Monday, 21 February 2011

Books: Crossed


Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Jacen Burrows


Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

"Remember Youtube?" That's how it starts. And what a great way to start.

And then you're plunged headlong into the unrelenting horror. Make no mistake - with Burrows aiming to become somesort of 21st Century version of Bosch [1] - this is book is full of nightmarish scenarios and images that will sear themselves into your head. It will leave you feeling weak and despondent and lying on the floor in the foetal position totally wrecked and drained. But don't let that put you off - because (for what it does, for how it wants to make you feel) it's also really really really good.

I won't lie: at the Islington Comic Forum meetings Crossed is - well - Crossed is a bit of a contentious book. In fact "contentious" doesn't really cover it: basically everyone else hates and I love it - with one guy (Malcolm) turning round to me once and saying something like: "You know what you remind me of Joel? You like that guy who stands up for the Star Wars prequels [2]: I can't tell if you're trolling of if you're just deluded." Answer: neither. If the rest of the world don't like this book then - well: it's the rest of the world that's crazy (yeah - I said it).

What is it about? Well. It has the trimmings of a typical zombie survival tale thing: there's a plague that infects people and you end up with a small group of survivors who can hope for nothing more than to try and stay alive. But things are much much worse than anything else you're ever seen before. For a start: the zombies aren't really zombies: they're more intelligent, more dangerous and more evil. And the survivors don't really act in the way that you' may have been led to expect in other stories like this - there's no real bonding, no real funny character moments, no real hope etc. Apocalyptic stories - in the main - tend to present a sanitized version of society falling apart: things might get rough but things will never get too crazy and people will never only suffer harm in an 'acceptable' way (so they'll get shot in the chest - but not in the face). But Ennis (damn him) presents things gone completely insane and bodies being unacceptability harmed. Some folks have accused this book of being part of the "torture-porn" genre - but I would disagree. Anything of that type that I've been unfortunate enough to come across I've found to be brain-dead, artless trash. And while Crossed may not hold out for any high-minded pretension (It's more "The Road's" uglier, meaner little cousin) - it is sophicatedly put together and it knows exactly what it's doing. Fair warning: this book is 18+ and is probably only going to appeal to a select few. It's not pleasant. It's not nice. It's extreme and ultra-violent and nasty. But then that's what horror is for. 

Open up and say: "Argh."

[1] I realise that's a bit of a highfalutin reference to make and - obviously Jacen Burrows (no offence Jacen) - is no Hieronymus Bosch in terms of actual painting skills and blah blah. But in terms of creating hellish images: images that made my blood run cold and my guts twist - and this is a really great comic for the way it just keep flinging more and more outrageous and horrifying images at you - I mean: it's not the skill - it's the effect. And how it left me feeling long after I'd put the book down (hopeless and distraught in a way I haven't really felt since I saw Requiem for a Dream on a Friday night at the cinema when it first came out - which left me lying face down in bed for the whole weekend just sorta moaning and whimpering at the extreme unforgiving harshness of the world: and if you've seen it then I'm pretty sure you'll know what I mean).

[2] Me personally I'm not really that much of a fan of any of the Star Wars films all that much (yeah yeah whatever): but hey there are people out there who are willing to make the case for the prequels in a way that doesn't seem totally bogus: check out Timothy O'Neil over at The Hurting: "Even when the action onscreen lulls - like, say, any of the times when the less-polished actors have to emote (you know who I'm talking about) - there's always something fun happening around the edges." And then: Drew McWeeny Film Nerd 2.0 series on Hitfix (which consists of him watching films with with kids) going through all six movies (in a bit of a haphazard order: 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6) so that's: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the ClonesRevenge Of The Sith, Return of the Jedi and has him saying stuff like: It is an imperfect film, certainly, but it remains one of the most preposterously scaled works of imagination I can name, a movie that casually introduces whole worlds and races of creatures, throwing out new ideas and images at a gallop. And the flaws that have been beaten to death by Mr. Plunkett and his devotees are far less outsized than they insist. When someone says "The film doesn't make any sense," that's simply not true. You may not like the movie, but the film makes both narrative and thematic sense, and there are some nice things Lucas does that he gets no credit for. I like the way the storyline about the Queen and her decoys serves as a mirror for the notion that Darth Sidious might be hiding in plain view, and I like the lesson the film sets up about the relationship between the Naboo and the Gungans." But - whatever. Maybe if I ever get around to talking about some of the Star Wars comics I could go into more depth: but that's probably gonna be a long time coming so don't hold your breath...

Links: PopCultureBomb Article, Dark Faerie Tales Review, Zero 2 Heroes Review of Crossed #2, Bleeding Cool Review of #9, Popculturebomb Review, Bleeding Cool Interview with Garth Ennis.

Further reading: CradlegraveNeonomiconThe Walking Dead, Just a Pilgrim, 303, Alan Moore's The Courtyard, No Hero, Blackgas, Sweet Tooth, Zomnibus, Supergod.

Profiles: Garth Ennis.

All comments welcome.

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