Only one funnybook to talk about this week, but it’s got a good pedigree…
Crossed Plus 100 #1, by Alan Moore and Gabriel Andrade
I’m not a huge fan of the Crossed series, generally. It’s an interesting variation on the zombie apocalypse genre, certainly (the “zombies” are victims of a disease that drives them to act on their most base desires, making them quite literal “monsters of the id”). But too often, the series just seems pointlessly unpleasant to me, a mean-spirited exercise in wrongness. Not that I’ve got anything against wrongness, you understand. I LOVE wrongness. It’s the mean-spiritedness that bugs me. So I usually give Crossed a miss.
But it’s Alan Moore, man! So this time… I’m in.
As usual, Moore is approaching his genre from an oblique angle. Rather than exploring the apocalypse itself, he’s asking “What happens next?” So he’s set his story 100 years after the initial Crossed outbreak, and is looking at how society rebuilds itself.
That seems a lot more interesting to me. We’ve all seen the apocalypse a million times, after all, and it always ends up looking pretty much the same: a Survivalist wet dream, where the strong rule the weak in a landscape wasted by radiation/pollution/zombies/disease/rapture/etc. Name yer poison, and somebody’s imagined it destroying the world. Very few people have asked what we do when the crisis is over, though, and that’s what we’re getting here.
The Crossed are still out there in this time period, but their numbers are greatly diminished. Why? Well, to put it simply… Their lifestyle just doesn’t lend itself to longevity. They engage in high-risk behavior and have a tendency to eat their own young. So as normal humans get better at avoiding infection, the number of Crossed is going to drop. And when there are few enough of them left, humanity can start coming out of its holes and living again.
Which is where our story begins. Or, rather, it begins just a little bit after that. Human communities have been re-established, and people seem to be just starting to rise above subsistence-level living. The trappings are very familiar post-apocalypse stuff, right down to the mass graves and Our Heroes’ armored train…
…but their mission is kind of refreshing: they’re looking for knowledge. To be precise, they’re looking for usable information from the pre-Surprise world (“the Surprise” being their delightfully black-humored term for the Crossed outbreak). So they raid libraries and archive video footage to expand human learning. But they reject advanced science as wishful thinking, learning with no practical application to their daily lives. One step forward, two steps back.
Meanwhile, there are more Crossed running around in the wild than they’re used to.
Their encounter with a group of Infecteds, in fact, is the first time many in the group have even seen any. So something’s going on there, obviously, and it may just be that they were being driven before this massive wolf pack, emblematic of nature’s returning dominance in this post-industrial world, and that’s maybe an upside, a gift, of the Crossed plague, and all that’s really interesting, but… It’s maybe not the point.
The point seems, to me, to be the details, the little things, the way Our Heroes interact, and the language they use. They’re very practical people, survivors, and so they’ve done away with the complicated and unnecessary. They don’t have time, for instance, for spelling peculiarities. So “lost” gets standardized to “lossed.” And uncertainty is such a big part of their lives that “As Far As We Know” gets acronymed to AFAWK to save time. Texting language become future-slang.
Lots of that going around in this book, in fact. It’s a technique that doesn’t always work, the future-slang. It’s fun to experiment with alien linguistic rhythms, but unless they’re anchored in something recognizable they feel clumsy. Moore handles it better than most here, and it was still slightly jarring to read. Once I got used to “skulled” for “thought,” though, and figured out the many interesting ways they were using “fuck,” it started to flow better.
Those are nice word choices, too, I think. The Crossed are all about sex and death, after all, so it’s cool to see their impact on the language. Lots of movie-related words, too. “Audied” (as in “audio”) gets used for “sounded,” for instance, and “movie” itself seems to stand in for “cool.” As in “that’s so movie,” meaning that something’s happened which is like something that might happen in a movie. If I’m not belaboring the point. Which I am, but anyway… It says a lot about what kinds of entertainment, or maybe legends about entertainment, have survived.
But if you’re not into all that high-falutin’ deep-thought world-building stuff, the book works as post-apocalypse sci-fi adventure, as well. Because Moore’s good at that, too. There’s none of the trademark Crossed uber-wrongness on display, mind you. The closest we come is an infected fetus that, I think, falls out of its pregnant mother after they shoot her dead. But let’s face it… In Crossed terms, that’s nothing. Light family fare. But this book’s not, thus far, as mean-spirited as the series often is, and I’m okay with that.
So. Crossed +100. Not Alan Moore’s best, but still a thoughtful take on the zombie apocalypse. And well-worth seeking out.