This is the last part of The Thin Red Line, the story of Patient Zero in the Crossed outbreak which destroyed the world. For those expecting to be spoon fed nice solutions from a writer like Garth Ennis expect crushing disappointment, but for anyone wanting a little bit of having to work things out for themselves this final part does that as well as resolving most of the storylines Ennis has built up in this story. This final part is extraordinary melancholic which for a Crossed comic is remarkable. As said, one of the problems I’ve had with this title is the ‘Gorno‘ overruling any characters or plot as it stumbles from one extreme scene of gore/porn to another.
Then there’s the way some stories I’ve read in this series use the murder, torture and rape of children not to just show how depraved the Crossed are, but in a way to almost titillate with almost paedophilic overtones, To the credit of Ennis, he addresses this in this story with a few lines of dialogue which remind us of what the Crossed were, and the humanity that’s lost but I’m getting ahead of myself.
In #55 we’d left Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s aide, Alistair, locked in a cell with Patient Zero and two Crossed infected soldiers who were fighting each other in an amazingly gruesome way to get the chance to do what they want to Alistair. Unfortunately for Alistair, Patient Zero is becoming fully formed Crossed himself and Alistair is about to be horribly murdered by him regardless of how much he begs for his life.
We don’t see Alistair’s death, and a lesser writer would have shown it in gory detail but it’s described in short, sharp detail and that’s much, much, much worse than anything an artist could put on paper. The description should make also any male reading the comic to throw up in their mouth a wee bit and no, I’m not going to give it away but I will say that box Patient Zero is holding is a box of six scalpel blades……
As this is going on the remaining two members of 617 Squadron finally intercept the Russian nuclear bombers heading towards the United States, and Gordon Brown’s security team are discharged from duty as all civil authority is replaced by whatever military authority can be enforced. The leader of the four, Harry, tells his men to go back to save their families and meet in a cottage in the Brecon Beacons ten days later, while he returns to see Brown.
As this happens, 617 Squadron successfully stop the Russian bombers at the cost of their own lives in a scene which is riddled with cliche which is a pity but then again, it was also the most obviously telegraphed ending to the various threads in this story. The focus now moves to the bunker for the end of the story and this is where Ennis drops a few lines up which raise how he approaches the world of the Crossed compared to most other writers.
The murder of children isn’t something Ennis seems to enjoy writing, even in his original story where he includes several scenes of children being murdered and mutilated. It’s grim, messy and depressing when Ennis writes about children being murdered. Other writers seem to somehow lap it up, along from what I can see online, so do some of the readers. For a comic where some of it’s fans describe it as a ‘rape zombie’ comic I find some of this immensely disturbing. I’m not a believer in censorship and there’s stuff in Crossed you’d find in say, S. Clay Wilson comics, but the reaction of some fans is worrying.
But back to the story. Harry has a last conversation with Gordon Brown before he’s sealed in his bunker with Brown giving him one final order for a last resort should Dr. Chopra & her team fail to come up with a solution.
Though as the doors seal Brown in, we realise that he’s hardly somewhere safe. Like Alistair, we don’t see Brown’s death or even him turning into Crossed, but is a deeply sad, almost bathetic few pages of dialogue Ennis gives Brown in his last conversation with Harry but it works because of the final sight we see of Brown not to mention Harry’s obvious sense of failure in protecting the Prime Minister.
There’s one last conversation between Harry and Patient Zero to be had.
It’s a very short one that doesn’t answer anything about the origins of the Crossed and with that conversation the story is over. There’s no explanation of just what the Crossed virus is, but there’s enough hints that it could be something supernatural, or man-made. Ennis is smart enough not to reveal the source because as soon as you do that,then it’s easy enough to write a cure which although is something which would make a good story (how would people cured of the virus react when returned to humanity?) it’s not something Ennis or his publisher, Avatar Press, clearly want to touch because that’s the end of this fairly successful series.
As for the security team in the story, they’ve already had the end of their story told in a story called The Fatal Englishman which ran in Crossed: Badlands #25-28. Set five years after the events of the Crossed outbreak it tells the story of the four security men who’ve traveled round a devastated UK to their final destination of Porton Down. It’s here that Brown’s ‘final solution’ is to be executed as Harry explains to a priest he’s rescued along with the children he’s protecting.
This would wipe out all the remaining Crossed in the UK, however, it’d also wipe out a good number of those survivors struggling to stay alive, but in the last five years the population of Great Britain has suffered a massive decline.
A large part of this story is taken up with discussing religion and how would, or could a ‘God’ sit back and let something like the Crossed outbreak happen, not to mention how could someone still hold their faith when the world has become a wasteland. These are great bits of dialogue and although Ennis shows his offence towards any sort of religion, there’s a curious way in which there’s still some sort of hope left even in a world where the Crossed destroy everything.
There’s also an interesting, not to mention crushing, flashback of Harry trying to get to his family which seems to directly follow the events of The Thin Red Line.
We see that not only did Harry fail to rescue his family but had to kill them to save them from the Crossed, who at that early point in the infection were still dangerous but in the main story five years later they weaker Crossed have died off to be replaced by the harder to kill versions, and they’re killed in this story in graphic detail.
The priest and his children are put on a boat to find an island in the Channel Islands with Aldernay being the advised destination, and as a reader you expect something vile and horrible happening to these kids but nothing does. They vanish from the story to we assume, a safe landing on a deserted Channel Island, which is a queer little glimmer of hope that something good is going to come of all this misery. Meantime though Harry and his men arrive at Porton Down…
The end of Harry and his teams’ story is what you’d expect from Ennis in that it’s an enormously sad one as they provided something heroic in this empty nihilistic world but there’s still hope with the children, and we as the reader should have faith which is the point of the story. Yes, there’s a final solution for the UK to cleanse itself and rebuild but that’s not going to give those survivors a fighting chance while a few cold winters will continue to wipe out Crossed, and of course, they continue to wipe out each other. Ennis provides a glimmer of hope, even if it’s tempered by something horrible in order to perhaps get there.
So that’s it. My last of these reviews and thanks to everyone who’s tagged along with them for the last few months. I’m probably not going to pick up the next issue of Crossed: Badlands, but I will pick up the next issues Garth Ennis writes because there’s a lot he’s saying in these comics about faith, politics and relationships, especially male relationships, which aren’t normally discussed in any sort of mainstream comic, let alone a horror comic like this. I do find the concept one which has a logical ending (all the Crossed die off and the planet is ‘cleansed’) which ties in with the supernatural reason for the Crossed virus, but even so, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, should of course Avatar and Ennis decide to go to that logical conclusion. After all there’s only so much death and destruction you can mine from this idea before it becomes tiresome, and as said, for me that was shortly after the original Garth Ennis story. Until then though, it’s gore, violence and brutality as far as the eye can see……….