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Demonic Ted Nugent Meth-heads with Guns
Crossed by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows
© 2013 James LaFond
I train with a young man who works in comic book promotions. When I told him that I had difficulty comprehending, let alone enjoying, the classic Watchmen graphic novel, he knew exactly what I was trying to inadequately articulate; had apparently diagnosed this multi-media adverse dissonance of the mind’s eye in the past. It is not the stories in comics that I have had trouble with, but the media. I have a hard time following the narrative and dialogue in comics, patchy as it is, and I do not seem to have that ability, so common in others, to fill in the gaps with the illustrations they are superimposed on.
Generally reading comics gives me a headache, not due to the content, but as a result of the visual acrobatics required. I suppose I would be a complete illiterate in a pictographic society. Then, like a doctor diagnosing a cognitive illness, my young friend wrote a prescription for about a dozen comics he thought I would be able to ‘get through’. I supposed this to mean that I was now in Graphic Novel Special Education 101. The pile of perfect bound steroid banging versions of comics, now called graphic novels, sit to my left, awaiting my review.
Welcome to my post retirement adolescence.
Crossed
Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows
2010, Avatar Press, Rantoul, IL
The quality of the art is impressive: the still pedestrian dialogue scenes as well as the gruesome action and retrospectives. The story is set in the aftermath of a demonic possession plague, in which nukes are let loose. The demonically possessed are burned with a cross from the forehead and down the nose to the mouth and across the cheeks below the eyes. If you have seen The Walking Dead, this is The Walking Dead on Crack! The story begins with a retrospective about where the core group of survivors began their survivalist trek, in a small town diner in what looks like the Midwest.
The demonically possessed don’t just want to eat you. This aspect makes for a horrific undertone. But, apparently a fan of gore for gore’s sake, the author makes it the overtone. Unthinkable levels of violence that humans or zombies would not engage in are regularly engaged in by the demonically possessed. An urge to fully saturate the story with grotesqueries manifests itself in one very unrealistic way: traumatized survivors dwelling on grotesqueries instead of suppressing them. While the human half of the story is often touchingly and realistically done, the bulk of it is essentially pornographic. The level of profanity is nauseating. There are some very interesting and compelling characters, like Kelly the blind Asian chick, Stan the empathetic reluctant leader, and Joel the crack-pot sci-fi fan. But they are all submerged in the sea of gore.
There is a pornographic disclaimer on the copyright page and the content is described as ‘extreme horror’. So obviously there is a strong and identifiable market for this material. Honestly, the entire thing reminds me of the Northern Renaissance art by Bosch and others made during the early witch-hunt crazes in Europe. I’m thinking that maybe we have a parallel phenomena here. The U.S. has certainly devolved into a witch-hunt society on all fronts from sports to politics, to law and literature. I hope that is the message behind all of the gratuitous pornographic violence in Crossed. It would be pointlessly disgusting if it were all just terrible fun.
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Erique Watson     Aug 2, 2013

Great literary dissection of a graphic novel that seems to get off on literal, graphic dissection! Explains why I can only manage to read Crossed about once a year and then immediately shelve it.
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