I normally don’t bother with Crossed:Badlands outwith of a Garth Ennis story, or the recent Keiron Gillen storyline and I wasn’t going to touch this comic until issue 100 when Garth Ennis is due to return. However this arc’s writer Max Bemis wrote the hugely fun Oh, Killstrike! which was a pretty sharp satire on comic fandom and this Bleeding Cool article piqued my interest so I thought to give it a try.
Set at the outbreak of the Crossed virus, Bemis’s story, Comic Store, takes place in exactly where you think it might as the survivors of the shop remain inside safe from the horrors of the Crossed outside, but rather than worry about things you or I might, these people have other pressing concerns.
That’s right, they’re concerned about the ending of their favourite comic stories. From the off this doesn’t feel like a normal non-Ennis Crossed story; it feels like Bemis is making it clear to the reader from the off that if you’re at all touchy about having parts of fandom being satirised then this is the time to fuck off and go read The Avengers.
The groups discuss their love of comics, and indeed, why superhero comics (and this aim is very clearly targeted at superheroes by Bemis) made them feel better people, but in the world of the Crossed, there’s no hope, not to mention there’s nobody that can create new comics. That is apart from the female creator they’ve imprisoned in their storeroom which has been turned into a room where she’s raped by the shop staff members for a year.
I have to confess to be extraordinarily uncomfortable with this storyline by this point, but that’s the point. Bemis is forcing the reader to confront the horror of a line like ‘rape-room’ as this really isn’t a story about the Crossed, they’re just the backdrop. This is about a section of comic book fans who are frankly, misogynist pricks, and not just that, people that are closed minded in terms of what they think of as ‘comics’. This is summed up perfectly in the flashback scene going back to C-Day.
Leigha is established as a creator that’s self-published for a decade and has worked her way up to build an audience from outwith traditional superhero comic readers, while the shop owners are clearly desperate because their customer base is either stagnant or in decline. If at this point you’ve got any doubt that Bemis is targeting a certain type of superhero comic fan the rest of this scene blows any doubt away.
After a bit of Crossed carnage, Bemis sets out Leigha’s fate clearly.
So the four survivors have kept Leigha imprisoned and have raped her constantly for a year, but they offer to stop, or at least back off a bit if she creates a superhero comic about the current situation with the Crossed to help them feel better in themselves, and of course, make them less scared of the Crossed. Leigha creates a superhero, The Anti-Crossed, who is hilariously funny because it’s the sort of bullshit one might expect from a superhero set in this reality. It also gets a good reaction from our rapist protagonists.
Promising Leigha more freedom, not to mention more food if she progresses to a weekly deadline, our group of rapist wankers manage to use her work to escape real life, and at this point this becomes not just a pretty bloody brilliant bit of horror but the best bit of satire on the modern superhero fan (or a section of them) I’ve read.
As Leigha gains more power over the group she crawls back from wherever she’d placed herself mentally to protect herself, but Bemis doesn’t relent with hammering fans over the head as Leigha uses her Anti-Crossed comic to attack her rapists.
This is dark, black satire/horror that as said, is only using the universe of the Crossed as a backdrop for commentary upon fandom, not to mention the sort of arsehole that throws around rape threats on Twitter. It’s probably not going to be acceptable or easy reading, and I’ve said how uncomfortable I was reading some of the earlier pages in this issue but stick with the story as it’s worth it. My only major problem is the art is too sexualised during one rape scene, and the Anti-Crossed pages could have been done by a different artist completely to make them stand out, but this is a brave attempt to use the world of the Crossed to make a point.
Next issue is the conclusion of this two-part story. Let’s see how much darker Bemis can make this and who else he’ll upset?