Crossed +100 – The 2015 Weekly Writer Challenge: Alan Moore (Part 1)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
Usually this is the part where I write some facts about the author I’m doing a post on. This week, the final week of the challenge I’ve embarked upon, is all about Alan Moore. He’s one of the most well-known, well-respected, and oddball comic creators ever. Alan Moore has written some of the most iconic and well-known comics to have been produced from this artistic medium, with even that choice of words failing to do him true justice for his impact on the comic book world. There is so much I could write just about Alan Moore (not even his work, just the man himself) that it’s actually a daunting task trying to bring together an appropriate opening paragraph for this post. Moore is a man who has been doing this for decades and it shows across his entire body of work.
Crossed +100 Volume 1
One hundred years ago “The Surprise” occurred, an event where humans turned psychotic and began to inexplicably maim as well as defile each other, committing some of the most vile acts that a human mind could conceive. In the present day, these “infected” humans, easily denoted by a rash on their face that resembles an inverted cross, have began to dwindle in numbers, having once nearly overrun the Earth to now be outnumbered by the remaining, uninfected humans. Without an education system, government body, conventional modes of transportation, and several other staples of the regular lives we lead, the world has dramatically evolved into something familiar yet still wildly different. The English language has degraded, being a sorry mixture of casual and slang words with our common tongue to give a type of speaking that resembles that of a four-year old but with more expletives that equate to meanings you wouldn’t think of. In the midst of this changing world is a young woman named Future Taylor, an archivist who travels with her group to explore the world and gather information on how life used to be. Operating out of the large settlement of Chooga, this group of explorers becomes dismayed when they encounter a group of “infected”, an uncommon sight in the year 2108. Following several other encounters with these “infected”, Future Taylor begins to worry that a larger plot is at hand involving these tainted humans. But is Future too late to stop these dangers that are already unfolding around her?
Alan Moore gives his best shot at building a fascinating future civilization around the concept that drives this fan favourite horror series in Crossed +100. Moore shows the reader what the world would be like one hundred years from now if civilization nearly collapsed following the unexplained outbreak of insanity in the human race, leading a vast majority of the human population to commit deplorable acts of rape, murder, cannibalism, and much more. One hundred years without school, electricity, proper transportation, and many other staples of life is shown to have taken its toll on the human race. But, much like the history that lies before us, the threat of the infected eventually subsides, with the battle for survival shifting to become a battle for rebirth. As years pass, age catches up with everyone and everything, including the infected humans. As a result, the population of the infected that once outnumbered your healthy humans begins to decrease as elements like food, age, and slaughtering their offsprings due to their psychotic nature all result in their inability to build a foundation for a new civilization.
The world building that Alan Moore does for Crossed +100 is highly interesting because of the different layers he adds to what he is doing. Alan Moore does more than just examine how the world would change in a geographical sense due to the outbreak of this specific type of infected and does all his world building in the truest sense as he literally makes an entirely new Earth from which these characters live off of. Without a school system in place, the language that these characters use changes in a way that makes them all sound highly uneducated and come off as human beings in the most basic sense. Travel by conventional means like cars is all but forgotten. Cities and towns are now a thing of the past as humans have developed new settlements and strongholds in favour of creating more secure locations.
The most interesting degree to Moore’s vision is how he changes language, taking words that are common to us and giving them a whole new meaning. For example, instead of a character saying something like “I thought about that!” they would say something like “I skulled it!”, with the idea being that using one’s head is part of the action used when it comes to thinking so somewhere along the line the word “think” is completely abandoned in place of the term “skull”. Other examples like the use of the words “and but” in conjunction with each other show that sentence structure was damaged somewhere in the midst of the past one hundred years as the use of the word “and” in that instance is unnecessary as “and but” together in Moore’s world translates plainly to “but”. The way words are used here is fascinating because it’s meant to be oversimplified to imply to the reader that language has taken a step back towards something like that of the Neanderthals but then the overuse of some words shows that logic is still there, it’s just misplaced. Another interesting decision Moore makes with his language structure is the emphasis on curse words, having some of them become more common than the word “the”. Moore uses the “f-word” in such a casual way that it actually has multiple meanings on top of its standard meaning that we’ve become used to. Other words like “brown/browned” have foul meanings as well, that you can easily figure out for yourself. All around it’s a fairly brilliant idea on Moore’s part, one that is initially frustrating as you try to make sense of the jargon on the page but once you realize how you’re supposed to interpret what is being said it makes the story far more interesting. It’s all a rather cool idea, but one that stumbles at times because of how it is presented. If you’ve got the patience to decode everything that is happening, it’s great. But if you’re someone who is trying to decipher the plot quickly, it’ll be lost on you and make you think you’re reading a story from a three-year old child.
Truth be told, the characters are probably the least interesting part of this story, so much so that I feel bored just writing a paragraph about them. Within the first three issues, half the characters that you feel like you should care about are killed for the sake of having something happen. Let’s just make characters and plot one paragraph instead so that way it’s a more engaging paragraph to read. The plot itself, much like the characters, is awful through the first three to four issues. You keep hoping for something, anything to happen but the arduous task of decoding Moore’s “new” language as well as understanding the rules of the world he’s building attempt to distract you from the slow-moving plot. As I said, virtually nothing happens plot wise throughout the first three issues, or at least it feels that way. Death for the sake of death is all that really seems to strike a chord in this one, although a death that seems like a throw away turns out to be a significant piece of the puzzle Moore is creating, you just have to be patient for the payoff. That’s essentially what Crossed +100 all boils down to, patience. If you’re willing to try to grasp the language Moore is creating, the world he’s building, and the plot he’s crafting, your patience will be paid off by a dramatic final two issues. When you see the pieces of the plot Moore began developing from issue one begin to payoff in issue six, all that jargon you climbed through feels worth it. With this being a Crossed story, one would expect tons of nudity and gratuitous violence but even that feels like it’s toned down ever so slightly for the sake of Moore’s vision, instead favouring the slow burn plot that kicks it up a notch in the final twenty to thirty pages.
Collects: Crossed +100 #1-6
Best Character: Future Taylor
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: “I refuse to pick a meaningful piece of dialogue from this graphic novel because I had to work extra hard to decode the true meaning behind the language and if I put down some of this crazy talk in quotations for this post, you all might think I’m an idiot.” – Dylan Routledge
Best Scene/Moment: Everything adds up – Issue 6
Best Issue: Issue 6. It isn’t even a contest. After fighting your way through four and a half slow issues, the halfway mark of issue five becomes the first, highly interesting moment of the series with that momentum carried forward into the final issue in issue six. The simmering plot boils over in this issue with everything paying off with a conclusion that should feel shockingly obvious but also rightfully deserved. You feel as though you earn this ending, regardless of whether you deem it a good or bad one. It’s not like this entire series is mind-blowing but it’s enough to show you that Alan Moore does still have some tricks up his sleeve that can surprise a reader.
Why You Should Read It: You should read this story to see how world building should be done, even if it isn’t necessarily done well the entire time. When it comes to world building in comics, it feels like a lot of writers today always seem to forget how important language is when showing a distant past or a far away future setting. People change and evolve or in some instances, devolve, something that Alan Moore shows clearly with this story. It’s not perfect but it’s not all awful either, showing the reader that patience and persistence can often lead to a compelling read even if it doesn’t seem that way from the start.