Spiderman It Is Not...
Take 28 Days Later, The Walking Dead and The Road, add even more violence, sick humour and nastiness and you’ve got ‘Crossed’ - as superbly horrible as comic books get.
The squeamish should stop reading here. Still with us? OK
Even in a community as inured to ultra-violence and OTT imagery as the comic book fraternity, the zombie-esque series of books collectively known as ‘Crossed’ is generally accepted to have taken the prize as the most extreme yet. It’s set in the oft-depicted post-apocalyptic America, where a plague has turned all but a few citizens into blood-hungry, un-dead creatures. As elsewhere in the genre, the ‘Crossed’ (so called because they have a cross-shaped rash on their faces) seek out uninfected humans to attack; the crucial differentiator with the zombies here is that they are, without doubt, the evilest, sickest and most deranged baddies ever to grace page, screen or even the mind.
The Crossed are not the usual brain-eating, unthinking zombies, these are intelligent and organised. They work together to hunt the uninfected and when they find them they carry out every kind of unimaginable act possible. There actions include (but are certainly not limited to) rape, decapitation, crucifixion, disembowelling, immolation and many other equally brutal but more imaginative forms of torture – the character known as ‘Horsecock’, for example, got his name because he beats people to death with (you’ve guessed it) a horse’s cock. The source of the infection is never revealed but it seems its affect is to force the infected to enact without hesitation or remorse the most depraved thoughts imaginable. They even appear to take an orgasmic delight when they themselves are being hurt, which is even more unsettling.
‘Why the hell are you telling us all this’, I hear you say ‘it just sounds horrible’. Well, it is. It’s also brilliant. The first volume (now available from Titan Books) is grimly hilarious, tightly paced, strangely humane and an unexpectedly gripping read. Author Garth Ennis extends the kind of black humour he perfected with his previous effort ‘The Boys’ and ties it to an affecting tale involving a band of survivors trying to escape cross-country to Alaska. The drawings by Jacen Burrows are viscerally and horrific but (and this is quite a trick) are never quite as graphic as the actions they are depicting - your mind has to fill in a few blanks.
There is talk of Crossed becoming a movie but it’s hard to see how it can translate easily to the screen; surely there isn’t a film classification board on the planet that would let the acts depicted in the comics anywhere near a cinema screen? If you like 28 Days Later or the Walking Dead or even games like Modern Warfare then you should try Crossed before Hollywood dilutes its undeniable power to shock. Conversely, if you don’t like horrible, deeply unpleasant but brilliantly funny comic books, simply stay well away.