Crossed: Volume 14 – Kieron Gillen

Crossed 14This is certainly different from the sophisticated, emotion-rich drama that Gillen usually delivers. There are two intertwined stories that reveal much about the human condition. But then comes a significant rug-pull that renders much of what you have read inert. This might have worked in an elevator pitch but having just read 160 odd pages it leaves you a little hollow, almost cheated. You don’t take away the insight into the flaws of everyday people or the primordial evils of our species but the fact it was all a dream.

The art is distinctive, lacking the finer detail of many Crossed regulars. The prehistoric setting and culture is well designed and conveyed. The issue breaks from four different artists are thematically linked but really bizarre, and not in the usual Crossed way.

This is definitely a hard one to call. Putting aside the massive “twist” it is a thumbs up!

Wasteland Book 11: Floodland – Antony Johnston

W11This is the final book. With a massive page count and no prose only sections it can take it’s time to go out in style.

The whole piece is a massive flashback that takes you through the preceding 100 years and explains absolutely everything. While this reveal is indeed enthralling it does definitely close the door on the Wasteland world and robs you of the mysteries that intrigued you. Sometimes you don’t want an origin story or to peak behind the curtain. Whist we can all work out Wash-ton, A-Ree-Yass-I eluded us. But no more.

Mitten is back for the whole volume but as 99% of it is present day his beautiful Wasteland vistas are absent.

A great way to go out.

Thumbs Up!

Wasteland Book 10: Last Exit for the Lost – Antony Johnston

W10This is another book of one-shots which is smart timing considering the epic events of the previous book. There are a couple of artists and so we have varying degrees of fidelity to the Wasteland style.

Almost a third of the book is single-page text only stories. These are the missives of a wanderer and serve as a sort of gazetteer to the wider details of the world that Johnson invests in.

You don’t need this volume but it ties up a couple of loose ends and pretty much guarantees an epilogue for every minor character to date.

A charming Thumbs Up!

Wasteland Book 9: A Thousand Lies – Antony Johnston

W09This is an excellent volume despite not featuring Michael and Abi. There is the mother of all showdowns at Newbegin which has some unexpected twists. The high page count means that you have plenty of time to build tension and sustain the drama. Rather than ending on a cliff-hanger everything is resolved and you are left stunned but sated.

The art is back to the original style and high standards of the early volumes. The action is very well depicted, as is the nudity, and plenty of full page panels bring a really epic feel. One of the best volumes yet.

Thumbs Up!

Wasteland Book 8: Lost in the Ozone – Antony Johnston

W06This is a return to form with the quest continuing and more progress being made. The little touches such as language and society are also reappearing as if Johnston has emerged from a creative doldrum.

It is a quick read with sparse dialogue that impressively disappears altogether at one point. The new artist Russel Roehling also takes us back to the original style with softer blacks and much more nuanced shading.

A good read that starts the home straight to the finish.

Thumbs Up!

Wasteland Book 7: Under the God – Antony Johnston

W07Now the religion, which has been bubbling away in the background, gets cranked up to ten. We see it from a sociological perspective embodied in an isolated community, a microcosm of all organised religion. And we toss words like Nephilim about. All this to a fanfare of Bible quotes. It’s a good plot but better now that we have Michael and Abi back – who appear to be captured by every settlement the come across on their journey.

The art is on form and some fight scenes allow a bit of frenetic composition in the panel structure. There is some good digital blurring at work too. But the wash of glossy black all over the place doesn’t match up to the soft greys that made such an impression in the early volumes.

Thumbs Up!

Wasteland Book 5: Tales of the Uninvited – Antony Johnston


Not content with marginalising the main story this volume abandons them all together in favour of four stand-alone tales.

These explore Artisan Skot, Newbegin, Sultan Ameer, and reveal the most pressing mystery, where did the boots with the missing laces come from! Michael is in two of the tales and the last one is superb slowly revealing a strong emotional core.

It seems strange to have these one-shots appear half way through the series and not save them till the end or include them as bonus features.

Jarringly some of the stories have different artists. Wasteland has a very distinctive art style and these guests stand out for the wrong reason. Which is a shame as their work is very good and they bring strong styles of their own.

The last tale, drawn by series regular Christopher Mitten, is in colour. It looks superb and as it is a flashback there is a strong argument this exception to the iconic black and white style is valid. It does leave you wondering what the whole series would have looked like in colour however.

One of the tales also uses a strange mix of prose, monographs and standard sequential art. This is the weakest of the stories and so this unconventional style doesn’t help.

Overall however definitely a Thumbs Up!

Wasteland Book 4: Dog Tribe – Antony Johnston


This is another volume where the two protagonists aren’t the main event. Although they do appear more in this book than the last.

This part concerns itself with nomadic tribes out in the wastelands. It’s a rich story with a very well realised and depicted culture based around the hunting dog. The whole work feels much like Judge Dredd’s Judge Child quest where the travels of the titular hero served merely as an introduction to independent stories.

The art is good and we see the return of the faded flashback. The new culture is well crafted with a strong Aboriginal look.

Thumbs Up!

Wasteland Book 3: Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos – Antony Johnston


Things are getting more epic as the stage switches to city-scale conflict. A mighty battle dominates this issue but never eclipses the politics or vivid characterisation. Our starting characters are absent for virtually the whole book but we don’t mind as there is so much more going on. The plot progresses rapidly and we are intrigued by new developments.

There is a lengthy opening told in Sand-Eater dialect. Whilst this is not too hard to follow it does outstay its welcome and would benefit from being shorter.

The art is excellent. There are no flashbacks here but interior and exterior are cleverly delineated using line thickness and greater shading. A great example of a strong but simple technique.

Definitely plenty to have you clamouring for more.

Thumbs Up!

Wasteland Book 2: Shades of God – Antony Johnston


The story continues with each plot or character receiving enough page-time to keep you intrigued. We learn more about the past and how this new world relates to our own. This might be a case of too much too soon depending on how new you want your new world to be.

We also learn more about our characters and Abi’s early life in particular through flashbacks. This constant flow of answers and new information means you aren’t getting lost or frustrated. Naturally it paves the way for bigger mysteries.

The flashbacks are told through digitally faded pages, a technique which is subtle but works much better than you think. The art is doing a lot of work with a few staple tools. In this case the less is definitely more.

If the series continues like this, and there is no reason it shouldn’t, this will be a must buy for every volume.

Thumbs Up!