Comic Book Review - Crossed #0


Up for review - Crossed #0

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Jacen Burrows

First off, let me make it clear that Crossed #0 is not a preview book. This does not contain concept art or teaser images, this is the first part of the story, consider it the first 10 minutes of a movie if you will. The #0 is something that Avatar Press have been trying out on a few series recently. The idea is that you get the first 11 pages of the story for only $1. These 11 pages will not appear in the #1 issue of the series.

If you have clicked the above link to read the blurb on the title you will have gleaned that this is a horror story, involving the end of civilization. It’s a relatively common theme in horror, and is the basis for countless zombie movies. This is not a zombie tale though, this is something quite different.

The story opens with a narrator talking about the past, about the days before the big disaster. We are then introduced to our narrator, who is a drifter, with a mysterious past, who likes to keep to himself. He is sitting in a diner one Sunday night, when a man wanders in, and drops what seems to be someone’s spine and ribcage onto the counter. The man is covered in blood, has an insane grin, and his face shows the first signs of the burned flesh facial markings we can see on the cover image. People don’t take the man seriously, thinking he is in fancy dress, until he bites the diner owners nose off. Things then start to go down hill very rapidly, as more of these insane grinning people turn up and start causing chaos. The people that have been bitten also seem to become insane, and begin attacking more people. At the close of the prologue, we see a jumbo jet falling out of the sky as the pilots have gone insane with the ‘Crossed’ infection, and suddenly everything goes white, as the nearby Nuclear facility explodes. The narrator tells us that he later found out that the facility workers had become ‘Crossed’, and decided to pull out the control rods, beginning a Nuclear chain reaction. So begins the end of the world, and the start of our story. We are left with our narrator, and a small group of survivors, who we can assume are the protagonists of this story.

It is a real whirlwind of an issue. Garth Ennis has an excellent sense of pacing here, and manages to give you just enough in 11 pages to keep you hooked, but leaves out just enough to leave you wanting more. You might be assuming that this is a zombie series. Indeed, it has several of the hallmarks of the genre, with the post-apocalyptic setting, and the infection though biting. This is quite different though, the infected, or ‘Crossed’ are not your average stumbling drooling zombies you can just run around and avoid, they are very much alive. The ‘Crossed’, seem to have the same mental capacity as humans, but they are completely insane, with a taste for destruction, violence, and murder. With zombie movies it is always a temptation to compare back to George A. Romero’s Dead movies. If I were to compare this story to any previous work, it would have to be the little known George A. Romero film, The Crazies. I’m not saying that Ennis has ripped him off here, but if you are currently trying to think of an original horror concept, don’t bother, Romero has probably already done it In The Crazies, a town of people are infected by an experimental military gas (or insert dodgy reason here), and go on a rampage: burning down houses, murdering people, and there is even a violent incestuous rape scene (remember that this was in the 1970s).

The Crossed looks set to be a really great series. It seems that the only good horror stories are told in comics nowadays. All the new Hollywood horror movies are just shock filled slasher films, with little or no substance. This is the sort of story that you would see from George A. Romero or Dario Argento. Absolutely brilliant!

Enough about the story, what about the art? The art for the issue is supplied by Jacen Burrows. This is his third collaboration with Garth Ennis, with their previous titles being Chronicles of Wormwood, and 303. He has also worked extensively on titles with Warren Ellis and Alan Moore. His artwork here is absolutely perfect. He has the ability to do extreme gore, but at the same time seems to be a master at conveying human emotion. Which I think will be very important in this title. His art gives the faces of the Crossed a really creepy feeling, most likely imparted by the insane grins he draws on them. The artwork for the last page is a view over the small town where the tale opens. We see fires starting all over the town, cars stopped, people coming out of their homes, and in the background we can see a rising mushroom cloud from the town’s Nuclear facility. The scene is amazing, the juxtaposition of this small peaceful town, and these acts of violence and destruction is very eerie. If you look very closely, right at the bottom edge of the image, you can see one of the infected having sex with a corpse - Yep, Garth Ennis is definitely writing this!!

So, if you haven’t bought this yet you either don’t like horror, don’t like Garth Ennis, or you think that there is nothing to see in a #0 issue. I can’t help you with the first two, but I can assure you there is a lot to see here. Warren Ellis has reported on his mailing list that many people did not pick up the #0 issue of his new Avatar series, No Hero, for this exact reason, and has told people that is essential to the story. I know that several smaller comic stores won’t take the risk of stocking titles by smaller publishers like Avatar, Dynamite, IDW etc. But if your store is any good they will order this title in for you, because it doesn’t cost them any extra money. If they still refuse to do this, tear the owner’s nose of with your teeth, then come home and buy it online directly from Avatar’s store. They have a really good online store, and you can even order single issues for series that came out from them a few years ago. Good stuff!

Grade: 10 out of 10

Best line: “But when Jim fit a stubby erection in the wound he’d widened with the butcher knife, I was no less useful than before.”

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