First published within a single compilation volume back in March of 2013, the fifth instalment in the post-apocalyptic ‘Crossed’ series was entitled ‘Crossed Volume 5: Badlands’ and contained two separate storylines : ‘Yellow Belly’ written by David Lapham with artwork by Jacen Burrows and ‘The Golden Road’ written by David Hine with artwork by Georges Duarte and Edwardo Vienna.  The compilation volume contained all nine of the original comics from the fifth series (Badlands issues 10 – 18).

DLS Synopsis:

Yellow Belly

Edmund Wickenthorp hadn’t long turned eighteen.  He’d not had a big party or anything.  That’s not the sort of guy he was.  Although it was mostly because he wasn’t popular enough for that sort of thing.  In fact – he was pretty much a loner.  A nobody along the high school corridors.  A source of constant ridicule for all those who were part of the ‘in crowd’.

Ok, so he’d peed his pants back in sixth grade.  Embarrassing, but that was a long time ago now.  Surely it was about time he lost the unfortunate nickname of ‘Yellow Belly’.  After all, he’d grown up a lot since then.  There was no way he was that much of a coward these days.

However, unfortunately for Edmund, whether he still deserved his nickname was about to be put to the test.  The circus had arrived just up from their hometown of Palmer, and as usual they would be going along for the opening night.  This year it would be just his younger brother and their father with them.  Which meant they’d finally get to see the circus geek.  Admittedly the idea worried Edmund.  But he’d not pee his pants.  He was old enough not to be scared now.

But all of a sudden the geeks start developing red crosses across their faces.  Within a matter of seconds the circus is a cacophony of mayhem as the circus geeks go on a rampage of rape and murder.  Just before he blacks out - whilst hiding away in an empty barrel - Edmund sees his father and brother viciously killed.

The next thing he knows everyone’s dead.  The field is awash with blood and dismembered bodies.  When Edmund gets home no one believes what he has to say.  No one believes his desperate pleading.  That is until the circus comes to town…

The Golden Road

Clooney and his girlfriend Tabitha had signed up to attend a writer’s retreat at the world renowned author Gideon Welles’ luxury mansion – Samarkand.  The expansive property and its surroundings would be their entire world for the next six weeks.  No outside contact.  No TV.  No internet.  Just eight budding young wannabe, along with their infamous host – Welles.

Once all of the guests have arrived Welles informs them that they must all get into the character he’s assigned each of them, and stay that way for the entire duration of their stay.  Of course Tabitha is told to be a promiscuous nymphomaniac, whilst on the other hand Clooney is made to seem like a complete jerk.  Clooney knows exactly what Gideon’s playing at.  He wants a reaction out of Clooney.  He wants to see him snap.  But Clooney wasn’t going to give the overblown egotistical author the satisfaction of such a rise.

Meanwhile, police officer Lorna Bishop arrives at Stableford train station for when the next train pulls in.  They’re received reports of a major disturbance involving sudden outbursts of violence on board the train.  However, none of the waiting officers are prepared for the horror that awaits them as the train doors slide open.

The small town of Stableford is about to be thrown into hell itself…

DLS Review:
David Lapham returns to the ‘Crossed’ carnage with another gore-splattered story that flings us back to those initial days of the outbreak when the maddening violence came crashing down on everyone like a vast tsunami wave of crimson.

The story starts off setting down a small backstory for our cowardly principal protagonist before leaping headfirst into some textbook ‘Crossed’ brutality.  By chapter two rape and murder are by far and away the main meal of the day.  Eighteen-year-old Edmund Wickenthorp’s whimpering cowardice compliments the extreme violence perfectly.  The world’s going to shit and he isn’t going to stand his ground when all the shit comes his way.

But it doesn’t just end there.  By chapter three Lapham’s got some more fun up his blood-encrusted sleeve.  Adding a bunch of ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ style biker gangs into the equation switches the carnage to all-out warfare.  And of course Edmund’s got his own little character arc going on which snuggles up nicely within the biker gang’s eventual acceptance of him.

All in all this is another damn good addition to the ‘Crossed’ saga.  And with Harold Lorre from ‘
Crossed Volume 3: Psychopath’ (2012) making a brief cameo appearance, the four-part story starts to show the first signs of bringing together a more continuous story to the whole ‘Crossed’ saga.

David Hine’s offering is a slightly slower-paced affair.  Here we have far more time spent on building up the characterisation and setting down the whole pre-outbreak scene for these guys.  With the story having been split into two distinctively separate halves, for a good chunk of its length this second offering is less about the ‘Crossed’ outbreak and more about the characters – in particular Clooney and his unfaithful girlfriend Tabitha.

Knee-deep in emotional turmoil and bubbling anger, it’s predictably not long before Clooney snaps and things start to go decidedly sour.   Of course whilst all this is going on we have a parallel running substory involving Police Officer Lorna Bishop and the arrival of our cross-marked friends.

Sex and persuasion play a big role in this second tale.  And accompanying this is that age-old friend –anger.  Again we have an all-important character arc – where we see ‘stand-at-the-sidelines’ Clooney going all ‘Falling Down’ (1993) on us as he reaps his cold-blooded vengeance.

So there you have it - not exactly your typical ‘Crossed’ story – but well worth a read.

As always with the ‘Crossed’ graphic novels you’ve got plenty of extreme imagery accompanying the unashamedly over-the-top violent stories.  Here you’ve got such delightful scenes as a poodle being raped, an old codger mincing his genitals, and a dismembered penis having been stuffed into the mouth of its owner.  Yeah – you all know what to expect by now!

The compilation volume runs for a total of 240 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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