Saturday, October 11, 2008

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

So read the sign outside of hell when good ol' Dante approached, and it should also be plastered in bold print on the cover of the must read comic book of 2008: Crossed.

Let's break it down nice and simple: Crossed is the most brutal and horrifying book I've ever had in my mitts. Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows have created a world gone mad, and utterly chilling in it's proximity to the world we already live in.

Ennis isn't re-inventing the wheel here. Walking Dead has already trodden this ground, and I would think the film 28 Days Later is an even closer cousin. Where Crossed sets itself apart is in the unflinching nature of its execution. This is Walking Dead with the governor off. This is 28 Days Later with more pathos. And it hurts to read. It's that good.

Crossed tells the story of a global level apocalypse. Significant portions of the population have mysteriously transformed into "The Crossed"; enraged, homicidal barely-humans who seek nothing other than the maim and torture of everything they once were.

They are called The Crossed because of the tell-tale "criss-cross" scarring that appears on the faces of the infected. While issue # 1 makes no explicit polemic against religion, it isn't hard to see it there. Crossed turns the entire planet into Denmark after Muhammed was depicted in an editorial cartoon. The zealots are out for blood, and they mean to have it.

The dialogue feels spot-on and the characters act as we would expect them to; depressed, angry, paranoid. The group is searching for hope, searching for answers. One character (who looks amusingly similar to John Byrne now that I think about it) hypothesizes that salt is a kind of kryptonite for The Crossed. The discussion the group engages in on that subject feels real, the emotions feel pure. That hypothesis gets tested in the first issue- read it to find out if John Byrne was right.

Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight raised similar issues about the state of mankind and the viability of nihilism. Nolan answered the challenge with hope. The Joker was wrong. Crossed appears to be heading in a different direction. Abandon hope all ye who enter here - but for God's sake don't miss it.

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