Check this out.
Two comic book (limited) series, written within a couple of years of each other. Both deal with apocalyptic scenarios, both written by British men who publish some of the most important and entertaining comic book titles in the US. Both of the titles in question are controversial, bloody and grim. The titles are 'Blackgas', by Warren Ellis, and 'Crossed' by Garth Ennis. The point of this post is - are these titles the product of a game of bloody one-upmanship between Warren Ellis & Garth Ennis, to produce the most hideously gory, depraved and debased comic books in mainstream US comic publishing history?
These titles share some similarities. Examples?
1) Both titles are set in an apocalyptic situation.
2) Both titles have the majority of the human race transformed into brutal, merciless killers, yet the aggressors retain some intelligence, which marks them apart from other apocalyptic scenarios where the human race is destroyed by itself (and where, typically, you would expect to see zombies as the root cause).
3) At the heart of both titles is an exploration of the unspeakable horror that humans can wreak upon fellow humans.
4) Both of these titles do not shy away from portraying the full horror of events. The weak and innocent (babies and children, as examples) are not spared the ignominy of brutal and painful violation and death. I would guess that for a 'realistic' portrayal, Ennis and Ellis are being honest in their storytelling and not shying away from detailing atrocities, and describing events how they probably would unfold. I understand that. Trust me, if you haven't read either title before, the writers and artists make you bear witness to some horrors (and it is my opinion that the titles wallow in these atrocities a little too much at times. I am thinking specifically of the ending of #1 of Crossed, and the Maternity ward scene that occurs in Blackgas Volume 2).
5) Then we come to Jacen Burrows, who is a creative link between the 2 series. As the regular artist on 'Crossed', and as a cover artist on 'Blackgas', he seems to be creating a bit of a niche for himself as an artist that deals in the detail of scenes of peril of children, as well as some of the more creatively stages scenes of death, mutilation and destruction of the human body in mainstream comics. In some of his double page spreads, there is a real 'Where's Wally' vibe to the detail, where you can pick out lots of individual scenes of murder and grief.
Whatever your opinion is of these titles, it is hard not to agree that they are certainly transgressive, and I believe that both 'Crossed' and 'Blackgas' have pushed the boundaries of the depiction of horror in mainstream comics. I would welcome any comments on what others feel about this Blackgas / Crossed & Ellis / Ennis thing. Are Ennis and Ellis on a bet or what? Does Ellis mind that Ennis seems to have taken some inspiration from Blackgas to produce Crossed? Are they all wallowing in despair and pain, like a print version of the various torture porn films from a few years back? Should we just applaud the fact that they are producing some groundbreaking horror titles? In 'Crossed' I think we have a genuinely terrifying enemy in the afflicted, i.e. the 'Crossed', but whether the whole story bears up to closer scrutiny is still unclear, several issues in (for instance, I still care little for most of the non-infected 'survivors').
http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=5916 - Warren Ellis talks 'Blackgas'
http://www.zeros2heroes.com/component/option,com_pablog/Tag,Crossed+%232/ - Simply the best review of a comic book ever, it also happens to be a review of Crossed #2. If I could choose a comic book review to take on a desert island with me (and hey, why not?) this would absolutely be the one.