Crossed: Volume Twelve – David Lapham

Crossed 12David Lapham has been trying for years to write a decent Crossed story and it looks like he may actually have succeeded.

This is a single nine issue story that works well, has good drama and pacing and interesting characters. As always the Crossed are merely a plot device, like bad weather, but they do the trick of moving the action along.

Narratively speaking there are some elegant and sophisticated tricks and a complex opening with multiple timelines forcing the reader to pay attention. Sadly these techniques don’t last past the first issue.

The art is odd. There is strong colouration but the level of detail appears to vary between panels. It is as if small panels were blown up to single or double page spreads and the effect is a little jarring.

Despite reminding me of the film ‘The Limey’ all the way through this was an enjoyable and unpredictable read.

Definitely a Thumbs Up!

BONUS REVIEW Crossed Volume 7 – Christos Gage & David Lapham

Crossed 7A pair of stories focus on one of the great themes of Crossed – what would you do to survive. Would you make a deal with the Crossed or murder your friends to save your own skin?

Newcomer to the franchise Christos Gage tells a great tale injecting a few snippets of his trademark social commentary. The Crossed are fleshed out a little more and a Crossed character is introduced that could make a return appearance.

Lapham has been telling the same story over again and thanks to the law of monkeys and typewriters he finally does a reasonable job of it. Regular character Amanda returns and we see mental illness and paranoia actually done right. This is what Crossed: Psychopath should have been. Better late than never possibly.

The art is great. Crossed has established a style and visiting artists have no problem slotting right in. The colours for the first story are particularly good proving you don’t need gimmicks to please the eye. There is also lot of graphic nudity and sex. As it seems we have become inured to the violence this is what has been taking its place.

Thumbs Up!

BONUS REVIEW

BONUS REVIEW Crossed Volume 6 – Garth Ennis & David Lapham & Si Spurrier

Crossed 6 BadlandsThis is a mighty book with a lot of content. Really good content.

The first tale is by Garth Ennis doing what he does best; talking about soldiers and religion. It’s a fine story with a rock solid pace. It does suffer a little from being a polemic but Ennis soapboxes very well and with a lot of research.

The colouring is exceptionally vibrant to the point of unrealistic but this gives the nightmare future of the Crossed quite an eerie and surreal quality that works well. The outstanding point is the panelling. This is some of the most imaginative you have ever seen. The borders are composed of blades of grass, kitchen tiles, playing cards and more to make this an incredibly artistic vision.

The second tale by David Lapham reveals the fate of Amanda whom we met in volume three. This is another tale examining mental illness and whilst better than the original with its garish hallucinations it still fails to rise above middle of the road.

The final story by Si Spurrier fails to match the incredible work he has been doing on Crossed: Wish You Were Here. This is kind of a slice of life love story with a little twist but none of the thought-provoking drama we know he is capable of. Raulo Caceras returns on art duties and we get some more surprise framing techniques.

Once again it is nice to have a big dollop of the Crossed but as time passes the art loses its shock value and occasionally veers into the uncomfortable. Nothing to make you stop reading but it drags it down from a higher rating.

Thumbs Up!

BONUS REVIEW

BONUS REVIEW Crossed Volume 5 – David Lapham & David Hine

Crossed 5David Lapham hasn’t has much luck with his Crossed stories but Garth Ennis is a tough act to follow. This story is actually one of the better ones and certainly his best Crossed work so far. It has a very relatable and sympathetic character, who definitely doesn’t have the skills needed to survive, but through good characterisation you keep rooting for him. There are a couple of clunky names of people and places that are quite intrusive but mostly this ticks along just fine.

The Crossed are the Crossed and while there is occasionally a new depravity they rarely shine. We do meet a character from another book for the first time ever and it will make you smile if you have been following the whole series. The ending has quite a lacklustre twist but if you look carefully all may not be as it seems.

Art is by series stalwart Jacen Burrows who is really in his element drawing clear faces, plenty of detail, and using great angles to show the action.

The next story is by David Hine and is quite a cerebral work. One of the tools of fiction is to act as a mirror for the human condition and Hine lays it on thick here raising very profound questions. He references quite a few literary works and the comparison between Crossed and Edgar Alan Poe’s Masque of the Red Death is definitely intriguing. The Crossed are almost an afterthought here yet do have a role to play. A secondary storyline fades in comparison to the main one leaving you wondering if this was a pitch Hine had before being invited into the Crossed universe.

Certainly one of the better volumes in the Crossed canon and a Thumbs Up!

BONUS REVIEW

Crossed Volume 3: Psychopath – David Lapham

This is the latest in the Crossed franchise that was created by Garth Ennis. A world where humanity has succumbed to a plague that forces infected humans to act out their most sick and twisted desires on each other.

Lapham certainly has some great ideas, unfortunately the previous one (Family Values) was poorly executed. This volume, in which a genuine human psychopath hides amongst a group of human survivors, is better. This concept could have been realised in all sorts of clever ways that hid the offending character and made us guess at who was the rotten apple. But right from the start we know who the psycho is thanks to his point of view and internal narration. Rather than an anonymous slasher film killer we get to see inside his head and his madness in a similar vein to the novel American Psycho. Lapham puts in some effort to show us how warped his view of the world is.

There are some good narrative techniques but nothing overly complex. The story changes and unfolds very well, with our understanding shifting as we try and decipher what actually happened. The ending is also a tense affair and probably won’t go the way you expect which is good. The Crossed are once again virtually mindless window dressing which dampens the terror of their initial cunning intelligence as seen in the first book.

The art is suitably sickening with the gore turned all the way up. It is an unfortunate requirement to always outdo the previous book. This reminds me very much of the Italian horror comics with their similar style. Unfortunately this level of sex and violence just becomes cartoonish. Gone is the visceral shock of real human suffering to be replaced by Itchy and Scratchy bloodletting. The colours are also very dark with lots of black shading and heavy outlines. There are very few pale colours, evoking an oppressive and putrid feeling.

You can have fine, delicate meals expertly prepared or massive portions of stodge piled sky-high. Either can satisfy the literary diner. This is definitely in the lay-it-on-thick camp but it has firm foundations and earns its Thumbs Up!

93/272.

Tomorrow: Chew Volume One: Taster’s Choice – John Layman

Crossed 3D – David Lapham

This is a single issue tale set in the Crossed universe created by Garth Ennis. It concerns a doctor trapped in a Manhattan skyscraper and a group of volunteers sent in to get her.

This is my first experience with a 3D comic since I was a teenager and my first ever colour 3D experience. Whilst I did have to spend a lot of time tilting the page and fiddling with the glasses when it worked the 3D experience was very good. There are the occasional gimmicky frames where things are artificially designed to pop out at the viewer but these are the exception not the rule. The best effect I saw was looking down over the edge of a stairwell. It must take a lot of work to turn each panel into a scene with depth and you have to appreciate people trying to innovate in their medium. The 3D glasses that come with it have a crossed design printed on them which is kind of neat. Trouble is you don’t want to rip them out of the book to use them.

Unfortunately this makes no use of the Crossed mythos whatsoever. They are generic threats with no defining features. The story is so brief we get no chance to learn about or empathise with central characters and there is no opportunity for them to grow. This is a huge opportunity missed. It could have been the Crossed version of Aliens but instead just falls flat. I can’t bring myself to give it the thumbs up and only the 3D saves it from a thumbs down. A real shame. No Thumbs!

34/331.

Tomorrow: Supreme Power: Contact – J. Michael Straczynski

Crossed Volume 2: Family Values – David Lapham

When a film makes money the people that own it decide to release a sequel in order to make more money. In order to maximise the money they usually get rid of the original director, actors, writers, and so on and get cheaper people to fill their shoes. This seldom works as what made the first film great were the talents of those people. It looks like the same thing happens in comic books.

There is no need for a sequel to Crossed. Garth Ennis said all he wanted to say in a subtle and intelligent way whilst bombarding us with sickening horror at the same time. Having said that, because the “crossed” themselves are an idea more than specific characters, it is possible to tell other stories in their world. This is what we have here. Mr Ennis has wisely stepped away and David Lapham (not a name I am familiar with) has decided to fill his shoes.

It is nice to return to the Crossed universe and experience the revulsion and horror we did previously. However, because we know what to expect, we aren’t shocked and appalled as we were the first time. In response to this the violence and sexual content is ramped up to cartoonish levels and it becomes farcical in places.

The protagonist is a young woman and we follow her and her large, God-fearing family through the outbreak. The father of said family abused his daughters. This premise sets up all manner of adult emotional hooks for great drama. Is it possible to find redemption for a horrific past? Are you willing to endure one form of evil in order to escape a greater? To what extent is forgiveness possible? Sadly mature storytelling is thrown out of the window and the only reason for his inclusion is to have a human antagonist. It’s like putting Nazi’s in your story when you are too lazy to create your own villains. Definitely an opportunity lost.

Although the artist has changed the familiar Crossed style remains. You need a strong stomach to draw the things in this world so maybe artists retire early. The work is competent and functional and Crossed welcomes realism over innovation and abstraction. The characterisation is good but nothing special.

This volume could have been so much more but even as it stands, primarily because of its distinguished roots, it gets a Thumbs Up!

33/332.

Tomorrow: Crossed 3D – David Lapham