Exploring CROSSED

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Crossed has become well known to comic readers as some of the most violent and graphic titles on shelves. I started reading the series when the original written by Garth Ennis was being printed and kept up with the series through the years.

Crossed was created by Garth Ennis with Crossed #0 in 2008. Ennis has stated that he was inspired to write this story watching the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Seeing how quickly civilization can break down when tragedy strikes and how the controls in place for us to feel safe (law enforcement, governments) evaporate quickly. This is not for everyone, it’s extreme horror and while there are some interesting themes in the title some runs are more about shock value than good storytelling.

Let’s first start with the origins of CROSSED, the publishing timeline and my recommendations if you want to try reading this series.

Crossed Volume 1

In the original run we follow a group of survivors during the initial Crossed outbreak. Right at the beginning Ennis explores the idea that we are unshockable. Nothing is sacred and we’ve become so numb that nothing affects us anymore. That changes pretty quickly when the Crossed arrive.

The story is told via flashbacks and current events, filling in the gaps of why and how our group of characters have survived and why they make the decisions they have to to survive.

We learn about the contagion, which when infected, humans lose all inhibitions and act out any depraved thought they could think of. They lack self preservation and their only goal is to maim, rape and murder anyone they come across. Even fellow Crossed when they are bored. Those who are infected develop a red cross on their face.

They aren’t zombies, if someone who has been infected has certain skills, knowledge or abilities prior to be infected they still have those skills at their disposal. This makes them more dangerous and cunning when you come across the wrong groups. With the world falling apart, governments quickly try to act to prevent widespread attacks by any means necessary. It doesn’t take long for most humans to be killed or converted, making survival almost impossible.

Early in this volume the expectation is set for what will happen when you make the wrong decisions and we witness very violent scenes that set the bar for what the Crossed are capable of. The idea of hiding in a shopping mall and waiting for the danger to pass will quickly lead to torture and death for you and the people around you. When the survivors encounter an organized group of Crossed it makes a horrendous situation even more difficult.

Jacen Burrows artwork shines in this volume. His bold lines and realistic style really makes the violent and emotional scenes more impactful and viceral. It’s the perfect companion to Ennis art style to convey the dread and hopelessness that this series embodies.

With the focus more on characters and survival, this remains my favorite Crossed arc. It’s survival horror at it’s finest.

Crossed: Family Values

After volume 1, Garth Ennis gave approval for more stories to be told in the Crossed universe as long as his characters would be left out of new stories. The tone is definitely different with David Lapham as the writer and Javier Barreno on art.

In this volume we follow a religious family who manage to escape their North Carolinian ranch after the Crossed attack and struggle to survive. Not everything is what it seems, as we learn more about the matriarch of the family who is a monster not unlike the Crossed in many ways.

It’s a shorter volume compared to the first, but still full of story. If you’re expecting the same type and feel as volume one you’ll be disappointed. It has a different approach to storytelling in this universe. It can also be very unsettling for those who are squeamish, but if you’re reading this series that may not be a problem.

Crossed: 3D

In this volume we follow a SWAT veteran who leads others on a rescue mission in the middle of a city brimming with Crossed.

Released during the 3D craze of the time, this arc always felt too gimmicky and difficult to read because it’s only in 3D format. It’s unfortunate that there was a never a 2D version of this volume. Unless you have some old 3D glasses laying around this one may be a no-go for you.

Crossed: Psychopath

David Lapham returns as writer and Raulo Caceres as the artist on Psychopath.

A group of survivors come across Harold Lorre who isn’t what he initially seems. After taking him in we learn more about him and his past, drawing parallels to what humans are capable of to what the Crossed are.

This is the volume the story leans heavily into gore and violence for the sake of gore and violence. There are some themes to explore but it begins to be more about how shocking the acts of the Crossed and humans can be rather than story and characters. It pushes boundaries but lacks in substance.

There were some scenes that disturbed me because it was so over the top. The storytelling took a backseat to exploring what boundaries can be pushed.

Crossed: Badlands

Badlands features different artists and writers on shorter arcs in the Crossed universe. They vary from 2-5 issues in length.

Badlands contains some really great arcs, but equally some really bad arcs, too. There are some interesting characters that are introduced and developed, even some who are Crossed. Some of the arcs lean more into gore and violence while others expand the universe and explore different ideas that are intriguing and thought provoking. It was very hit or miss for me, but some are worth reading. (see below for my recommendations)

Best of all, Ennis returns to the title and has some arcs in this series. In the first arc it has a similar tone as the first volume, following a group of strangers who become dependent on one another for survival with very mixed results. These are the types of stories that I find most interesting, humans and how they handle life and death situations when they depend on strangers to survive. In another Ennis runs we witness the beginning of the outbreak and the mistakes that were made.

Crossed: Wish You Were Here

Written by Si Spurrier with Javier Barreno on art, WYWH was originally a web comic that can now be found in trade paperback.

We follow Shaky, who is a former writer that has managed to survive the initial outbreak in Scotland and was able to find an island called Cava with a group of survivors. This is one of the better arcs, exploring leadership, human psychology, group dynamics and the lengths people are willing to go to survive. The main character is deeply flawed and that makes this story feel more relatable and interesting. Do we really all know how we would handle the world being taken over by violent, murderous and depraved Crossed?

While there is plenty of gore to be found, it’s not as gratuitous as previous volumes and instead focuses more on characters and survival.

Crossed +100

Alan Moore on Crossed? Yes, please! With Gabriel Andrade on art, this volume takes a very different approach to explore the Crossed universe. It’s a 6 issue run that is the perfect size for this tale.

This story takes place 100 years after the initial Crossed outbreak (C-Day). Crossed still exist but on the surface they aren’t as much of a threat as they used to be. That is until a group of humans make some horrifying discoveries. The Crossed will eventually die off, right?

Taking place 100 years after the Crossed outbreak, humans don’t speak or interact like they used to. They speak broken English and it reminded me a lot of Cloud Atlas. They’ve rebuilt civilization and have adapted to living with the threat of the Crossed, they’ve become a story parents tell their children to scare them instead of a daily threat.

I didn’t see the surprise coming, so I won’t spoil it here for you if you haven’t read it yet. I did find it to be a very fun spin on what would probably be expected in a story that takes place 100 years after C-Day.

Crossed +100: Mimic

This six issue series is written by Christos Gage and Emilian Urdinola on art.

It follows a human and a Crossed who are trying to forge an alliance between those who are infected and uninfected. We also get a series of stand-alone stories with Pat Shand and art by Rualo Caceres that take place in the time period between C-Day and the events of Crossed +100 which I won’t spoil for you here in this article.

I wonder why we needed this series, if the story of Crossed +100 were to continue I would have preferred it penned by Moore. Nothing against Gage, who I enjoy reading but Alan Moore is Alan Moore.

My Recommendations

You’ve come this far? You must be at least curious as to where you can start reading or what arcs I recommend you read. Of course this is my opinion and all that stuff, but these are my standout stories in the Crossed universe. While it’s not all that important, I do recommend reading in publication order.

Crossed Volume 1: You can’t go wrong with this collection. It’s the best story and has the best characters of the series. I may be biased because it’s the first Crossed book I read and I love damn near everything Ennis and Burrows does but it is what it is. It’s survival horror at it’s best. It sets the tone pretty early in the story and let’s you know what’s at stake, what the Crossed are capable of and fills you with so much dread you won’t be able to look away.

Crossed: Badlands #1-3 Of the World and its Becoming: The return of Ennis! No one writes characters, especially flawed characters like Ennis does. With Burrows back on art it’s a combination you just can’t miss. It’s similar to the first volume in that we follow a group of survivors who have their own ideas and personalities that don’t always mesh, but that’s what makes it intriguing.

Crossed: Badlands #10-13 – Yellow Belly: This story is written by David Lapham with Jacen Burrows on art. It follows a cowardly young boy who runs into the Crossed at the circus during the initial outbreak. He makes some unexpected alliances along the way with mixed results.

Crossed: Badlands #25-28 – The Fatal Englishman: Yes, another Ennis story. This time Caceres is on art but Caceres is fantastic in his own right. The panels and layouts are particularly impressive and creative. This story follows a group of British soldiers who are on a one-way mission to release biological weapons that would wipe out most living things, including uninfected humans. With some absolutely heart retching scenes, this series explores the idea of religion and belief in ways I didn’t expect. Will the soldiers succeed?

Crossed: Badlands #33-36 – Breakdown: Another Lapham story, but this one features Miguel Ortiz on art. We follow Amanda, who is in the Psychopath story line. After all she’s endured she’s a very different person and we see that in painstaking fashion. I’m not sure if reading Psychopath and the other story Amanda is featured in (The Livers #21-24) is necessary as long as you can imagine she’s been through the worst of it. A character study on Amanda that I thought was frightening and painful to see how far she’s come and how damaged she is.

Crossed: Badlands #50-56 – The Thin Red Line: Another Ennis run? Yes! This time Christian Zanier is on art. We rejoin the group of British soldiers in the Fatal Englishman before the out break began. If you’re looking for a definitive answer of what caused the outbreak you may be a little bummed. But don’t let that deter you, because in some ways this is more entertaining and leaves some mystery around the Crossed that I think the series needs. Sometimes we don’t need all the answers. I will say Zanier’s art is hit or miss, sometimes the photo referencing is too on the nose. It’s still a can’t miss story.

Crossed: Wish You Were Here: This is probably my second favorite story arc. I love the character exploration and the journey our main character takes from start to finish. Building a functioning small society in a situation like this is almost impossible, but what choice do they have? Hiding on an island sounds safe but also terrifying, knowing the Crossed aren’t capable of finding you no matter where you hide.

Crossed +100: How can you go wrong with Alan Moore? Exploring what happens to humans 100 years after C-Day was lots of fun, even if it was pretty similar to Cloud Atlas in that regard. The twist at the end was the best part of the story, even if it is horrific. What, did you expect a happy conclusion? Haven’t you been paying attention?

Crossed Annual 2013: I didn’t list this above because it’s a one shot and didn’t fit into the timeline like the others do. Written by Si Spurrier with Gabriel Adrade on art, this is a story that was dumb fun. Don’t get me wrong, we still explore characters and their motivations in a crisis like this but it’s lots of fun. We follow Jackson, who is manning a train that keeps he and his crew safe, but at what cost to them?

There were talk about a Crossed adaptation, but it never materalzied. Can’t this be adapted to live action? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more Crossed stories in the future by the right creative teams.

Have you read Crossed? If you have let me know what you think of it!

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Author: Steve

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