Garth Ennis is no stranger to controversy. From his classic creation Preacher to the “banned in the Middle East” The Boys, the comic-book creator has never held back in his writing, the themes he explores or the language he uses. Arguably the apotheosis of Ennis’ creations is Crossed, a small comic with huge world-building ambitions which has spawned several spin-off series, a forthcoming film, and a weekly webcomic.
The premise of Crossed is a relatively simple one, but with an Ennis tainted twist. An apocalyptic event of an unspecified nature has resulted in 99% of the world’s population being infected/affected by a condition which compels people to commit deprived and heinous acts to, and with other people, animals and objects. It is the acts that the ‘crossed’ commit and the unflinchingly graphic portrayal of those acts that is the main point of controversy that the book causes.
Crossed is not to everyone’s taste. I’m well aware of that. Even I find myself grimacing sometimes when looking at some of the images in the comic books, and I have a fairly strong stomach for this kind of thing. So if you have never read any of the Crossed titles I would heed caution.
What Ennis intended to do with this book was to get the reader to question how they would react to being thrust into this post-apocalyptic scenario, by focusing on the few people who have not been affected by the virus, or whatever it may be. While the initial shock of the behaviour of the ‘crossed’ is strong, what remains afterwards is a compellingly bleak narrative of a desperate attempt at survival. The reader identifies with the survivors and cannot help put themselves in that position, and wonder, what would I do?
One of the great things about the original idea and concept of Crossed is that it gives almost unlimited scope for spin-offs, mini-series, and hundreds of stories threading out from the original comic. One of those threads is Crossed: Wish You Were Here, a weekly web-comic written by Si Spurrier. The first volume was illustrated by Javier Barreno and volume two, which began a few weeks ago, is illustrated by Fernando Melek.
Crossed: WYWH launched in March of this year and is updated every Thursday with new content. It tells the story of a disparate group of survivors who have managed to station themselves on the remote island of Cava. The weekly episodes deal with the issues faced by a small group of people, most of whom were previously strangers to one another, as they try to carve out some semblance of a life in the midst of the hell that has descended on the world.
However because of what each of them has seen as they made their way to their temporary sanctuary, the group know that there is no hope of surviving indefinitely, and that sense of hopelessness is very well depicted by Spurrier. Crossed: Wish You Were Here is a violent, unflinchingly bleak series. As Spurrier said in a recent interview with CBR:
“In the web series, it’s about people who think they have found hope and have found sanctuary on an island. But they know that they’re doomed, they know it’s just a temporary thing, it’s just that they’ve run out of energy. They just want to stop and try to make a life. They know it won’t last. Deep down they know it won’t. You have to drip feed just enough hope so that maybe people think there’s a way out.”
The main character and narrative voice of Crossed: WYWH is a comic book and crime fiction author who is thrust into the world of the ‘crossed’ while fulfilling the clichéd role of the tortured writer in a coffee shop. Spurrier has admitted that the character of Shaky is essentially based on him. What he wanted to explore was what happens in this world when the thing you do for a living is suddenly worthless. In a zombie style apocalypse being good with words is not an especially useful survival skill.
Shaky’s function is essentially as the chronicler of the island group and their efforts at survival. He also chronicles his own cowardice and lack of moral compass, which serves to shine a light on humanity. However in volume two he puts himself in a position where he leaves the island, with a few other survivors, on a life-threatening mission for supplies. His reasons for doing this are not born out of bravery or selflessness. Quite the opposite in fact.
He reveals through his diary entries that his reason for going out on this mission is because he couldn’t bear the boredom of daily life on the island, and specifically the memories that invade his mind during the downtime. He wants to feel fear and terror and he wants to feel alive again. If he survives.
Similarly to Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, which was the subject of my previous World of Web Comics article, Crossed: WYWH has an established audience from the original Garth Ennis series.
However the webcomic has to stand up on its own and be judged on the writing of Spurrier, and the art of Barreno and Melek. So far I think they have created a series which is clearly a part of the Crossed world, but is by no means defined by it.
If you’re a fan of Crossed already then you will enjoy this webcomic. If you like extreme, violent horror comics you will love this webcomic. If you like well-written, character-driven dramas, which are stunningly illustrated (and you have a fairly strong stomach) you will definitely enjoy Crossed: Wish You Were Here. Just be prepared for some disturbing scenes.