I was really looking forward to the return of Ennis to Crossed after suffering through one of David Lapham's juvenile attempts at the series. Just so you know, which I did not until I was flipping through the book for the first time, only first three of the nine issues in this volume are by Garth Ennis, the rest are by Jamie Delano. I knew Delano was writing some of the issues but I did not realize that the split would be so uneven.
Crossed: Badlands (5 Stars):
I have always had a problem with horror comics, well except for Moore's Swamp Thing of course, no matter how scary the writing is when it's being told though drawings it loses the scare factor. So how does a talented writer write a scary comic? Well first he or she pairs up with an equally talented artist. Then they put you smack dab in the middle of the story by transferring parts of your consciousness into each of the characters. Now, just like them, you are suddenly faced with impossible situations and even more impossible choices. Ah yes, impossible choices - to me those are the true elements of horror.
Ennis writes and Burrows draws an amazing story in just three issues. We follow a band of survivors in the Scottish Highlands trying to stay ahead of a pack of Crossed. Right from the start we get a nice little back story of the narrator but most importantly as the story progresses, we get to know what kind of man he is or rather what kind of man he thinks he is and that in turn helps us understand the choices he makes. The back story of the other characters are told through him as they trek along the hilly terrain and by the time he is done you start to think of them as real people with real lives, possessing real vulnerabilities and strengths.
The dialogue is witty, funny and realistic - as you would expect. Sure, Crossed like violence and mayhem are there but Ennis backs them up with a coherent and caring story. When the last few pages came rolling by I found myself trying to catch my breath from the heaviness of my feet as I tried to lift them out of the dense snow while reaching for that sunken rifle and clutching the last orb of grenade, selfishly hidden from the rest, throbbing in my hands.
Whew. It ends...and leaves you with an inexplicably sweet dread and a chillingly satisfying haunt.
Crossed: Homo Superior (1 Star):
Does Delano really deserve 1 star? I think so, because (a) he follows Ennis into the same book (b) he is a very decent writer as evident from his Hellblazer run, which I am currently reading. Despite the long-winded narrations, Delano weaves a series of intricate and often intriguing tales in Hellblazer, where the characters and their motivations feel real and...what's that nice word for describing the opposite of pointless?
Crossed: Homo Superior has none of the qualities of Hellblazer. It's utterly pointless - this story taking place in the Everglades had no reason to be told. Honestly, I felt like I was reading Lapham's Crossed: Family Values with slightly better art. The characters are numbingly one-dimensional, extremely stereotypical and hellishly annoying. Delano wrote a bad story, true, but his greater sin was to create characters with whom no one could relate or empathize, let alone love. I just did not care what happened to them as the story progressed. I got annoyed when the tough girl kept calling everyone "dog" or when the twins kept taking off their shirts for no apparent reason. I yawned when the Crossed got to some of them and whatever followed. At the end I kept flipping the pages and now I don't even remember how it ended. It was bad, guys, seriously.
Just to touch quickly on the art. It seemed like the artist for Crossed: Family Values, after hearing what people said about his atrocious work, took a few weeks of art lessons and started working on Crossed: Homo Superior. Sure his art got a little better but he still has a problem with proportions. They are two different people, by the way. I just don't remember their names.
I have already gotten rid of the book. I just couldn't bear to put it on my shelf even to keep the first three issues. I will try to find them in single issue format but I doubt there are any left now. Maybe I will buy it again and glue the pages of issues 4 - 9 together.