June 26th, 2013 | → 1 Comments | ∇ Graphic Novels & Comics |
So yeah, bestiality. Hilarious, right? I saw a programme, which only Channel 4 could have produced, a few years back about an American man who married a horse. That was mildly amusing, if not slightly uncomfortable (he touched the horse funny, like). But the actual act of sodomising an animal shouldn’t really be a laughing matter. Unless you’re Simon Spurrier. And, um, now me. And I suspect there may be others. Click here for one of the offending images. Okay, yes, for some it’s deeply offence and disturbing and la la la, but oh my god, there is something just so darkly funny in its grotesqueness, in its utter absurdity that you can’t help but crack a smile. The exploding cow is even better.
This Crossed web-comic, born out of the success of the original series (and Warren Ellis’ incredibly successful and largely experimental web-series ‘FreakAngels’) differs mildly in tone from Garth Ennis’ creation in that Spurrier injects this incredibly dark humour throughout, one that I find has actually enhanced my enjoyment of the Crossed franchise as a whole. Ennis’ dark vision was one of struggling to survive in a world in which a virus has stripped away humanity’s fundamental sense of morality and where you were truly helpless and (as the tagline teased) ‘No-one is coming to save you’; it’s a truly harrowing tour de force that examines the brutal nature of human beings at their worst.
Not that Spurrier’s series doesn’t explore this; it does it with panache and most of the nastiness in Crossed: Wish You Were Here comes not from the ‘plus faces’ but the odorous characters that would use the end of the world to prey on those who are weaker than them. But then Spurrier introduces characters like the brilliantly insane Andrew Frazer Jackson and this is who the 2013 annual concentrates on.
Jackson was one of the most likeable characters in the web-series and here, he’s off the leash. A former lieutenant in the SBS, he’s seen a lot of action; the Falklands, dealing with airline bothering extremists in the 80’s and deployed on special operations in the 90’s when the iron curtain fell. Throughout all of the important military operations, he encounters the beautiful and mysterious Magda, whose work has something to do with bioweapons. When the higher-ups order Jackson to eliminate Magda, she defends herself by spraying something in his face; what he believes is the cause of his madness. The crux of the story is Jackson’s mission to find Magda’s secret hideout in Iceland and find out what it was that she sprayed him with and whether it was actually her and her team that caused the outbreak that has killed millions.
The above is a massive oversimplification of what is a brilliantly realised plot that spans several decades and gives us a possible, brief glimpse of how this devastation came to be. To explain it would ruin it (because I wouldn’t do it justice) but needless to say, it is full of twists and turns even the most hardened Future Shock reader won’t see coming a mile off. All the things about the web-series I love are here in abundance; the rich characters, the bonkers over-the-top violence and the humour – Spurrier’s use of Icelandic and its subsequent translation on the page is excellent.
And then there’s the artwork. As I mentioned in the Stitched review, some of the artists working at Avatar are producing incredible work; the European style of near-realism, lavishly detailed backgrounds and character expressions you believe in are draining my bank account monthly. Gabriel Andrade is no exception. His work here is married seamlessly to Spurrier’s script – the action sequences are brutally and beautifully realised and the characters are consistent throughout the different time periods explored. But where the artwork really shines is when Andrade shows us how insane Jackson is by giving us an insight of what’s happening in his head in ‘real time’, producing a seriously nightmarish vision that gets more intense throughout the story, culminating in much of the background and (cleverly) the panel guttering being filled with foulness that gives added depth to his increasingly manic actions. Enhanced by lavishly rich colours by Digikore Studios, this is a vision of clinical insanity I’ve not seen done this well in comics for a while, if ever.
There’s a danger with some of the Crossed stories that they might run too far into ‘torture porn’ territory, losing some of its integrity and individuality in favour of being twisted for twisted sake. But Spurrier and Andrade dispel this, producing a story and developing a character that stands so well on its own, it’s hard not to want more.
You can read the entirety of Simon Spurrier’s Crossed: Wish You Were Here web-comic at www.crossedcomic.com and buy the Crossed 2013 Annual from all good local comic shops.
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