No Future For You – Crossed +100

*SPOILERS for the six issue Crossed +100 storyline*

Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of SinExodus 16

We all know what the post-apocalypse looks like. Landscapes of rusting cars and broken stretches of concrete, saturated with greys, or browns. There are plenty of movies, games and comics that have confirmed this – the future looks like a dirty puddle on the side of the road.

Gabriel Andrade’s vision of a world emptied of civilization is strikingly different. His art in Crossed +100 features verdant green vegetation covering every surface; cloudless blue pristine sky; and richly coloured wild birds flying overhead.

Andrade and Digikore Studios present a post-apocalypse that looks positively Edenic.

Perhaps that was the first clear hint as to what Crossed +100 was really about.

Together Andrade and Alan Moore have refined the formula presented by creators Jacen Burrows and Garth Ennis in Crossed. The first issue of the original series has a line about the epidemic of viral sadism being documented on sites like Youtube, because it was simply another thing that people could not be shocked by.

The suggestion in the line ‘we were unshockable’ is that the Crossed represent the levee of our desensitization to violence and cruelty finally breaking. It can also be read as Ennis’s comment on how we tell horror stories now, with the emphasis on the spectacle of death and gore instead of morality, or meaning.

Crossed +100 corrects the course of the series back to that initial thematic concern and adds, what is the capacity of storytelling to survive the death of the future?

Future Taylor, the protagonist of this story, is an archivist with a passion for sci-fi novels, or what she calls ‘wishful fiction’. That in itself is a telling description. She recognizes that the books she reads were written by people who had the comfort of imagining many different tomorrows, some hopeful, some terrible. She dismisses the brutally descriptive prose of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road by noting it is not sadistic enough to live up to the memory of Crossed survivors.

Each issue of the story in turn takes the lead from a different science fiction and fantasy author. Future reminiscing on her family’s survival down through the years of the epidemic makes several nods to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, as it is set in an invented mythological past for England.

Moore’s introduction of ‘crunk’, a past-time of young adolescents to dress and act like Crossed is not only a nod to the hysteria surrounding punk culture in the late 1970’s, but echoes Tolkien’s notes for a Lord of the Rings sequel where children would similarly dress and act like Orcs.

These references to Future’s wishful fiction become increasingly explicit, creating a doubling effect. We are grounded in the story by inferring from the mentions of Heinlein or Walter M. Miller Jr an additional significance to the events.

We read Crossed +100 as fans of science fiction, a doubly passive act. Like Future Taylor, we are drawing associations between two points in time.

However, the Crossed are largely off-screen for much of this story. Not all the facts are being presented to Future or the reader.

When the Crossed do appear, they are shown to exist entirely in this ‘present’. Even their own archives – and as the story progresses we along with Future learn that they have founded a twisted form of civilization – are based on video.

Andrade crops the panel to the corners of a television screen or phone camera to show us what the Crossed see – and largely we are shown the infected observing the actions of other Crossed. Unlike preceding Crossed stories, Moore and Andrade leave much of what the infected psychopaths do to our imagination. What happens beyond the frame of the camera is more terrifying than anything in the Crossed stories that followed on from Ennis and Burrows’s collaboration. However, hints that the infected are practicing a ritualised form of religion, to some unknown god of their own, point to a degree of sophistication previously not demonstrated by them.

The reveal of Crossed +100 is that this is a story about how the Crossed survived the ravages of the epidemic, not the uninfected humans. It is their mythology.

Beau Salt was a serial killer who on C Day discovered he was largely unchanged by the effects of the epidemic and the world has finally come round to how he has always seen it. He describes his plan to maintain a sustainable community of Crossed in a diary, which Future discovers only after his plot laid down a century before has come to full fruition.

Salt, in yet another nod to 20th century science fiction – in this instance Hari Seldon from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation bearing a strong resemblance to the sadistic genius – has conceived a ‘psycho-history’ of his own. He sets in motion a plan involving behavioural conditioning and a hidden base of Crossed to ensure the survival of the virus well into the next century. During this time a sufficient number of uninfected humans, left unmolested by Salt’s Crossed, have become comfortable and unafraid. They are now placid enough to be bred like cattle.

Once the fate of Future’s community is sealed, she mourns her inability to see the signs that led to this fresh atrocity. As an archivist, she was too busy looking backwards at the past. ‘Wishful fiction’ blinkered her to what was happening in the world.

Future and her companions saw themselves as the torchbearers for a new age of mankind, but they discover they were actually pawns in an Exodus-tale of the Crossed.

Moore’s script, from the pidgin English of the dialogue that confuses the meaning of words like ‘yeah’, ‘sex’, ‘fuck’ to the repeated discussions of science fiction suggests that a book like Crossed exhausts the premise of survivalist and post-apocalypse fiction. That humanity as a concept would be eroded to the point that storytelling would become redundant, an affectation. It makes the likes of The Walking Dead look cynically repetitive and morally empty in its narrative.

Crossed was a rejoinder to the survivalist lone hero, self-interested egotism thriving in a world of horror. Andrade and Moore hammer home the point by pulling a switcheroo, telling a ‘survivalist’ fable for the infected.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emmet O’Cuana is a freelance writer, critic, and podcaster based in Melbourne.

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