Crossed is what happens when Garth Ennis goes to his really bad place.The original volume of Crossed, collected as Crossed: Volume One, (September 2008-February 2010) follows a small band of survivors in midwestern North America as they're attempting to escape to Alaska, while staying one step ahead of a band of the eponymous infected humans. Once a human becomes Crossed, they get a distinctive facial rash across their forehead and face. Oh, and a desire to murder, rape, set aflame, desecrate and rape again anyone they come across, in a manner similar to Reavers.Crossed is largely devoid of Ennis's trademark black humor, and is a grim, grim book, sure to prove an endurance test for most readers. While works like The Boys and Preacher might wallow in silly violence for some sick laughs, Crossed actually shows a lot of restraint in how it treats the violence, devoting a lot more time to putting a human face on the misery of the survivors, the carnage is described a lot more than it's shown. But when it's shown...Following the success and near-instant optioning of the original series, Avatar Press has opted to turn Crossed into a franchise. A second series, the seven-issue Family Values, started up in April of 2010, written by David Lapham. It focuses on a large family of survivors in the American South, led by their religious patriarch. Things don't go well.A third series, Psychopath, started in February 2011, once again written by Lapham. It centers around a group of survivors who pick up Harold, an unhinged man who begins manipulating the group for his own (psychotic) ends. Psychopath is unhinged and grotesque even by the standards of the previous volumes. Seriously, if you didn't think the last couple of books were a big deal, this might be the one that breaks you.Lapham's also written the Crossed 3D one-shot, published in May of 2011. In it, a group of survivors attempts to rescue a doctor and her two assistants from the top floor of a skyscraper that's surrounded by the Crossed.The fourth series, Badlands, started in February 2012, as a bi-weekly ongoing with different writers and artists scheduled for every arc. So far, this has included Ennis, Jamie Delano, Lapham, and David Hine. A weekly webcomic, ''Wish You Were Here'', written by Si Spurrier, was launched at the same time.On March 13, 2013, Avatar announced Crossed: Dead or Alive, a planned series of "webisodes" written and directed by Ennis, with supplemental webcomics. Avatar is presently fundraising, with the planned goal of the first episodes airing in early 2014.
Anachronic Order: The narrative in the first volume jumps around from "now" to ten months earlier when the infection was beginning. It takes a read or two to grasp this.
The franchise in general is like this, with the various arcs taking place during different times in the Crossed plague, ranging from the initial outbreak to a few years later. Two of the latest Badlands arcs, Yellow Belly and The Golden Road, start on the very first night of the outbreak, while The Fatal Englishman takes place five years after the outbreak, the furthest yet in time.
Apocalypse How: Class 2, with 3 being highly probable; almost all of humanity has turned into the Crossed, and the remaining humans are hunted down by them.
In The Fatal Englishman Harry estimates that Great Britain's population has dropped from 60 million to one million, of which 95 per cent are Crossed. If this is extrapolated further, that would mean that there were around 100 million people left in the world, and only about five million non-Crossed.
Apocalyptic Log: The soldier's journal in Crossed Volume 1. Shaky's diary in Wish You Were Here may end up being this.
Asshole Victim: Brett's unexpected death came immediately after he literally kicked the dog. This was not too long after he had said some very unkind words in regards to Stan's grief over the death of Cindy's son.
Badass Biker: The biker gang that Edmund meets and joins in Badlands #12 when he tries to warn people in a neighbouring town about the Crossed. They form an army with other gangs to fight the "Geeks".
Berserk Button: Endangering children is a big one for Jock, the Scottish soldier in The Fatal Englishman.
Blood Knight: While most survivors know to stay as far away from the Crossed as possible, a few enjoy fighting them. Steve from "Homo Superior" and Des from "Wish You Were Here" are two of the most notable examples.
Bolivian Army Ending: So far, Badlands specializes in these. The first Badlands arc ends with the last survivor, having been splashed with infected blood, about to blow himself up with a grenade with the Crossed right behind him.
Delano's arc on Badlands ends with all the major characters dead or turned, and the last panel shows the last survivor voluntarily submitting to the infection.
Boom, Headshot: There are multiple headshots in this series, and none of them are neat.
Brick Joke: Potentially. The cover of the first issue features Crossed tossing people of an airplane. In the second issue, we see what landing would look like.
Carved Mark: Aoileann got her distinctive X-shaped facial scar by the Groundskeeper cutting her face while he was raping her.
Cassandra Truth: The only ones on Cava shown to believe Shaky when he goes around telling people that Jasper is bad news are Richie (who has plenty of experience of Jasper's abuse) and Tabitha as well as Rab and Don, who understand that Jasper is a gung-ho, wannabe tinpot dictator who is likely to get everyone killed. The rest are either apathetic, mistrust Shaky because of his own misdeeds, or openly side with Jasper because of their desire to strike back at the Crossed.
Circus of Fear: The Crossed (or "Geek") circus in the "Yellow Belly" arc of Badlands.
Deadpan Snarker: Shaky's narration in "Wish You Were Here" positively oozes with snark. He's less of one when talking to the other characters, but he can still be fairly bitchy when he wants to be.
Deconstruction / Reconstruction: The series re-thinks the Zombie Apocalypse story right back to square one: as culture has grown numb to the idea of "unstoppable plague of mindless cannibals," Ennis ups the ante to "unstoppable plague of grinning sadists" to rub in how awful surviving this sort of apocalypse would really be.
Determinator: The cast of the first volume walk from Kansas to Alaska, pursued all the way. The Crossed will also go to absurd lengths if they see something they want to abuse.
Diabolus ex Machina: While downer endings - or at best, heavily bittersweet ones - are par of the course for the series, the ending to the Badlands third arcreally comes across as forced. Specifically, Edmund has finally manned up, saved Donna from the Crossed, and gotten his girl. Then, later that night, Donna murders him for having abandoned one of her biker friends earlier.
Yeah, that was pretty much an asspull on Lapham's part. And the whole set-up to it was just as contrived.
Downer Ending: One of the hallmarks of the series so far. When one of the taglines of the series is "There Is No Hope," what do you expect?
At the end of Volume One, everyone but Cindy, Stan, and their dog is dead. Although the last survivors go down fighting hard, they do go down. The trio who wind up dying in the last issue are also the three most sympathetic characters in the entire damned story.
Family Values ends much the same way, with only Addy, three of her siblings, and a baby surviving. However, at the very end, Addy finds their missing horses, which increases their chances of survival tremendously. So that ending can be considered a bittersweet one.
Psychopath ends with Amanda running off into the night with a bleeding arm stump, her fate uncertain, and Harold rededicated to his quest to "bring Lori back" by infecting another survivor. Though Harold doesn't escape unscathed either, as Amanda manages to bite off his lips as she escapes. Harold then sews his lips back onto his face, though one wonders what sorts of health issues might crop up from that. For all that we know, Harold might already be a dead man walking... As Harry points out in The Fatal Englishman, in the age of the Crossed, minor wounds and injuries can be death sentences by themselves.
3D ends with only two survivors, one of the assistants and a soldier, manage to escape the city alive. Though it may be averted since they are able to get back to their group of survivors to help cure some of the sick kids, who ain't infected by the Crossed virus.
Badlands's first arc ends with everybody dead or infected.
The second arc ends with Ashley and Ashlynn infected, and Steve about to infect herself.
The third ends with Edmund finally putting his fears beyond him and saving the girl from the Crossed, only to get murdered by her that night.
The fourth ends with Philly, the policewoman's niece, being the only named character (and possible the only one in town) who survives. She is last seen rowing down the river away from an overrun Samarkand to an unknown fate. Clooney, like Steve in Homo Superior, infects himself on purpose and brutally murders his girlfriend.
Drunk with Power: Those survivors who suddenly find themselves in positions of power are all too easily tempted to abuse it. Addy's dad and the Gamekeeper are good examples of this. Rab, however, is a subversion, as he does not abuse his power at all. Shaky theorizes it's because Rab never wanted to be a leader in the first place and was thrust into the part.
As of the latest events of Wish You Were Here, Jasper is also headed down this path.
Eats Babies: The sad fate of Kayleen Pratt's unborn child after she's turned into one of the Crossed.
Evil Matriarch: Joyce Pratt becomes the main villain of "Family Values" after falling to the Crossed.
Fear is the Appropriate Response: One of the general themes of the series. Due to the nature of the Crossed, standing your ground and fighting them is the surest way to die a painful and messy death, if not turn into one of the Crossed yourself. Hiding and fleeing is the only sensible course of action, with remote, inaccessible and sparsely populated locations (like Cava in Wish You Were Here) being the only safe places in which to settle. And even that might not be enough.
Shaky (Wish You Were Here) and Edmund (the "Yellow Belly" arc of Badlands) openly regard themselves as cowards, with Edmund in particular loathing himself because of it. However, it's worth noting that they are still alive and uninfected (so far), while all their friends and relatives are dead or crossed. So their cowardice has very likely made the difference between life and death.
... and as soon as Edmund decides to be brave, he gets killed by the girl he saved. Had he just abandoned her when the Crossed attacked, or had he decided not to come clean to the bikers about what really happened to Nicole, he would most likely still be alive. Moral: Courage will get you killed or Crossed in the world of the Crossed.
Follow the Leader: Intentional or not, "Crossed" shares enough similarities with Warren Ellis's Black Gas to raise an eyebrow or two.
From Nobody to Nightmare: Pre-apocalypse, Harold was a pathetic loser who owned a party store and obsessed over a woman he could never have. Post-apocalypse, however...
Gang of Hats: In "Psychopath" we see two tribes of Crossed who've developed different habits. The Skinfaces who cut off their victims faces and wear them on various parts of their body, and the Bloodskins who soak in their victims bloods until they absorb enough of it to give their skin a red tint.
Gorn: Those murders and rapes mentioned above? All drawn in loving detail.
Let's put it like this. Remember the Reavers' from Firefly? Who'll rape you to death, eat your flesh, and sew your skins into their clothing? (If you're very VERY lucky, In That Order). Well, in that show, you didn't see any of it. Here, however...
Gratuitous Rape: The Crossed really like their rape. Dubbed "buggerkill" in "Wish You Were Here."
Groin Attack: There's some...pretty graphic ones in the series.
Hate Plague: The Crossed have absolutely no inhibitions and a cruel intelligence. When there aren't uninfected to hunt, they turn on each other.
Heel Realization: Harold has somewhat lucid moments throughout Psychopath where he realizes what a monster he really is, they don't last long, unfortunately.
He Who Fights Monsters: A recurring theme. In order to survive the plague, the uninfected are often pushed to extremes themselves.
Hope Spot: Despite how bad things are in the series, they always give a tiny, tiny ray of hope for the survivors.
Possibly the worst in the first series is when a small pack of Crossed is chasing Patrick. The survivors, fed up with running and hiding all the time, heroically charge in and get a little payback, annihilating the Crossed, only to find that Patrick has turned anyway.
Well into Wish You Were Here a character is introduced who is described as being some kind of super scientist who may even be immune to the cross virus. He takes a knife to the throat barely an issue after he's introduced.
Insane Troll Logic: Harold believes that the Crossed virus absorbs and locks away the good part, the soul, of a person, leaving only evil impulses behind. By this logic be believes that if he feeds the infected flesh of his dead stalker crush to Amanda (whom he believes is a pure and untainted innocent) the virus will have no evil to absorb and will release Lori's soul into Amanda's body, allowing Lori to be reborn. Luckily he never gets to test the theory.
Iwo Jima Pose: On the cover of issues 7 of "Family Values". The difference between it and other homages is that they're planting the flag into some guy's mouth.
Jailbait: Roshan of "Wish You Were Here" is the 15-year old daughter of the only Muslim family on the island. She's also very sexually active, and flashes Shaky at one point. Despite being tempted, Shaky doesn't follow up on her come ons, partially out of fear of her strict father, partially because her age makes him uncomfortable.
Interestingly, Roshan's mother is fully aware of her daughter's behavior, but she apparently tolerates it and keeps it a secret from her husband.
Ashley and Ashlynne, the identical twin sisters in Homo Superior, also qualify as this.
Kill 'em All: Don't expect any more then a handful of the characters to survive.
Badlands's first arc is the first to completely kill off or infect its cast.
Same thing with the second arc.
Laser-Guided Karma: Shaky gets this when, upon the expedition returning to Cava, he finds out that Rab has told everyone about the incident with the Crossed child and that he forced Rab to put him on the team to the mainland. This results in pretty much everyone on the island mistrusting and ostracizing him.
Life or Limb Decision: When Matthew Pratt is bitten on the leg by his infected mother, Addy manages to cut it off because he's turned.
Loincloth: In issue #4, we see a Crossed wearing one. It's made out of some guy's face.
Multiple-Choice Past: Welles from "Golden Road" is said to give a different version of his life story whenever he's asked. Given his personality, it's likely he does it for no other reason than to screw with people.
Namedar: Given just how fast the infection seems to have spread, it seems a little odd that every group of survivors refer to the Crossed by the same name. In "Yellow Belly" (which shows the infection spreading more slowly then what the other arcs imply) they're referred to as "geeks", due to Edmund naming them that and then telling other people about them.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: One of the characters, convinced that salt will kill the Crossed, attempts to stand against them by putting a ring of salt around himself and his family when his wife twists her ankle running from a pack of Crossed. It really doesn't go well.
Artistic License - Nuclear Physics: The prologue of Volume One ends with a mushroom cloud in the distance, and Stan stating that he later found out that someone pulled the control rods out of Wolf Creek power station. Nuclear power plants do not malfunction that way; the two worst nuclear disasters in human history, Chernobyl and Fukushima-Daiichi, resulted in fires and explosions that spread radiation, but nothing on the order of a full-scale atomic bomb-style explosion.
It's Stan's theory on what happened. He knows it happened at or near the Wolf Creek reactor, but isn't sure what caused the explosion, and one of the ongoing themes of Volume One is that Stan is a whole lot dumber than he used to think he was.
Offhand Backhand: In "Family Values" Kate ends up delievering a baby in the middle of a Crossed attack, with Hannah helping. When Jethro tries to get Hannah to leave before it's finished, she elbows him in the face, all without losing her excited expression and still talking to Kate.
Only Known by Their Nickname: The protagonist of "Wish You Were Here" is named Shaky, short for Shakespeare, which he was mockingly called by another survivor after telling him his occupation as a writer. He's never revealed his actual name, and none of the other characters have called him anything else. (Unless you count "cunt" as a name.)
Painting the Medium: All Crossed talk in a red, jagged font. One poor bastard develops the font before developing the rash.
Case you're curious, He plans to unleash the Crossed on them all!
Pistol Whipping: Harold breaks Rick's jaw with the butt of his pistol before killing him.
Pretend We're Dead: The group in "Psychopath" disguise themselves as Crossed as part of a plan to make two different groups kill each other. It works, but they always keep their distance. Trying to fool the Crossed at close range is probably a really bad idea. Especially as the Crossed have no aversion to brutally slaughtering each other if no other victims are available.
Scarily Competent Tracker: Several of the Crossed show a remarkable ability to track their chosen victims, across miles of land if needed.
Sequel Escalation: Each series in the universe, from the Ennis original to Family Values to Psychopath, tries its damned hardest to be more shocking, gorny and full of Black Comedy than the one that came before it.
Sex for Solace: Between Amanda and Rick in "Psychopath" after their lovers are murdered.
Shown Their Work: In Crossed #2, a survivor mentions what's happened to Texas and New York in the months since the Crossed showed up. Both are realistic depictions of what would probably happen following the abandonment of either state; Texas's oil refineries eventually overloaded and exploded, and New York City flooded without the continuous pumping of its subways and sewers.
Shoot the Dog: Cindy and Stan kill a group of kindergarteners whose guardian they had accidentally killed in order to keep traveling with minimal impediment.
While still bad, it's not quite as bad as it sounds. With resources stretched thin, the guardian in question had been teaching the children to live off whatever they could find. Specifically, other survivors. Given the choice between having to stretch their own thin supplies to account for a dozen cannibalistic five-year-olds or shooting a bunch of children, Cindy went for option B.
Slasher Smile: This is the only expression the Crossed seem to have.
Spiteful Spit: In the first arc, the current group of survivors come across a cop who's been keeping a Crossed locked in the back of his police car. The Crossed manages to anger him to get close enough to spit on him, infecting him.
Take a Third Option: Or rather, in this case, a fourth option. In issue 16 of Badlands Clooney finds everyone in Samarkand in a drug-fueled orgy inspired by Poe's Masque of the Red Death, with his girlfriend involved in a foursome with Jared, notorious author Gideon Welles and another girl. Having studied Clooney's personality, Welles thinks that Clooney will either a) attack him, b) join in the orgy or c) run away like a pussy. Clooney, however, has another option.
Clooney (narrates): "You have all the possibilities worked out. What will Clooney do? Option a, b or c? Well, it's none of the above, you bastard. I've got a few ideas of my own. I'm going to seriously fuck you up."
Take That: A given, as this is Garth Ennis we're talking about. It seems to be aimed at armchair survivalists who believe themselves prepared for such an occurrence as a zombie outbreak.
Taking You with Me: What Harry and his team's mission basically amounts to, with regards to the Crossed. They intend to locate a biological and chemical warfare center and set off all the weapons there. Needless to say, Father Dennis is horrified when he hears this.
The Bus Came Back: A very rare trope used in the whole series, seeing as continuity is rarely used, it comes back hard as at the end of the third issue of David Lapham's arc of Badlands, Harold from Lapham's ''Psychopath" arc IS BACK.
Averted. It's not really a case of The Bus Came Back since the arc in question takes place a few years before Psychopath, at the beginning of the Crossed plague. Still, this troper readily concurs that Harold is the last person you want to meet at any stage of the Crossed plague.
This troper already knew that, it just the fact that since Crossed barely uses continuity, just the fact that Harold, let alone any other character from the series returns, regardless of chronological order, is still a big shock.
Harold's victim Amanda returns in Badlands #21.
The Dog Bites Back: What Leon does to the white supremacist compound (which is led by his abusive father) in Homo Superior.
The Remnant: Shaky and his team come across Fort George, the real-life garrison/HQ of the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland. Besieged by hordes of Crossed, the fortress is still manned by the uninfected Black Watch, which means they have been holding out for as long as 18-24 months. Also doubles as a Badass Army.
Unfortunately, the Fort is later overrun by the Crossed, leaving no survivors. And Shaky's theory as to how it happened is later proved to be incorrect.
This Is Reality: Shows up often. Anytime one character gets the idea of fighting back or finding a cure, the viewpoint character will harshly remind them that fighting back is suicide, there is no cure, and they're all going to die.
The Virus: The Crossed transmit the virus via fluids, as mentioned above. There's been no hint at the origin/cause of said virus, however.
In Crossed Volume 1 the survivors come across the journal of a soldier who'd had a rather chilling theory on how the Crossed had seemingly appeared everywhere in equal measure and at the same time, with no apparent points of origin to have spread out from: "Maybe they were there from the beginning, a strategically triggered infection designed to ripple out and take us all."
Through the Eyes of Madness: The first Crossed annual is told from the point of view of self-proclaimed loonie Jackson, first introduced in "Wish You Were Here". He generally just hallucinates strange creatures appearing around him, and mentions that his memories have degraded so that he does this in flashbacks to before he went crazy. He also realizes at the end that the person he was talking to wasn't who he thought it was.
Geoff: And I'd torture them until they were dead and cut them up into pieces, and then I'd bury them beneath my house.
Harold Lorre: (to Edmund) "Lorre's the name. Harold Lorre. I own a party store down the south a bit. Or I did anyway. Y'know, I've never seen someone their own head off. And while that has some appeal, I have to tell you boy, it sure would be a shame. Cuz you listen to me and one day soon... You could rule the world."
The War on Straw: The series, as mentioned above and below, is supposed to be a Take That to self-professed "zombie survivalists" and show how helpless they'd really be in such a situation. However, other than their massive numbers and the inability to be reasoned with, there's actually a lot of differences between the Crossed and most zombies; your average zombie cannot use projectile weapons (or, indeed, any tools at all beyond maybe a simple bludgeoning/stabbing implement), has pitifully inept senses and no logical capacity. The Crossed, on the other hand, have all the capabilities of regular humans added to their Axe Crazy behavior — naturally they're going to be a lot more dangerous than the mindless to animalistic flesh-eating ghouls the series is mocking.
The World Is Just Awesome: Strangely, yes. There are a few moments in the series where the characters will stop to take in the natural beauty of the world. Of course, it usually doesn't take long for the Crossed to spoil the view...
One such moment occurs in Volume 1, Chapter 19 of Wish You Were Here, when Shaky and Sofia, a deaf/mute Spanish woman, sit down on the grass and together watch the aurora borealis. Even a hardened cynic like Shaky can't help but be impressed by its beauty. This is right before he realizes that Sofia has committed suicide by slitting her wrist with a razor.
Zombie Infectee: Generally not a problem, as becoming Crossed happens in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. However, getting shot with a bullet soaked in Crossed blood... or other fluids gives the infection enough time to creep up on one.
Your Mom: This comes up sometimes as one of the Crossed's obscenities.