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Put your left foot in... | Pull your left foot out...

Disingenuous disclaimer.

About a week ago I finished the trade paperback collecting the first comic book limited series of Crossed, published by Avatar Press, written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Jacen Burrows; this was another inter-library loan.

Crossed is yet another sort-of zombie tale, in the mode of Stephen King's Cell, the movie 28 Days Later, James Herbert's The Fog, etc.: an infection (whether caused by a virus, bacillus, TSE, spore, spirochete, etc., is never made clear; also never revealed is the provenance of the infection, but it was presumably cooked up in some biological weapons lab somewhere; precisely how and why it was released -- whether by accident or on purpose -- is likewise unrevealed) that causes humans to rapidly develop a livid, cross-shaped rash on their faces and a total unleashing of their ids, prompting them to engage in horrific acts of sex and violence (not infrequently at the same time; one panel memorably shows an infected man humping another man's severed leg) with absolutely no thought of self-preservation. (Indeed, occasionally one of the Crossed will gleefully allow himself to be dismembered, bludgeoned, and sodomized into non-existence when the party of Crossed that he's with are unable to find normal humans to abuse unto destruction.) The infection is spread by bodily fluids, which means being bitten or raped by one of the Crossed will turn you into one of them, assuming that you survive the experience. One group of Crossed is shown putting a bunch of bullets into a pail and jacking off over them; anybody shot by one of these bullets who isn't killed outright soon turns into a Crossed.

Because it was written by Garth Ennis, a writer whose work I've come to respect, sometimes in spite of myself, Crossed was engaging despite the rather stiff and pedestrian artwork by Jacen Burrows (his work reminded me of a less talented Sal Buscema; then again, he's a fairly young artist, so hopefully he'll improve) and its rather tiresome tropes (an intelligent, apparently creative type -- but not a fanboy/geek/nerd/otaku, as is made painfully apparent in the second issue and the fate of the Magic-playing Joel and his family -- named Stan is the main character; there's a terse, ultra-competent, single mother named Cindy who essentially functions as the Batman of the story, threatening members of her party with expulsion or worse if they dare to swear in front of her young son, à la the middle-aged Batman's chiding of his new, female Robin in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns [while I could almost buy the fact that she acquired an amazing competence with firearms and wilderness survival techniques without ever having served in the military, I could not accept that she pulled her hair back when the Crossed rampaged into town, but kept it down and totally uncovered during her day job as a waitress]; the token gay guy whose sexuality is mentioned only to be forgotten by one and all, thereby proving their basic decency, rather as King did in Cell; the "How smart are they??" mystery when some of the more rugged Crossed prove a bit more resourceful and competent than the normal humans would like; the U.S. military murdering groups of nuclear physicists and engineers after they've permanently disabled a few nuclear power plants; etc.).

Because of my (hopefully!) unreasonably dour, dark, and depressive view of humanity, I am prone to wallow in a story's indulging in acid and bleak musings on the human condition, if said story is even semi-competently executed, even as I curse myself for this predilection and the writers/artists/filmmakers for their over-reliance on tropes and faith in their audience's lack of critical acumen and vicarious bloodthirstiness. That said, at this point, I've no desire to read any of the mini-series and one-shots that followed the original ten-issue Crossed series, most of which were not written by Ennis. That may change, but I suspect that, story- and talent-wise, it's all downhill from here.

There is one thing about the first Crossed trade paperback that amazed, amused and irritated me in almost equal measure:

On the publication information page, along with the copyright information, there is a disclaimer of jaw-dropping mendacity and stupidity; it reads: "All characters as depicted in this story are over the age of 16."

This disclaimer is mendacious and stupid because....

...the only thing that makes Cindy semi-respect Stan is the fact that he is the only person in their party who helps her murder, at the end of #4, the group of ex-kindergarteners who were trained by their teacher in trapping, killing, butchering and eating any normal people who happened along, owing to the fact that the city they're living in had already been picked clean of comestibles. (The party inadvertently fatally injured the teacher in the course of defending themselves from her attack; she told them how she and her remaining charges had managed to eke out an existence before she succumbed to her wounds.) While these kids are described as "eight-year-olds" in a dialogue balloon, it's not clear how much time had passed since the outbreak; I don't think it was quite two years, but whatever.

Cindy kept her son well away from these kids once she found out how they'd been surviving; she didn't want her son to become like they were. And when, in #8, her son becomes Crossed, she kills him without a thought -- euthanasia for both their sakes -- significantly, after he
says, "MOMMY, YOU FUCKING CUNT" to her. No way in hell was this kid even ten years old.

Oh, and Joel? Disposed of, alongside his wife and kid, at the end of #2, in a way that is sure to cause any self-respecting fanboy/geek/nerd/otaku to pause and reflect, if even only for a few seconds? His daughter, Arwen, is shown being held aloft and dismembered by the Crossed, in a two-paged spread that also sees Joel being sodomized by a Crossed (who is also fondling Joel's entrails) next to his wife Amy, who is roundly cursing him for foolishly applying fantasy-world reasoning to this "real world" situation.

Arwen is roughly of an age with Cindy's son. Meaning that she, like him, is well under sixteen years of age.

I'm not sure if Avatar Press ran into trouble with some comic book dealers and/or bookstore owners, and slapped the disclaimer on as an utterly untruthful Band-Aid, or if they were anticipating trouble, and lied about the content in an attempt to placate any Mrs. Grundys. But for Avatar Press to claim that all of the characters in the first Crossed limited series are over 16 is as disingenuous as Stephen King claiming that his novel It did not conclude with CHILDREN! having sex with CHILDREN! (Still not sure how King managed to escape flak from that; maybe because so few Mrs. Grundy types actually bothered to finish reading It..?)


The supreme space lord who will now DEST
The Feckless Wonder

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