Crossed: Badlands #54 Torture Variant Cover

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There is no help. There is no hope. There is only The Crossed.

For those of you who have not yet come across the horror comic ‘Crossed’ written by one of my favourite controversial writers, Garth Ennis, I will give you a breakdown of what you are subjecting yourselves to. That is, if you haven’t already been disturbed and repulsed by Zanier's blood thirsty and brutal cover art.

The story follows survivors who are battling a plague that causes victims to carry out their most evil thoughts. Carriers of the virus are known as 'The Crossed' due to a cross like rash that appears on their faces. The Crossed themselves are still self-aware individuals unllike regular zombies but they have been transformed into homicidal maniacs. Many are feral savages with absolutely no regard for their own self-preservation. They delight in mutilating themselves for the sheer thrill of it. This can and often includes amputating their own limbs, skinning themselves or transferring the virus through other bodily fluids other than bood which I believe needs no further explanation. Most are capable of basic yet deranged speech and wield whatever clubs, knives or sharp objects are at hand to attack anything that comes into contact with them. The more insane Crossed tend to attack each other, however the non-Crossed are preferred due to their desire for sadistic gratification. It just isn't as much fun to torture your fellow Crossed as it is to torture uninfected and frightened victims after all.

The Crossed can survive on any means of food but frequently rely on basic cannibalism – not because they have a zombie-like need for human flesh, they are just so brutal and cruel that they get warped enjoyment out of it. As years pass after the outbreak and the normal food sources of civilisation disappear, other Crossed increasingly cannibalise the none-infected and each other as a means of survival.

So now that you’re up to speed and if you are sick and twisted enough to read on, here is my review of Crossed Badlands #54, Torture Edition.

It goes without saying that this series has had its ups and downs but that can be said for any series that has multiple creative teams and continues to exist after over fifty issues. However, I have actually enjoyed this more than I thought I would. For a while now these comics have been passing in and out of our doors and despite Ennis being a favourite writer of mine, I have not been able to get past Zanier’s horrific front covers for fear of what imagery I might find lurking inside. Do not let that put you off as long as it has me. Each issue is filled with incredible art work and intelligent and well written stories that are not to be missed

During the last issue we left Gordon Brown trying to palm off stopping the forthcoming End of the World to the American president. but he was, well, indisposed. This issue picks up with Brown’s aide, Alistair stomping around the lab that they are hiding in and the two aircrew from 617 Squadron trying to get to this lab whilst trying not to be horribly mutilated by people infected by the Crossed virus. Seen as the US are supposedly incapable of saving themselves, it begins to dawn on Brown that he is the only one who can save the world.

In this issue, the characters continue in their attempt to piece things together and the Prime Minister is weighing up his options through conversations with himself. I can be biased when it comes to Ennis but he really is a master storyteller and here we see that in full force as we step away from all the sex and violence of previous issues and concentrate on those who remain uninfected. This issue is very much a character driven story as they attempt to not only defend their individual countries but to see whether they can figure out some course of action to actually stop the spread of the Crossed virus. Unfortunately for them but luckily for us horror fans, the way the virus mutates and spreads with such ferocity is going to make that near impossible to accomplish.  With no clear way of defining where this all began they are relying upon a captured subject, Patient X, who actually appears to be a normal man.

 I admire the thinking here and the fact that regardless of which country you focus on they all seem to act in the same way.  Each country appears to place blame on another and wants to retaliate with brute force through the use of their armies. 'Might makes right' is the perspective that they choose to adopt but it is the brains not the brawn, the scientists and the doctors that really win in these situations surely? They are the ones that should be sought after to create something of a blocker to prevent it spreading further right? Sure, we see some of that here but as I said earlier, the subject that they are experimenting on has not got a cross on his face which only emphasises the horror of man whether they are infected or not.

The writing here has been pretty impeccable as we see how the so called top men and women in the country cope in such a situation with incredibly limited resources left at their disposal. Finally we are starting to see more than just the debauchery and violence associated with the Crossed and the beginning of the task of thinking seems to be at hand.  This is what I have been waiting for and hopefully we will soon get to the science behind what has created a virus that has the potential to be worse than any zombie apocalypse the world has ever seen.

With striking artwork worthy of the words, this book continues to be among the most unique and explorative that I have had the pleasure to read.  As an added bonus the characters that appear in this book are expressive, emotional and actually resemble real people in their appearances. Zanier provides them with a non-exaggerated and completely life like image just like the men and women we see each day. Plus the attention to detail both in props and backgrounds really supported me in obtaining my focus on what was needed to tell the story. While not for everyone, this is definitely an intriguing comic that runs so much deeper than any traditional horror series to date.
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