First published in twenty-four weekly instalments as a free online webcomic, then later collected and released in print back in May of 2013, ‘Crossed: Wish You Were Here – Volume Two’ followed on from the first volume of ‘Wish You Were Here’ off-shoot series.

The ‘Wish You Were Here’ series purposefully differed from the main ‘Crossed’ stories by offering a narrative with “a tense pressurised slow-burn” instead of the usual small groups of survivors constantly on the move whilst trying to stay ahead of the Crossed.  This called for a longer and more involved storyline, with a larger cast of characters.

The four 
‘Wish You Were Here’ volumes were all written by Simon Spurrier with artwork by Fernando Melek.  The second compilation volume contains all of the original webcomic instalments from the second series, along with seven pages providing a quick overview on the new characters to be introduced to the series and a final six pages detailing some of Shaky’s general observations since the outbreak.

DLS Synopsis:
Setting out on the sortie was like stepping out into the unknown.  They had no idea how bad it had gotten out there.  How dominating the Crossed threat had become since they’d been hiding out on Cava.  They just knew they had no choice but to go.

They had their shopping list.  A carefully considered list of everything they needed for their community to survive that little while longer.  Shaky had been made responsible for the list.  Alongside Jackson they’d taken on the role of leading the expedition.

The team chosen for the sortie weren’t exactly the ideal members for the job.  It had been a random lottery who would go.  Which was why Shaky found he was leading a group of individuals who could well prove to be more of a hindrance than a help.

After setting foot on the mainland for the first time in months, within minutes Viceroy had proven himself to be both a liability and one hell of a lucky sonofabitch.  Meanwhile Seline kept insisting that she shouldn’t be there.  In fact they’d barely left Cava before her incessant moaning had started.  Tabitha on the other hand seemed to be keeping her wits about her.  But with the relationship between Shaky and her blossoming, he wondered if their intimacy may prove to be more of a distraction for her when their lives depended on staying alert.

Skip on the other hand was being his usual jerk-like self.  However during their first night on the mainland he’d opened up to them all with his story.  How he’d ended up surviving those hellish first few days.  And how he’d ultimately abandoned his brother.  It was clearly something that still tormented him to this day.

And then there was Jackson.  The nutter.  The fearless sheep-shagging maniac who, unlike the others, was probably the best person to have on the sortie with them.  Although unbeknown to the others, on Shaky’s shopping list it wasn’t just food and supplies that they were after.  He also had a spot for two new joiners to their community.  Just two places.  So any newcomers had to be carefully selected.  They had to be useful.

As he will soon learn, out on the mainland Shaky will be forced to make a series of very tough decisions.  When they locate a group of fellow survivors, he alone will need to pick which ones can come back with them and which ones they will leave behind.

They will each have to rise to the challenge of the Crossed nightmare in order to survive.  Amongst their group some will undoubtedly prove to be heroes, whilst others will show their true faces.

And all along they will have their memories haunting their every move.  They each have a story.  How they survived this far.  And in those quiet moments when they have nothing but each other – those stories will inevitably come out.  For the better or the worse…

DLS Review:
Writer Simon Spurrier returns with volume two of the ‘Wish You Were Here’ story – continuing on directly from where the first volume left off.  The story
s delivered in the same way as the first – via continued excerpts from Shaky’s diary, visualised in this graphic novel format.  As such the storyline’s once again very piecemeal – jumping back and forth between the present (returning to the mainland for supplies etc) and flashbacks from Shaky’s recent past (along with the retold stories from the others on the sortie).

Unlike the main ‘Crossed: Badlands’ volumes – the ‘Wish You Were Here’ stories are far less hectic and brain-crushingly brutal; instead concentrating on a more carefully-constructed and organic storyline.  Characterisation is allowed to gradually build up within the rich variety of survivors.  Their collective experiences coming together to form an interesting tapestry of survival post-outbreak.  And ultimately through this the depressive atmosphere our doomed race is given the opportunity to really set itself in; to fester away whilst the seeds of bleakness are able to slowly germinate.

This second volume seems to have really gone for a dark and downcast aura.  There’s surprisingly little violence or sexual deviance in it (compared with other ‘Crossed’ volumes).  Instead it’s all about the characters, their individual backstories, the constant struggle they’re each subjected to and the emotional strain it has on them.

Throughout its length the pace of the story is markedly stuttered due to the constant jumping backwards to tell a character’s story, or to return to a particular memory of Shaky’s.  In fact, at times the pacing can feel quite stagnant, without hardly any momentum being felt behind the progression of the story in the ‘present’.

Interestingly Spurrier brings in a few thought-provoking dilemmas, illustrating how morality has shifted and how stuff that would never have been tolerated prior to the Crossed outbreak, is now often overlooked in favour of a greater chance of survival.  It’s a depressing side to the story which adds an air of gritty realism to the otherwise unashamedly over-the-top premise.

Spurrier also injects a handful of cunning little twists and character-related surprises into the mix – keeping the otherwise somewhat stunted pace from drying up completely.  Furthermore the main body of characters sitting at the forefront of the story are given a further layer of flesh – bringing out more of their personalities and illuminating the easily forgotten human aspect of the whole situation.

All in all it’s still a reasonably brave sidestep for the ‘Crossed’ series to take.  Undoubtedly the majority of the ‘Crossed’ fanbase are going to be gorehounds and splatter-freaks.  After all that’s pretty much the bricks and mortar that created the series.  Toning down the violence and bloodshed, even if the characters and overall story is going to be enhanced in doing so, probably won’t sit all that well with the main body of the ‘Crossed’ readership.  But for this reviewer at least, such a change in pace and direction isn’t going to cause any major rifts.

At the end of the day this second volume makes for a solid building block in the continuation of the ‘Wish You Were Here’ storyline.  In itself, not the most explosive of reads – but it nevertheless has its place in the continuing story and unleashes some key ‘Crossed’ scenes as well as some surprisingly provocative moments.

The compilation volume runs for a total of 160 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Wish You Were Here’ instalments:

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