If you’re familiar with the work of Garth Ennis (his comics classic Preacher or his newer superhero bashing opus The Boys, both of which are amazing, you should grab the trade paperbacks) then you know that he’s not afraid of pushing reader’s buttons. Be it organized religion or superman, Ennis will take it down to size. But if you haven’t been reading Crossed, then, to paraphrase Bachman Turner Overdrive: you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Crossed is Ennis and artist Jacen Burrows’ new mini-series from Avatar Press, and while it takes ques from many end of the world “survival” stories, none have ever been this upsetting. That’s not to say that Ennis’ trademark pitch-black humor is missing here, there’s just a lot less of it.
The setup is straight Romero with a twist. A group of strangers must band together to survive in a world gone crazy. The only problem is that this world didn’t go zombie crazy, or even 28 Days Later “fast zombie” crazy, the infected in Crossed have become cunning, foul-mouthed rape/murder machines.
It’s a tricky premise to pull off without veering too far into exploitation but I believe the team pulls it off perfectly. The violence is by no means glorified and many deaths take a big emotional toll on the reader even if the characters are not as fully fleshed out as they could be. The characters don’t have to have huge back-stories to be sympathetic. The realistic art and small bits of characterization make them human, and that is all we need to empathize with their plight.
Burrows visualizes an abundance of gore but it is perhaps the tableaus before and after the violence that are the most disturbing part of his art.
It is most definitely not for everyone, but for the iron-stomached fan of writers like Richard Laymon or Edward Lee there is nothing in the horror comics field like Crossed.