Crossed: Wish You Were Here
Medium: comic
Year: 2012
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Javier Barreno, Fernando Melek
Keywords: Crossed
Format: 600-ish pages, collected in four volumes
Website category: Comics
Review date: 23 August 2023
There's nothing else like it in Crossed, because of its scale. It was an ongoing weekly-ish webcomic that ran for 600 pages and nearly two-and-a-half years... and it's not different just for its page count. It's about a stable community of survivors who have a stronghold and don't need to go on the run.
Its first half reminded me of The Walking Dead (comic not TV). They have a similar vibe, being ongoing slice-of-life series in a world of horror where the main danger is liable to be the relationships and ongoing psychological deterioration of the human survivors. They're both about long-term storytelling. The main differences are: (a) The Walking Dead is 4000 pages long and far more ambitious, and (b) Crossed is far more unpleasant and disturbing. It makes The Walking Dead look like a sitcom. (Its fans might not believe me, but that's true.) That series has an optimistic heart and a far smaller amount of disturbing sexual content. Crossed, though, is described well by the mission statement on the back of its graphic collections. "There is no help. There is no hope. There is only the Crossed."
This webcomic's protagonist, Shaky, starts as a self-serving coward and grows into borderline villainy, hoping (without confidence) that he's a good person underneath the sinister dick who's just pretending to be a good person. But he's not sure. Neither are we. In vol.2, he becomes deeply unpleasant (and realises this). In vol.3, I didn't trust our protagonists not to be evil hurtful pieces of shit (and I was right). Consider also his reasons for putting himself in harm's way in vol.2. He's seeking mortal danger to try to revive his desire to live. Shaky's ongoing self-analysis (he's a writer, mostly of comic books) explores uncomfortable, unheroic and bizarre things about his personality. This is strong and even brave characterisation from Spurrier.
The second half of the series, though, develops a plot and becomes a coherent story. Everything ties together, with a powerful conclusion that leavens its horror with a doomed sort of heartwarming.
I've seen this called the best Crossed series by a long stretch, although personally I wouldn't go that far. It ends strongly and satisfyingly, but an aggressive editor could have jettisoned three-quarters of the series. Nonetheless, I understand the praise. Spurrier's exploring these people's psychology and daily lives in an open-ended way that's unique in Crossed. You get a real (and dark) sense of what it would be like to live in that world, and how it might wear you down mentally.
Occasionally, it's funny. More often, it's horrific and disturbing. I didn't believe in vol.2's "two person" limit for a moment, but even Shaky himself admits that he could have broken it. He just chose not to (the bastard). The sexual coercion is distressingly plausible. This series is worth a look, but don't approach it as a unified 600-page story. Just immerse yourself in it. Get to know its broken characters and follow their lives. A story will become apparent eventually, but you'll get frustrated if you wait for it. I wouldn't recommend this as anyone's debut Crossed experience, but the praise I've seen for it is reasonable.