Crossed is a graphic novel written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Jacen Burrows, and published via Avatar Press. The story is set in a world where suddenly there are people who “stop being nice, and start being real.” Unfortunately, “real” in this scenario is bloodthirsty, rape-crazy, and straight up ultra-violent.
“Crossed” is how the infected in this universe are described because they develop a cross-like rash across their faces. The rash isn’t an issue. What is and issue is that fact that the infected, unlike other apocalyptic infected, want to rape you to death and mutilate you and destroy you as slowly and horrifically as possible. Because that’s fun now, and okay, because no one can or will stop them. Don’t get me wrong, the Crossed can and do feel pain — but they love it and it won’t slow them down. So, either kill them dead or don’t get caught.
One of the main themes in Crossed was not getting caught. Our protagonists pushed on and on in a constant effort to not get caught by the Crossed until eventually they realized that there are some serious flaws in a plan to live just so you won’t die.
anninyn and I both read volume one recently and needed to discuss it. So we did. Together. In detail. With spoilers, and swears, and graphic descriptions, and even some spoilers for the movie Serenity (which, if you haven’t seen you need to; so, go fix that ASAP).
Below is our discussion and we hope you join in on it if you’ve read the book too.
tavia: I loved the shit out of it
anninyn: FOR SERIOUS. I mean, Wow.
tavia: Horsecock was and amazing villain
anninyn: Jos wants to dress up as Horsecock
anninyn: I was like ‘nooo.’ WIFE VETO
tavia: Yeah, it’s decidedly not sexy.
anninyn: I really loved the juxtaposition of the Crossed monsters and the human monsters. You don’t need to be infected to be a monster, I thought that was brilliant
anninyn: Especially the sweet old man who was a serial killer.
tavia: And at the end when they point out that all these terrible things that the Crossed do are really nothing new. They’re talking about how they’re getting smarter and organized and how tracking is something regular people can do. But you can’t help but realize that all the rape and murder and terrorizing happens every day.
anninyn: And the willingness to kill they all had towards the end. You can’t help but realise that in some countries this stuff is happening RIGHT NOW.
tavia: Yeah by the end they were almost just alive for the sake of it
anninyn: And we just sit in our comfy homes and shake our heads and go ‘isn’t that sad.’ But some people genuinely live with that level of fear constantly
tavia: And in some places there really are roving rape gangs who live to destroy people because they enjoy the power the fear and the mess of it.
anninyn: And it wasn’t an infection that made them that way, it was just life.
anninyn: It also made me think about what me and Jos would be capable of, in that sort of situation, with all those barriers gone.
tavia: Yeah, fucking people scare me more than any monsters.
anninyn: I mean, what I’d be willing to do just to survive is probably pretty terrifying
tavia: I don’t watch the news because it’s just horrifying
anninyn: I’ve put a lot of thought into it and have realised that in some cases the only thing that stops me killing people is the social ostracism and the prison sentence
anninyn: Yeah. But, I think we all have that inner darkness. I’ve thought and fantasized about things too disgusting to discuss.
tavia: I could totally relate with shooting Brett for kicking the dog. It wasn’t right, but it was okay — but it shouldn’t have been okay. This is what he realized after, that there was something changed in him that shouldn’t be okay with killing a man for kicking a dog
anninyn: I shocked myself for laughing when he killed Brett. I found it morally justified, because Brett was such a dick. This really made me think about my moral code.
tavia: Yup. I was like, “Good. He was a dick.” but then he goes on about how that’s not okay and I felt bad. I was like a little kid being taught morals
anninyn: It’s Ok to kill someone for kicking a dog and being a bit of a dick now? It’s not OK, and it shouldn’t be OK.
anninyn: Although, I had to laugh because Brett was LITERALLY given two Kick the Dog moments. I have to say that helped the emotional trauma I was feeling.
tavia: I couldn’t relate as much to the mother’s need to mourn, but I see why it was healthier for her than just pushing on
anninyn: On the mother needing to grieve, I didn’t connect so much- But I wonder if that’s because I’m not a mother yet. I understand the proper mourning as a symbol of retaining humanity, though
tavia: And it was like her son fell in the river and then never came back. Because the thing that returned she didn’t acknowledge as him, only sick and killing him was mercy but just another monster that needed to be destroyed.
anninyn: Yep. I would have killed him too – but by that point she was so broken she couldn’t even see them as human.
Which I think was the worst thing about Crossed in its entirety. These weren’t zombies. They weren’t mindless, unthinking things. They were still human. They had emotions, they had semi-rational thought, they could plan – these were people. Just really fucked up.
tavia: They we just people with no social boundaries. Which was the fantastic thing about Glen (?) He was the same kind of monster, but in private.
anninyn: No social or mental boundaries
anninyn: don’t forget the Crossed getting off on their own destruction. Which is an interesting examination on the human tendency to court self-destruction, if you think about it
tavia: He was pretty much Crossed but with the down side of feeling shame
tavia: And “learning” to infect people—and again, it’s terrible that ALL these things have happened IRL.
anninyn: I can’t think of a single thing shown in the book that un-infected humans haven’t done of their own free will at some point on human history.
tavia: People try to infect other with AIDS
anninyn: And other diseases.
anninyn: You know if it was possible to deliberately give people some of the worst illnesses on the planet, someone would have done it.
And if you want to see a world distressingly like the one pictured in Crossed you just need to Google Image Search any modern or historical atrocity
I was 14 when we studied the Vietnam War in school. I cried when I saw some of those pictures.
I think I went numb for a week.
tavia: Current day in parts ofAfrica are about equivalent.
anninyn: And in the West we deal with it by just not thinking about it. It doesn’t seem like there’s much we can do, so we just try not to think about it.
After reading Crossed I spent three days unable to think of anything else, so that’s its main triumph, I think.
anninyn: The unrestrained, almost campy joy the Crossed felt was terrifying. It was only by removing everything that makes humanity ‘good’ that made them able to be 100% happy.and parading through the country having the time of their lives. And the people were scurrying and scared, and starving and hoping to find some place to exist quietly.
tavia: I actually felt good after reading it. I felt bad and good. But I felt good about the idea that we’re not only good because we’re supposed to be. Sometimes we have the choice and we can be good because we want to be.
anninyn: Yes. I did like that it was made clear that personal choice affects things as well. Thomas was infected towards the end but held it off long enough to kill himself and his friend.
tavia: Yeah. He did the right thing –for both of them. Though, I did picture him trying to hurt her on the way down.
anninyn: You could almost see the effort required for him to hold it off.
‘It’s like VENOM but you just want MORE.’
And ultimately our MC and the woman made the choice to remain as human as possible by burying the dead. Ultimately it was a story about choice, I thought.
anninyn: How we can make the choice to do the right thing, even when it will kill us. And how hard it is to make that choice.
tavia: They decided not to push on and leave their humanity behind them and it saved them.
anninyn: Like the teacher chose to feed the kids human meat
tavia: I was so torn!
anninyn: Like, I would probably do the same.
tavia: Yeah, she wasn’t right but she wasn’t WRONG.
anninyn: But that’s a situation where what seems to be the ‘right’ thing according to your heart is utterly appalling.
tavia: but she was wrong, but…
anninyn: It wasn’t black and white
tavia: It was live or die (slowly) thing.
anninyn: And attempts to make it simple and black and white just hurt them.
I did notice there were some taboos Ennis didn’t cover in graphic detail. Pictures of wide-spread chaos made it clear such things were happening, but none of the major shock images showed them. Things like child rape or homosexual rape were kept ‘off page’ mostly.
I’m not sure how to feel about that. Like, it’s more ‘socially ok’ to show male-on-female rape in a full page, but not the others?
But on the other hand I’m glad I didn’t have to see kids being raped. Just torn apart, hacked up and eaten.
tavia: Yeah. T think there was enough implication and other imagery that I wouldn’t have wanted the kid rape. I already don’t think I can read Family Values.
anninyn: From your description I was actually expecting more brutality. But it didn’t need it. The stuff you got was bad enough.
tavia: But they did have the males get raped too.
anninyn: Not in as much detail as the females. I think that’s a societal thing though.
tavia: I remember the guy in chapter one who got stabbed by the diner guy then raped in the stab wound, the mother and father who hid behind salt, and I guess I blocked out any others if they were there.
Also, I was super annoyed with Kelly for no crossing the bridge fast enough. WFT?! They’re helping you and you’re definitely about to get this lady killed you cow.
anninyn: OH, GOD. Like, get over your fear on this. I would be pretty scared as well, but not as scared as I would be of the Crossed
anninyn: That scene with Geoff and Amy and Arwen was where I mentally went ‘well, this isn’t pulling any fucking punches then.’
‘Oh, this is the sort of comic this is/ Well, I’m already reading it…’
I bought it for Jos’s Christmas present
You try and work out what that says about our relationship…
tavia: hahaha. I read it in public…
anninyn: On the bus, wasn’t it?
And the guy behind you stopped reading?
tavia: On the train, for like 45 minutes. And it’s a two-seater and he was right next to me looking very awkward.
anninyn: “Who is this nut beside me reading this torture porn?”
Did you make Fran read it too?
After me and Jos had both read it, we had a long talk which ended in us both promising to kill each other in that situation if it was needed.
We meant it even more than we meant our wedding vows.
I’m gonna try and find some images on the web to decorate our update on this. Just so we aren’t the only ones slightly scarred from the horror.
tavia: ha. Yeah, Fran doesn’t read comics so I think this would be a poor introduction.
I think I should read family values, but not for at least six months
I need time to keep telling myself ‘the world is a good place’ before I do
tavia: Crossed had me seriously considering adding a cyanide cap or two to my survival kit.
Cyanide really hurts when you die
And it takes a while
Something quicker and more painless
But yes. I am adding a suicide option to my go-bag.
Not just one, either. I’d hate to not have it easily to hand
Have you seen Serenity?
tavia: Yes! Love it. Own it.
But there’s that scene where the woman is attacked by Reavers, and stupidly she first uses the gun on the Reavers, not leaving her enough time to use it on herself.
If I’m going to die in that sort of situation, it’s going to be when I want to, not when a bunch of murdering, torturing rapists have decided I’m no fun anymore.
The Reavers and the Crossed have a lot in common, in fact.
tavia: I never understood why she didn’t shoot herself first. That was dumb
anninyn: I mean, what was one bullet going to do against a horde?
tavia: She finished the message and they got it…
anninyn: Just shoot yourself.
I thought what was really telling that even super-hard Jayne couldn’t watch.
tavia: Yeah, considering how callous he was in the show and at the beginning with the Reavers who attacked them.
anninyn: The whole ‘they’ll rape you to death and eat your skin and if you’re lucky they’ll do it in that order’ quote could very easily have been used for the Crossed.
It’s very interesting that both Crossed and Serenity talk about what can happen to people when all the things that make us human are stripped away from us
Serenity said that it would either be utter inability to live or utter violence, and it was done through medication
And Crossed says that when it happens the only real choice we have left is whether we die before it wins or not
I would be interested to see if at some point in the Crossed universe they show someone trying to live with and control these urges.
anninyn: But I wonder if that would remove the fear, or add to it.
tavia: I don’t know… I feel like Geoff was kind of that. And you felt bad for him because off all the good but you understood that he should be put down.
anninyn: I thought Geoff was the nerd at the beginning who thought the crossed could be stopped with salt.
But yeah, the old man… I think there are a lot of stories about human nature you can tell in this sort of world. I hope they don’t go down the ‘lets just shock’ route
tavia: The old man I felt a little sorry for. Geoff was the asshat who I felt deserved to die.
Kelly was right when she said, “Are you willing to bet your family’s life on it?”
anninyn: Yeah. I mean, seriously.
tavia: And the old man even though he was nice as far as they knew him he was still scum deep down. It was like keeping a Crossed as a pet.
anninyn: My heart broke while he was begging them to know that he’d never hurt them; at the same time I was screaming ‘he’s a monster!’
tavia: Oh, and, I thought for a while that the dog was leading the Crossed to them.
anninyn: Oh yeah, I was expecting that. The comic kept leading me to expect things and then going ‘NOPE.’
Have you read Crossed? What did you think, feel, fear? Have you read the other volumes?