What I thought of Crossed: Badlands #92

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In the first part of this story writer Max Bemis made it clear he was making a point about how a section of male fans treat women online. This issue starts with a flashback of imprisoned comics creator Leigha suffering rejection after rejection because of her work being targeted towards women before she decides to self-publish.

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As for her captors in the comic shop they’re welcoming a couple of other survivors who’ve found their shop, one of which is a comics fan, and indeed, is looking for a Garth Ennis comic which means in this little meta reference that there’s a Crossed version of Ennis roaming this world doing what the Crossed do…

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The guys in the shop seem happy to see the pair of newcomers right up until the point where they reveal they’re gay and are in a relationship. Seeing as the captors of Leigha have shown themselves to be sexist, misogynistic rapists, it comes as no surprise they’re also homophobes. At this point it’s clear that Bemis is forcing a certain type of comics fan to confront what they are, and what they are is worse than the fictional Crossed because they hold their opinions in our world.

As this is going on Kit, one of the rapists, is professing his love for Leigha, something not reciprocated, though she does discover she has a fan in the shape of one of the newcomers.

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Talk moves onto the comics Leigha is being forced to create to keep the rapists happy, so she’s forced by the ringleader Lance to show her latest issue of the Anti-Crossed to the newcomers, and it speaks for itself…

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Leigha uses the Anti-Crossed comic to attack her rapists as the comic is the only thing they’re living for. It also allows Bemis to take a direct hit at his potential readership.

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Needless to say this doesn’t please Lance, and it results in carnage, albeit somewhat mild for a Crossed comic. Also, not one infected person appears in this issue. The only violence is perpetrated by humans upon each other and this allows Bemis to target his victims.

It doesn’t quite work. It’s a tad unsubtle in places not to mention that it spells out it’s point in the comic-within-a-comic device used, but that’s probably the only way it’s going to be driven home. It isn’t exactly Wildean satire; it’s a blunt tool smashing readers in the face. In this regard it’s hugely effective in pointing out to the sort of people reading this that think something like GamerGate was justified, or that the latest example of a female figure in the news being threatened with rape is the sort of thing they should live with. No, instead Bemis points the finger at those people and firmly lays responsibility at their feet.

If you like a serious bit of social commentary and satire with your horror this is for you. If you trawl YouTube videos so you can leave sexist comments, this probably isn’t going to make you feel good about yourself.

Good.

What I thought of Crossed: Badlands #91

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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After a bit of Crossed carnage, Bemis sets out Leigha’s fate clearly.

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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.

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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.

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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?