The good news of Crossed + One Hundred number eight is that the story does has someplace to go. Alan Moore’s “Series Outline” credit has been proven creditable, and the new arc is shaping up in a logical way to the groundwork laid out in volume one. Simon Spurrier’s future-English dialogue is still not as diabolically punny as Moore, but he’s playing around with some new details. This issue spends time with a new character’s dialect that’s a mishmash of Bostonian and Jersey twang. There’s also a monologue from one of the Salt-Crossed, probably the longest speech we’ve heard from any of them, and it reads how you’d hope it would: brutal, scary. After their near-absence in issue seven, Moore seems to have figured out how to continue revealing their insanity gradually, to maintain the creep factor.
That monologue reveals an important new plot point, which is also the turning point where Crossed + One Hundred justifies its ongoing existence. The Salt-Crossed’s organizational skills open up a whole new slew of dramatic possibilities, based on what is actually a fairly unique sci-fi/horror hybrid idea: if a burgeoning civilization were centered around the celebration of sadism, how could such a civilization function? The question slightly nudges the franchise out of the realm of pure horror and into a more philosophical kind of terror that’s not exactly a zombie tale any longer. It’s more akin to 1984, The Man in the High Castle or The Handmaid’s Tale, where the horror comes from contemplating the ruthlessness of an insane society. Future Taylor isn’t nearly as fucked as Winston Smith or even Evey from Moore’s V For Vendetta, but she’s got her work cut out for her in trying to stem the rising tides of Salt water.
Spurrier’s scripting, besides the adequate continuation of the future-speak, is not as good as Moore’s in terms of panel and page pacing, but come on. Whose is? The highlight once again is his bookending of Future’s latest sci-fi book review around her situation at hand.
The only missing component from the equation is, once again, Fernando Heinz’s art. The technical skills are mostly there – despite one distracting perspective problem on the opening splash page which makes a character appear armless, he actually nails a lot of tricky angles from high aerial perspectives as Future travels around by hot air balloon. But his particular manga-influenced style is just too unserious. Future still looks weirdly younger than she did in the first arc, despite it taking place a year after the taking of Chooga and characters occasionally just look cute. One of the Crossed, leering maniacally, vaguely resembles a heavy from Dragonball Z. Even Future’s expressions of fear are a little too aesthetically appealing. It doesn’t ruin the whole package, but undermines the moments of grave seriousness.
Despite the aesthetic setback, Crossed + One Hundred is still compelling reading.
Writer, Simon Spurrier; Series Outline, Alan Moore; artist, Fernando Heinz; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Jaymes Reed; publisher, Avatar Press.