This isn't a particularly successful volume. It's still disgusting and ultra-violent, but there's a line to be drawn when it comes to unlikeable loser protagonists. Will you keep your readers' interest in people who probably don't deserve it, or will you lose your audience?
These two stories fare less well than some other Crossed stories at that challenge.
#10-13: YELLOW BELLY (Lapham and Burrows)
Edmund is a coward, nicknamed "Yellow Belly" by his classmates. He wets himself. He's pathetic in almost every respect... but unheroic cowardice is a survival trait on C-Day. Edmund still thinks he's a failure as a human being, though.
Most of this story I quite like. The bikers, the Crossed circus people, etc. are as dirty and horrible as they should be. Where it lost me was the last chapter. Edmund lets himself get talked into doing something absurd, then does something even less believable by telling people about it. No, no, no, no, no. These scenes got a strong emotional reaction from me, yes, but because they'd killed the protagonist's credibility. Yes, he's a teenage loser. No, he's not the sharpest tool in the box. Even so, I couldn't believe it, which killed the dark ending.
In principle, I like this story. I like the trajectory of Edmund's character growth, especially since we know it's unlikely to end well in a Crossed story. By the end, he's got a lot to be proud of (but also some other things he needed to shut the hell up about).
#14-18: THE GOLDEN ROAD (Hine and Duarte)
A sadistic celebrity author invites some gullible college students to play his sick games. They go along with it. They're idiots. The arrival of the Crossed is almost an anti-climax. Theoretically, though, I quite like the Edgar Allen Poe thing it's doing.
There's also a B-story about a sheriff and her niece. This is okay, but it stops in a way that'll make you wonder if the printers lost some of the pages. (Or, alternatively, was Hine planning to continue their story in a sequel, but ended up changing his mind? He later wrote two more Crossed Badlands serials, both set in Japan and having overlapping characters.)
It's mildly interesting to compare these two misfires. As with the previous volume, they feel like companion pieces for each other. Both have World's Biggest Loser protagonists who experience personal growth but make terrible choices. I don't think either story works and the problem in both cases is that I didn't accept one or more of the characters, but they're ambitious and no holds barred. They failed through going too far, which I can respect. They aimed for darkness and at that absolutely hands-down succeeded. They also have quite good art. You're unlikely to find a similar reading experience anywhere else, that's for sure.