Alan MooreCrossed
Crossed + One Hundred volume 1
Medium: comic
Year: 2014
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Gabriel Andrade
Keywords: Crossed, post-apocalypse
Format: Issues 1-6
Website category: Comics
Review date: 24 August 2023
Alan Moore's the reason why I bought Crossed in the first place. Sure, I also like Garth Ennis, but I'm not a completist about his work. Alan Moore's mini-series, though, sounded intriguing.
It's set 100 years after the Surprise (as the survivors call it) and the world's all post-apocalypse. Abandoned cities are full of trees. It's oddly beautiful. The Crossed are still here... but they've become less dangerous. The originals were rape mutilation murder machines who'd do anything for a laugh, even to themselves. If a Crossed gave birth, she'd probably eat the baby.
These are not survival strategies. Evolution is on the side of the uninfected.
It's interesting and dense and takes ages to read, but it's a long way from conventional definitions of "story". Its protagonists don't shape their narrative. They're along for the ride. It's almost slice-of-life, except in a post-apocalypse future with the Crossed. Issues 1-4 are a bit boring, but in a thoughtful, immersive way that rewards rereading. (If you do, you'll also find yourself following a shadow-story you hadn't noticed the first time.) Issue 5 turns the rules upside-down, then issue 6 sends you into hell.
Unsurprisingly, this drove away readers. Partly it's the slow-as-hell anti-narrative that usually avoids the mega-grossness that's associated with Crossed, but partly it's the language. It's hard work. You can't just zip through. If you try, you'll hate this book. I found an attempted online demolition from a published author that spent ages trying to tear apart its logic and creative choices... which paradoxically raised my opinion of the book as I analysed my reasons for disagreeing with the reviewer's points. (Mind you, that chap also hated the entire Crossed franchise.)
So, here are reasons why I think Alan Moore's mini-series is cool.
It's completely different from the English I'm writing now. Deciphering even some of their most common words is hard work, but it's worth it.
Firstly, the degree of difference is plausible. Civilisation fell and the human race was functionally obliterated. A global population of seven billion fell to two million uninfected. That's a death/infection rate of 99.97%. A century later, it's amazing that we're not monkeys in caves. The expected rate of linguistic development can't be compared with that of any real-world century.
Secondly, the changes make sense and are satisfying. Vocabulary and even grammar are different. "Fuck" is a polite adverb meaning "very", which is funny and true for 100 years of Ennisland. There are internet acronyms ("afawk"), adjectives becoming nouns ("a correct") or verbs ("possible") and nouns becoming verbs ("to accident"). These are happening already. I hear them at work, e.g. "I'm going to action this", or from my son saying "lol". Some of the coinings are clever, e.g. "fashion-the-pan" or "horror-ball", while "theory-jerk" is such a great word that I'll probably use it myself one day. "Movie" (e.g. "this is movie!") means as per this quote:
"Most people have never seen them, and they are certainly not going to be making them anytime soon. So, 'movie' has come to mean 'spectacular' or something like that."
Sexuality has become open and fluid, with even Muslims no longer trying to police the bedroom. People don't seem to notice gender. This makes sense in a world where the Crossed will have violent sex with anything, be it animal, vegetable or their own murder victims. There's less modesty, e.g. men and women showering together in anti-infection measures.
Young people put Crossed-like paint on their faces. Is it fashion? I was almost shocked... but that's exactly the kind of tasteless thing people would do.
Children get names like Future, Tomorrow and Cautious Optimism. (Conventional names also still exist, though.)
"Archivists" go on expeditions to dig up books (literally) and to look for clues about the old world. Some think it's a waste of resources, but it's what I'd be doing if I were one of them.
I loved Beau Salt. As well as "rewarding" the audience's patience with at last a Crossed gross-out (since his life was a hundred years earlier during the Surprise), I loved the black comedy about infection not changing him. There are semi-precedents for this in the super-Crossed of other stories, but Moore's version is surprising and funny.
Similarly, we've also seen precedents for the Crossed's reaction to him, since they like victims who are terrified, screaming, etc. That's why they prefer attacking the uninfected.
This book will be hated by Crossed fans who just want gore, violence and awfulness (which it doesn't have much of). It'll be hated by people who hate Crossed, because d'oh. It'll be hated by people who want an exciting or compelling story, because it's not those things either. It's hard work to read and can get boring. (A lot of readers couldn't get past that slang.)
It does, though, create a unique, thought-through world and then completely immerse you in it, building up to a kind of horror that's new in Crossed. With hindsight, it's the obvious and most interesting question you could ask about this franchise ("what would its world look like after a hundred years?")... but, until this, no one else had asked it. Besides, their answers wouldn't have come near Alan Moore's.