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Crossed is what happens when Garth Ennis goes to his really bad place.
The original volume of Crossed, collected as Crossed: Volume One, (September 2008-February 2010) follows a small band of survivors in midwestern North America as they're attempting to escape to Alaska, while staying one step ahead of a band of the eponymous infected humans. Once a human becomes Crossed, they get a distinctive facial rash across their forehead and face. Oh, and a desire to murder, rape, set aflame, desecrate and rape again anyone they come across, in a manner similar to Reavers.
Crossed is largely devoid of Ennis's trademark black humor, and is one of the most stunningly unpleasant comic books ever written. Rest assured, this is a book that will prove an endurance test to most readers; even fans of works like The Boys will find something they wish they could unsee.
Following the success and near-instant optioning of the original series, Avatar Press has opted to turn Crossed into a franchise. A second series, the seven-issue Family Values, started up in April of 2010, written by David Lapham. It focuses on a large family of survivors in the American South, led by their religious patriarch. Things don't go well.
A third series, Psychopath, started in February 2011, once again written by Lapham. It centers around a group of survivors who pick up Harold, an unhinged man who begins manipulating the group for his own (psychotic) ends. Psychopath is unhinged and grotesque even by the standards of the previous volumes. Seriously, if you didn't think the last couple of books were a big deal, this might be the one that breaks you.
Lapham's final Crossed work, as of this writing, is the Crossed 3D one-shot, published in May of 2011. In it, a group of survivors attempts to rescue a doctor and her two assistants from the top floor of a skyscraper that's surrounded by the Crossed.
The fourth series, Badlands, started in February 2012, as a bi-monthly ongoing with different writers and artists scheduled for every arc. The first arc was written by Garth Ennis, and the second written by Jamie Delano (Hellblazer). A weekly webcomic, Wish You Were Here, written by Si Spurrier, was launched at the same time.
Crossed shows examples of the following tropes:
- Action Mom: Cindy
- Anachronic Order: The narrative jumps around from "now" to ten months earlier when the infection was beginning. It takes a read or two to grasp this.
- Apocalypse How: Class 2, with 3 being highly probable; almost all of humanity has turned into the Crossed, and the remaining humans are hunted down by them.
- Deconstruction: The purpose of the series-according to Ennis-was to deconstruct the typical Zombie Apocalypse story by showing just how bad things would be for the survivors. He could've done this without making the zombies rapists of course, but oh well.
- Bolivian Army Ending: The first Badlands arc ends with the last survivor, having been splashed with infected blood, about to blow himself up with a grenade with the Crossed right behind him.
- Determinator: The cast of the first volume walk from Kansas to Alaska, pursued all the way. The Crossed will also go to absurd lengths if they see something they want to abuse.
- Brick Joke: Potentially. The cover of the first issue features Crossed tossing people of an airplane. In the second issue, we see what landing would look like.
- Downer Ending: One of the hallmarks of the series so far. When one of the taglines of the series is "There Is No Hope," what do you expect?
- At the end of Volume One, everyone but Cindy, Stan, and their dog is dead. Although the last survivors go down fighting hard, they do go down. The trio who wind up dying are also the three most sympathetic characters in the entire damned story.
- Family Values ends much the same way, with only Addy, three of her siblings, and a baby surviving.
- Psychopath ends with Amanda running off into the night with a bleeding arm stump, her fate uncertain, and Harold rededicated to his quest to "bring Lori back" by infecting another survivor.
- Badlands's first arc ends with everybody dead or infected.
- Follow the Leader: Intentional or not, "Crossed" shares enough similarities with Warren Ellis's Black Gas to raise an eyebrow or two.
- Gorn: Those murders and rapes mentioned above? All drawn in loving detail.
- Grievous Harm With A HORSECOCK!
- Hate Plague: The Crossed have absolutely no inhibitions and a cruel intelligence. When there aren't uninfected to hunt, they turn on each other.
- Heel Realization: Harold has somewhat lucid moments throughout Psychopath where he realizes what a monster he really is, they don't last long, unfortunately.
- He Who Fights Monsters: A recurring theme. In order to survive the plague, the uninfected are often pushed to extremes themselves.
- Hope Spot: Despite how bad things are in the series, they always give a tiny, tiny ray of hope for the survivors.
- Infant Immortality: Let's put it this way: the cover for one issue has the Crossed putting kids on a playground slide. At the bottom of the playground slide is a wood chipper.
- Insane Troll Logic: Harold believes that the Crossed virus absorbs and locks away the good part, the soul, of a person, leaving only evil impulses behind. By this logic be believes that if he feeds the infected flesh of his dead stalker crush to Amanda (whom he believes is a pure and untainted innocent) the virus will have no evil to absorb and will release Lori's soul into Amanda's body, allowing Lori to be reborn. Luckily he never gets to test the theory.
- Kill'Em All: Don't expect any more then a handful of the characters to survive.
- Badlands's first arc is the first to completely kill off or infect its cast.
- Mama Bear: Just about everything Cindy does in the first series is to protect her son Patrick, including shooting a cop without any hesitation whatsoever.
- Mood Whiplash: Issue four opens with a discussion about the ramifications of shooting the dog. And then... HORSECOCK!.
- Nuclear Physics Goof: The prologue of Volume One ends with a mushroom cloud in the distance, and Stan stating that he later found out that someone pulled the control rods out of Wolf Creek power station. Nuclear power plants do not malfunction that way; the two worst nuclear disasters in human history, Chernobyl and Fukushima-Daiichi, resulted in fires and explosions that spread radiation, but nothing on the order of a full-scale atomic bomb-style explosion.
- It's Stan's theory on what happened. He knows it happened at the Wolf Creek reactor, but isn't sure what caused the explosion, and one of the ongoing themes of Volume One is that Stan is a whole lot dumber than he used to think he was.
- Painting the Fourth Wall: All Crossed talk in a red, jagged font. One poor bastard develops the font before developing the rash.
- Parental Incest: Joseph Pratt.
- Sequel Escalation: Each series in the universe, from the Ennis original to Family Values to Psychopath, tries its damned hardest to be more shocking, gorny and full of Dead Baby Comedy than the one that came before it.
- Serial Killer: Geoff, in the Jeffrey Dahmer vein.
- Shown Their Work: In Crossed #2, a survivor mentions what's happened to Texas and New York in the months since the Crossed showed up. Both are realistic depictions of what would probably happen following the abandonment of either state; Texas's oil refineries eventually overloaded and exploded, and New York City flooded without the continuous pumping of its subways.
- Shoot the Dog: Cindy and Stan kill a group of kindergarteners whose guardian they had accidentally killed in order to keep traveling with minimal impediment.
- While still bad, it's not quite as bad as it sounds. With resources stretched thin, the guardian in question had been teaching the children to live off whatever they could find. Specifically, other survivors. Given the choice between having to stretch their own thin supplies to account for a dozen cannibalistic five-year-olds or shooting a bunch of children, Cindy went for option B.
- Slasher Smile: This is the only expression the Crossed seem to have.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: This series makes its home on the cynical end of the scale.
- Take That: A given, as this is Garth Ennis we're talking about. It seems to be aimed at armchair survivalists who believe themselves prepared for such an occurrence as a zombie outbreak.
- The Virus: The Crossed transmit the virus via fluids, as mentioned above. There's been no hint at the origin/cause of said virus, however.
- Throwaway Country: most of the Middle East is mentioned as having gotten nuked.
- Trauma Conga Line: Any hope that any particular character has for a happy ending gets gutted and raped, In That Order.
- Weaksauce Weakness: A gentleman in the second issue believes that the Crossed have become deathly allergic to table salt as a result of their infection. Boy, is he wrong.
- Alternatively, he was right, but overestimated the weakness. He had seen a violent reaction to physical contact with salt...and thus concluded that putting an easily reached-across thin ring of salt around himself, his wife, and his child would keep them safe.
- Wham! Line: "Mommy, YOU FUCKING CUNT!"
- Wrong Genre Savvy: As mentioned in Take That, plenty of people in the series think they know how to survive a Zombie Apocalypse. They're proven wrong in the most horrific ways possible.
- Zombie Apocalypse: When the series starts, 99% of the planet is Crossed.
- Zombie Infectee: Generally not a problem, as becoming Crossed happens in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. However, getting shot with a bullet soaked in Crossed blood... or other fluids gives the infection enough time to creep up on one.