First published within a single compilation volume back in June of 2014, the ninth instalment in the post-apocalyptic ‘Crossed’ series was entitled ‘Crossed Volume 9: Badlands’ and contains two stories : ‘Grave New World’ written by Daniel Way with artwork by Emiliano Urdinola, and ‘The Wizard Of Aus’ written by Simon Spurrier with artwork by Gabriel Andrade.  The compilation volume contains all seven of the original comics from the ninth series (Badlands issues 44 – 49).

Grave New World

It was the summer of 2009 when Naval Captain Barnes picked up a fisherman named Frank Nesbitt and his heavily pregnant daughter – Amanda – from just off the coast of North.  The Captain and his crew took an instant dislike to the fisherman – believing him to be the father of his daughter’s child.  Nevertheless the two were taken on board the captain’s military ship, before they continued a course for colder climates, hoping less infected to be there.

Meanwhile, seventy miles west of Key West in Florida, a Spanish father and his two young sons are holed up within the heavily secured Fort Jefferson – the largest naval combat fortification in the Western Hemisphere.  Their life was a simple one, enjoying the safety afforded by the high-walled complex bordering picturesque beach shores.

However back on Captain Barnes’ naval vessel the arrival of the fisherman and his daughter had caused rifts amongst the other survivors.  It appeared that their new situation hadn’t quenched Franks’ appetite for rape.  Furthermore Captain Barnes’ zero tolerance to anything remotely sinful had begun to create frustration amongst the group.    They knew they owed the Captain their lives.  However, his strict ruling was breeding a feeling of hostility – with those that broke his rules being cast off the ship in order for them to cleanse their corrupted souls.

Both groups of survivors had a plan for their survival in common.  Neither would allow the vileness of the Crossed to infect and corrupt their groups.  Neither would tolerate even the slightest hint of anything but a sinless existence.  But in doing so, they may have instead created a mirror image of those that they deplored…

Writer Daniel Way gets his hands bloody with his six-part offering.  Like with Simon Spurrier’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ (admittedly much longer) offshoot series, Way’s ‘Grave New World’ is a far slower-paced and more character-driven tale than your usual Crossed extreme horror tale.  Indeed, the story spends much of its time delving into the psychological journey of the characters as they’re corrupted and distorted out of all proportion from the person they originally set out to be.

It’s a dark and brooding story, but in a very different way to your usual Crossed offering.  As already stated, there’s far less blood, guts, gore and violence on show.  Instead it’s all about the crumbling mental state of the survivors over those first few years of the Crossed infection.

Captain Barnes is the main instigator for the way that morality is being twisted.  His obsession with keeping his group away from corruption by using a zero tolerance ruling, slowly but surely creates a reverse image of the Crossed.  It’s wonderfully messed up and surprisingly thought-provoking.

Aside from Captain Barnes, Fisherman Frank, and his daughter, the majority of the remaining survivors seem to pale into the background somewhat.  The captain’s second-in-command – a feisty red-headed lass called Ella Stern – brings to the table a big old chunk of added insanity to the twisting and turning storyline. However, although her character arc is a crazy-ass one, the depth of characterisation put into the character is lacking quite considerably, leaving the plot surrounding her unstable mental journey devoid of the impact it should have commanded.

Crossed stories don’t necessarily need to be packed to the rafters with violence and gore in order for them to be one of the better additions to the series.  Writer Simon Spurrier has repeatedly shown this with his tense-pressured slow-burning ‘Wish You Were Here’ stories.  However, if the story’s not going to buy into the whole the ‘sicken-the-reader’ game, then it needs to pack a hefty punch in other areas.  Unfortunately, due to lukewarm characterisation and a far too fragmented plot, Way’s offering ultimately misses the mark by some way.  It’s still an interesting and entertaining read.  But sadly it fails to capture the no-holds-barred hostility of the other Crossed stories it is forced to rub shoulders with.

The Wizard Of Aus

Todd knew what he was.  The top dog.  The alpha male.  One of the lucky few who had landed on his feet when the crossed infection hit.  He’d been a road train driver prior to the end of the world.  He drove the same road train, only now it was a well-armed mobile-war-machine, carrying enough fuel, supplies and ammunition to keep him and his girls going for a long old time.

That’s the thing.  These days all he had to do was drive up and down the Australian outback, trading supplies as he went and enjoying the nights in his cab with whichever one of his harem came knocking.

But when Todd’s fortified road train happened upon ex-site-prospector David Baerst and his partner Daphne, the trucker decided a break from his usual ‘all female’ rule was in order and allowed the couple to join his group.  After all, David was clearly a handy guy to have around – a natural born survivor.  Although Todd didn’t swallow the obvious lie that the guy was gay.  But considering how much of a fine young woman Daphne was, Todd decided to allow them both along for the time being.  After all, it would only be a matter of time before David made a mistake, and then he’d be outta there…and Daphne would be all his…

I’m not going to beat around the bush – I’m a huge fan of Simon Spurrier’s work.  After all, the guy writes some of the finest Crossed stories.  And this one’s no exception.  In fact, it’s very possibly one of his most entertaining offerings to date.

The story’s one of those classic post-apocalyptic plots.  We’ve got a fat, obnoxious trucker who thinks he’s the ultimate alpha male.  The guy’s travelling around the Australian outback in his bigass road truck, like a cross between ‘Dead Reckoning’ from Romero’s ‘Land Of The Dead’ (2005) and the Trader’s ‘War Wag’ from the Deathlands series.

The story’s gritty and grimy and wallowing in a bloodbath of violence and end-of-the-world oppression. In fact it’s pretty much everything you want from a Crossed story.  The characters are all incredibly well fleshed-out.  Admittedly there are only really three principal characters – Rodd, David and Daphne.  Nevertheless, Spurrier spends time giving each one of them enough of a personality to allow the reader to fully engage with them.

The pace is as fast and furious as they come.  Even when there appears to be no immediate danger from the Crossed, there’s still plenty of swirling madness left in the main ‘King of the Road’ plot to keep the cogs turning at a damn good speed.

If I was going to individually score the stories then there’s no chance I’d be giving Spurrier’s offering anything but the full ten DLS skulls.  It most definitely deserves it.  Trust me – this is one mother fucker of a Crossed story.

The compilation volume runs for a total of 176 pages.


© DLS Reviews

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