What on Infinite Earths is: Crossed
Crossed is the Zombie Post-Apocalypse that shows you just how bad it could be. It is what happens when you take Garth Ennis and give him free reign to write the most vile things that he can think of. Garth Ennis who at his most light-hearted and jovial produces comics like The Boys where superheroes are corporate owned omnisexual rapists with delusions of world domination and Preacher where God is an egomaniac who created all of reality and made it as terrible as possible so that he could extract the greatest joy from the people that chose to praise him. Crossed is not a nice book. The zombies or “infected” of Crossed have all of their aggression, sadism and dark urges turned up to maximum without losing a single drop of intelligence. So while they behave like zombies in the sense that they will relentlessly hunt and massacre anyone that is not infected, they do so with weapons and cunning while unleashing a constant, sickening barrage of racist, misogynistic and frankly bizarre threats and insults.
While Ennis' other work is dark, it always has moments of gallows humour to break up the grim monotony. The violence is often overblown to comical levels, characters respond with laughter to ridiculous situations and even the truly awful things always have an element of good humour. That is not the case with Crossed. This comic is relentlessly unhappy, with the few survivors of the global outbreak genuinely questioning if it is worth the continuing struggle to stay alive in such an awful world. The time in between contact with the Crossed is spent in constant toil and a state of terror at discovery. When the Crossed do find the uninfected it is immediately apparent why they are so dreaded. Rape, torture, cannibalism and much worse fates befall anyone that the Crossed lay hands on. If a zombie apocalypse is no longer frightening to you, consider how much worse it could be, go to the furthest extreme of how bad things could get and then you will find the Crossed.
The story arc of the first collection follows a group of survivors as they travel north to Alaska where they believe that the Crossed will most likely have died off without the sense to wear clothing, trying to evade attention and find some safe place to settle for a brief respite along the way. Interspersed with that story are flashbacks to early days of the infection, where we get to see the cast of characters drawn together
Their numbers dwindle day by day, the characters that you think would be a liability in a survivalist situation outlast many who are able bodied and fully grown but in the end all of them are destroyed. There are a few people from that initial group still moving around by the end of the story, uninfected and human, but the constant barrage of misery, pain and loss has worn them down to being almost unrecognisable. The ties that bound them to their character, their history, their family, their beliefs and their fears, all ground away to nothing.
Crossed is less of a story to be enjoyed and more an experience to be endured. There is no joy or fun to be found here except for sadists and even then the sharp flashes of torture and excitement and ground down quickly by the ceaseless misery. It goes beyond horror and into the dark expanse on the other side. It is a fascinating piece of fiction, but it is probably not something that you will find yourself re-reading willingly.