Story time is upon us here tonight at CTBF and the story in question is one that started it all and the genre that constitutes one-fourth of this site. Yeah, I feel like introducing you (sea of darting eyes) to how I started delving into western comics and the mastery that I continue to convince you that I have on the subject. Years of reading in general had left me with shelves of manga and certain collections of Calvin and Hobbes and Simpsons’ comics. It was not until I was seventeen or so, when I decided to return to the land that brought me The Crow and Watchman, and with the love of extremes (be it both sides of the spectrum as my past reviews with attest to) that goes with youth. Being at an age where I still needed to show my driver’s license when I bought an M rated game at GameStop, but still able to in the end, I was hard set for a western equivalent to the large amounts of Seinen manga I had consumed by that point. I stumbled upon Avatar Press’ successful series Crossed. Those gore laden covers got my attention, and as they say “the rest was history”. I have come a long way since then, but I thought it fitting to compare and contrast the original to one of its followers, Crossed: Psychopath, (considering that Avatar Press’s advertised C-Day and launch of Crossed: Badlands is just around the corner.)
To start off, I think a run-down of exactly what constitutes a “Crossed” for the sacks of those of you reading that I am technically trying to convince to look into this series further (I have to keep the familiar and not-so-familiar balanced right?). As stated through dialog in the first volume, to go “crossed” means that a person, no matter the age, has basically flipped off the switch in their mind that controls restraint and judgment. That human urge to rape, pillage, and mutilate replaces all other human desire, leaving a kill prone form who communicates through vulgarity and taunts. The “crossed” state spreads through infecting a human with any (and do I mean “any”) bodily fluid. It paints a gorgeous picture where everything is placed on an even playing field where you fear a six-year old child in the same way that you fear a seven-foot broad shouldered freak of nature. Introduce this element to a town or nine and you have yourself a blood bath that will literally fill swimming pools.
The original Crossed was written by a familiar to CTBF reader’s team of Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows, who I decided to, cover their works only in special forms like this solely for fear that I will leave other creators unappreciated. This first volume of Crossed introduces the Crossed and its quick effects on everyday society. Our lead and in the past tense narrator Stan, a now ex-bartender who has witnessed firsthand the surge as one of them waltz into the local dinner and attacks the owner by biting off his nose. A cop car crash outside hurries the dinner occupants outside, where Stan finds himself with two other citizens he recognizes, Thomas and Kelly, standing dazed as electrical outlets flashing to blind, an airplane set to “nose dive”, and explosions highlighting the distance. In an attempt to escape the town, these three are rescued by the woman-with-nerves-of-steel Cindy, who takes the three away to somewhere less populated in a pick-up truck with her quiet son Patrick ridding next to her. The rest of the book entails Stan and his fellow survivors’ journey to Alaska to escape the madness. This is where Crossed shows its real intention. The gore-mongering of the crossed is to create a world where survival is key and what it means to triumph in extremely dire situations.
Garth Ennis turns this ever increasing and at the same time decreasing band of survivors as a taped up family spearheaded by Cindy’s no-nonsense attitude. For instance, Thomas is the complete caretaker for Kelly because she lost her eyesight to the electrical outlet explosions, and Cindy continues to raise Patrick “right” by making sure the language coming from everyone else is not heavy on the profanity and he remembers his manners. You feel real emotion for these people when their plans fall through and the crossed gets one of them. Some moments play out more like muted dramas where I have been left teary-eyed whenever I return to those black panel boarders. Jacen Burrows artwork as in the past has been praised by yours truly, but I just wanted to express the way his work illustrates such fluid active motion and some very distinctive crowd shots encapsulating the situation. The original Crossed is its own epic that can be a comic for adults with ramifications surpassing the juvenile and overly crass elements usually associated with “adult” comics.
Topics such as what Crossed:Psychopath is about and my feelings on what Avatar Press means for western comics in Part 2.