Crossed: Badlands Volume Eleven – Si Spurrier & Justin Jordan

Crossed 11These Crossed volumes keep coming thick and fast. Eleven books and a spin off series are the worst thing for a visceral horror title. The franchise is a victim of its own success. The Crossed appear smarter and with a larger vocabulary as time goes on and consequently less threatening.

There are two stories here and both of them are based around a single idea padded out beyond their means. Even the great Si Spurrier, despite featuring one of the rare non-white protagonists we have seen to date, builds his story around a solitary groan-inducing punchline. He does introduce blank prose into his tale which, whilst not spinning out the length any more, does feel at odds with the snappy run-for-your-life feel that most Crossed stories have.

Newcomer Jordan makes a brave first attempt with a pair of female characters that aren’t helpless but don’t really develop. They are just a vehicle to deliver you to his (not so) grand finale and for the artist to put in a bit too much T&A for you to feel comfortable with.

The art is fair and along with the colouring certainly isn’t lazy but we have seen it all before. The lettering in the Jordan story could have done with something to help the reader identify when the narrator changes, or is that just us getting lazy.

They aren’t bad stories but the franchise as a whole now feels saggy and deflated. But we still can’t get enough of our Technicolor penny-dreadful so it’s a Thumbs Up!

Advertisements

Crossed: Badlands Volume Nine – Daniel Way & Simon Spurrier

Crossed 9First we have seven issues by Daniel Way who is better known for Deadpool and Wolverine. This doesn’t hit the spot and appears to be a rush to get ideas onto the page. Maybe as monthly parts you have time to mull over these ideas but here we just have a jumble of faces appearing and disappearing. We know that normal people go crazy in this setting and the Wish You Were Here title does a better job of examining characters in depth.

The art and colouring do a fine job. There are a few blank backgrounds and the odd style choice though.

Then we have the 2013 Crossed Special by Simon Spurrier. This does a much better job in a lot less pages. Spurrier is clearly the heir to the Ennis kingdom and this is another tale of what people would do in an extraordinary situation.

The art is great and some cool choices are made. He uses the lettering to superb effect. He goes for the abstract when using narration. This definitely makes the most of the visual medium.

After many years of Crossed it’s all getting a bit rapey. I don’t remember it having such a misogynistic undertone in the beginning. Sexual violence and torture porn are shortcuts for lazy writing and any Crossed scribe should know we are immune to it by now.

For the Spurrier story this deserves a Thumbs Up!

BONUS REVIEW Crossed: Wish You Were Here volume three – Simon Spurrier

Crossed - Wish you were here 3This is an astounding piece of work. Not only is it great Crossed fiction it is superb reading altogether. Crossed has finally caught up with Walking Dead in terms of plot, surprises and characterisation.

Our unreliable narrator, Shaky, isn’t a hero, an anti-hero or a villain. He is much more complex than that and you genuinely can’t work out if you like him or can condone or forgive his actions. This is an excellent piece of writing. His almost noir recitation is expertly crafted.

Spurrier has you hooked. The constant tick-tocking between the present and the past at dramatic moments compels you to keep reading. The mystery of how the two are connected keeps your mind whirring like a dynamo. More valuable than that is that the mists are clearing and the answers to our questions are finally in sight. And what a final page!

This is the perfect vehicle for Spurrier. Not only can he tell a cracking story he can also get stuck in to religion, politics and a certain first-world nation.

The art is great. A lot of love and detail go into the characters and their expressions. There are also some faithful depictions of actual geography too.

Double 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: Wish You Were Here volume two – Simon Spurrier

Crossed - Wish you were here 2Finally we have someone who understands how to write the Crossed title as well as its creator Garth Ennis. This is a great piece of writing, period. This could be a novel or a film as easily as a comic because the voices of the characters and the compelling narrative are so strong. And there is one hell of a mystery being revealed too.

The key to his success is that this is a story without end. Removing the page count, the deadlines and the artificial cliff-hangers allows the story room to breathe and grow organically. Without the constraint of a monthly issue forcing you to compromise your vision you end up with a better story. The fact this is a free webcomic and it still sells books is testament to its well-deserved success.

The narrative is sophisticated, jumping about in time, but the anchor of a solid first person narrator who has enough flaws to allow you to care about him makes it work. Spurrier no longer feels the need to outgross the previous authors and asks important questions about them. And he knows it’s all about the survivors and the kind of people they become.

The art is great. With it being a webcomic a lot of people are contributing to the art and although individual artists/ colourists drop in and out you can’t actually tell when. Changes in the timeframe are marked with subtle changes in the colouring that is helpful but not that overly-consistent. The layout is regular and ordered reminding you it is about the emotion of the story not the gratuity of the style.

There is a who’s who at the back but like the last volume these are all characters you haven’t met yet so don’t read it.

This isn’t a horror comic this is human drama. Bare that in mind before you purchase. Or check it out online first. For rising to the challenge of the original Crossed ideal this gets the Double Thumbs Up!

BONUS REVIEW

BONUS REVIEW Crossed: Annual 2013 – Simon Spurrier

Crossed Annual 2013This is a single issue piece written by Si Spurrier who did an excellent job with the Crossed: Wish You Were Here storyline. It is self-contained and doesn’t crossover with any of the storylines to date.

Its central character is Scottish and is written in the Scottish dialect which whilst admirable in its diversity makes it bloody hard to read thus slowing things down considerably as he is pretty much the only person talking. He is a soldier and unfortunately trite convention dictates he must come from the Special Forces (SBS) and we must mention the Falklands War.

The story ends in a weak twist and like most stories could be told without any Crossed being involved whatsoever. We do see our first foreign Crossed, swearing in Icelandic, complete with comical subtitles however.

The art is good with another artist new to the franchise but mastering the long established style. As our lead is completely bonkers there are a lot of imaginary gribblies creeping into the frame in a similar way to Crossed: Psychopath. They aren’t as bizarre as Lovecraft’s or as elegant as Dali’s but fun none the less.

It’s a Thumbs Up because it isn’t the worst Crossed story, not for any better reason.

BONUS REVIEW

Crossed: Wish You Were Here – Simon Spurrier

This is the latest stand-alone work set in Garth Ennis’ “Crossed” setting, where humans are all succumbing to a plague that turns them into sadistic psychopaths. Written by a British writer and set on a remote Scottish island this title has a different flavour than the other works and appears closer to Ennis’ original vision.

It is actually a print version of the free webcomic that appears weekly at Crossedcomic.com. This open-ended format allows it to take a much more leisurely pace, similar to that of Walking Dead or the original 10 issue Crossed. It can sometimes meander or change direction unexpectedly as Spurrier re-plots on the fly but there is a definite goal in mind that we are heading towards.

The art is by Javier Barreno who illustrated Crossed: Psychopath and whose work appears almost identical to the original Jacen Burrows style. It is very detailed with no skimping on the backgrounds or faces. When there is a lot of text it appears on a solid black panel which does not overtax the artist or slow down the pace. There are a lot of tonal variations used for flashbacks, memories and daydreams helping to keep the narrative clear and distinct. The nocturnal scenes are dark but not murky too.

The isolated setting is good, the flashbacks to London falling are nice to see and a British writer penning dialogue for British characters makes a world of difference. The slow pace allows for a lot of musing on the nature of humanity and civilisation. There are some wonderfully subtle references that will make the UK reader smile too. The Crossed are used sparingly but after so many volumes they have lost their terror for the long-term reader unfortunately. That doesn’t mean the humans can’t provide some dramatic shocks however.

This is a very good offering, closer to the original genius than any of the other spin-offs has been. There is an afterword by the author and a rundown of the people on the island as journal entries by the protagonist with accompanying art. A Thumbs Up!

233/132

Tomorrow: Ptolus: City by the Spire – Monte Cook