finding somewhere safe.  Somewhere they could finally be away from the Crossed.  Protected.

And, in the dead of night, as the Crossed moved in on them - as all hope seemed to finally be lost – shots are heard and the charging Crossed advancing on them start to fall.  It seems there’s someone out there trying to keep them safe.  A lone gunman drawing them away from the Crossed.

Their saviour turns out to be a Good Samaritan named Sutter Edwards.  After escaping the hordes of the Crossed, he drives them to his sanctuary.  A loosely fortified outpost, away from prying eyes and the Crossed.  Finally Jane has found her sanctuary.  Finally she can feel safe at last.

Although Esperanza is wary.  Something just doesn’t sit right with her about this supposed sanctuary.  Something that their saviour - Sutter Edwards – is keeping from them…

Justin Jordan’s five part story is absolutely textbook Crossed from start to finish.  The tale kicks off with hordes of rampaging Crossed hot on the heels of our two female protagonists.  Georges Duarte (who handles the artwork for the first four parts) lays down some utterly savage splatter – with heads exploding and limbs flying off left right and centre.

During the madness and mayhem of their desperate plight, we’re flung back to when the virus first hit, to provide us with brief snippets of how the two women originally got away.  It’s a well-used technique for building up characterisation and a backstory.  Because of this, by the end of the first part we’ve got a good idea of who these two women are and what they’re looking for.

Of course, Sutter Edwards provides the illusion of the answer to what they’re searching for (or more precisely what Jane is searching for).  It’s a sanctuary away from the Crossed – although as you’ve undoubtedly already guessed – somewhat of a false sanctuary.  From here it takes a little time until the true nature of Sutter’s stronghold is revealed, but when the truth finally comes out, expect nothing short of explosive violence and unrelenting gore.  Yep – as I said earlier – textbook Crossed!

Pacing-wise it’s all pretty darn tight, with everything slotting into place nicely, with pretty much no time for feeling rested.  Of course, Jordan keeps you guessing for as long as he can about the true nature of his fortified camp – which helps keep the reader engaged with doubt and pawing at the pages.

The artwork, as always, is absolutely top notch.  Duarte and Holland do a sterling job at keeping the splatter varied and imaginative (one of the things the Crossed fanbase love about the comics).  There’s impaled corpses ala ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ (1980) and more exploding brain matter than you can shake a gore-encrusted stick at.  Although one thing that’s noticeably missing is the amount of over-the-top sexual debauchery that usually comes with the territory.  There are a few moments here and there, but nowhere near what you’d usually expect in a Crossed story.

Nevertheless, what Jordan et al offer up is still a damn entertaining Crossed story with solid pacing and plenty of violent blood splatter and visceral gore to titillate your messed-up senses.  Nice one.

The Folly

Isaac had always been more of a watcher and less of a doer.  He liked to people watch.  Make up stories about their lives.  Fill in the blanks.  It was a quiet attitude that hadn’t made him popular in school.  Since his dad and him had moved from the hustle and bustle of London to the quiet, out-of-the-way countryside village of Wroxcote, Isaac had found life far from easy.

In school he’d become the focal point for all the bullies.  Vicious thugs who tormented the fat little black boy, purely to get noticed.  To feel head and shoulders above the rest.  It was them that put Isaac’s foot in plaster.  Them that caused him to retreat into himself.  Them who were no doubt out there now, raping and murdering with the rest of the crossed fucks.

There wasn’t much that Isaac could do now.  Stuck up a folly tower with a dead farmer and a few remaining chocolate bars.  To keep himself sane he’d started talking to the farmer’s wife who hung around the by the folly’s locked door.  The old hag stayed there, day and night, jabbering the same thing over and over again.  “Cuhm…Buhn…Harv…Ethta.”

It made no sense.  But the old infected farmer’s wife just kept on and on with it.  The same nonsensical four words.  But it gave Isaac something to do.  Something to think about.  Stories to make up from those four words.

Although with the chocolate bars running out, it was getting to the point where Isaac would have to do something.  His inhaler was lying on the grass just outside the folly.  If he could reach that, then he’d have a chance at lasting a little longer.  But he was scared.  Terrified.  But in his heart he knew sooner or later it would be time to finally take the initiative…

Veteran Crossed Writer Simon Spurrier returns with an intriguing little tale that focuses on the life and backstory of a young, fat, black kid who’s currently holed up in a folly tower in the middle of the countryside.

Written entirely from the introverted perspective of this scared young boy, the story that unfolds is one of piecing together small snippets of his backstory along with his whisperings to the infected old crone below, until we eventually build up an incredibly fleshed-out picture of who this kid is.

Violence and mayhem are relatively minimal for a Crossed offering.  That’s not to say there’s none, but due to the confined predicament that our young protagonist’s in, there’s really not that much opportunity for vast swathes of murder and mayhem.

Interestingly, Spurrier includes a handful of full-pages of text into the graphic novel, where Isaac fabricates his own stories for the hag, or gives us another example of the vicious bullying he recently suffered at school.  Combined with his one-way dialogue to the farmer’s wife below, it’s an effective way of pulling together all the parts, in which the story can then unfold from.

There’s plenty of quizzical mystery within the short tale.  The main and recurring one being what the hell the old crone below means with those four nonsensical words she keeps repeating!  Trying to work it out is half the fun of the story.  But when Spurrier finally reveals all, trust me it’s well worth the wait.  Clever and so utterly ‘Crossed’ through and through.  You’ve just gotta fucking love it.

The compilation volume runs for a total of 176 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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