Garth EnnisCrossed
Crossed volume 10: The Thin Red Line
Medium: comic
Year: 2014
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Christian Zanier
Keywords: Crossed
Format: Badlands #50-56
Website category: Comics
Review date: 22 August 2023
I've skipped a few volumes. I won't be buying all of Crossed.
This is an origin story. Sort of. It shows us Patient Zero (who was discovered in the UK) and what happened around then. It stars the four soldiers from The Fatal Englishman (Crossed: Badlands #25-28 and volume 6).
Interestingly, it's doing real politics. It's 2008 and the prime minister is Gordon Brown, with our heroes being his bodyguards. Ennis doesn't seem to be a fan of Alastair Campbell, because he gives Brown a press secretary called Alistair Mayall who's a useless, self-serving hate sink. He's bad at his job and has even worse judgement outside his field of non-expertise, but he keeps trying to wave his dick around anyway. Everything he says is either repellent or potentially lethal. He didn't actually bring about the end of civilisation, but he certainly didn't help.
"There is not enough human excrement in all the world to build a suitably evocative statue of that man."
This portrayal of UK politics adds another dimension to the book. (Was Ennis getting things off his chest, or was the story shaping the characters?) He realises that the British Army's been cut to the bone by government defence cuts, for instance. Gordon Brown is portrayed as a decent chap who's trying to do the right thing and definitely not stupid, but he's also not great at being decisive in a hurry and he's handicapped by people not trusting the government. "Which they haven't done for a while now, have they? Thanks a bundle, Tony."
(For what it's worth, though, Ennis has lived in New York for years and became a US citizen around the time of Brexit. 2016, I think.)
By Crossed standards, it's relatively understated. (Note the word "relatively". Extremely bad things still happen, but I could imagine this book being semi-palatable to someone who wouldn't touch a normal Crossed book with a bargepole.) It's very military-focused, as isn't unusual for Ennis, but that makes sense against the Crossed. The only long-term choices are lethal force or suicide, really. Civilians end up almost irrelevant, as our heroes try to stop some Russian fighters that might be about to cause a nuclear apocalypse on top of the psycho infection one.
It was probably inevitable that someone would write a Patient Zero story for Crossed and I'm happy that it ended up being the franchise's creator. It's horrifying as much for the decisions from uninfected people as it is for the actual Crossed themselves. I wish I'd read this before The Fatal Englishman, incidentally, and I might reread them in chronological order one day. There are a few on-off sub-series within the overall Crossed franchise, including David Lapham's Amanda stories (Psychopath, The Livers, Breakdown) and Christos Gage's Smokey stories (Quisling and Badlands 93-100).
It's a decent book. Patient Zero himself is less important than I'd expected and it feels as if we've only learned half of his story, but it's pretty clear what must have happened even if he isn't telling. This one's worth a look.