Crossed and the moral courage in murdering screaming kids

Crossed #3 is about how how if kids have seen bad things, you should murder them because they are forever tainted by this. It is revisited again as the series goes on to add that in retrospect, killing those kids was absolutely the right thing to do.

In the third issue the main group steps in a trap, and there’s someone on a rooftop who shoots him. They shoot back, only to find the woman wasn’t infected, and neither are the little kids who come out.

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Turns out that she’s their kindergarten teacher, and was killing people and feeding them to the kids, because in all zombie apocalypses somehow the most plentiful game is still man. They head back to her hideout to patch her up, and she tells them not to blame the kids. Note the pictures above. They’re unarmed and generally nonthreatening.

They murder the kids. They have a little chat about it first, mind you.

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But it’s a foregone conclusion. The discussion is just so the author can draw it out and make it look deeper than it is.

“That’s not all they are anymore,” she says. “We can’t rehabilitate them,” she says. And this is taken as fact.

The kids have been connected to something awful and taboo, and so they are no longer children. It’s not simply the murder, because the comic was quite capable of just having her killing people for their stuff. The fact they ate human flesh and are inherently tainted by it is a crucial bit of the argument here.

There doesn’t seem to be anything off about the children. They’re not aggressive, they’re not creepy. They are, in fact, surprisingly undamaged by the general horrors of this world, but that’s basically everyone in the comic. None of that matters, they’re ruined. The woman who chose to do these things gets patched up and they do attempt to keep her alive, although it’s futile. But the kids who saw her do things and ate the food she gave them have to be murdered. You can’t rehabilitate a kid from seeing an adult kill another adult. They’re just monsters now.

There’s a token effort to add that they’d be hard to deal with, but it’s mostly in the respects of hard to deal with because they’re monsters.

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That’s her son, who she’s been carefully insulating from the horrors. The other children might have infected him with their experiences. Kids who have been through horrible things should be murdered before they ruin your precious angels with their suffering. They don’t even deserve the courtesy of being killed quietly.

Also, that guy suggesting they keep the kids? A wimp who turns out to be a gay serial killer. Remember, people who don’t think children like this are irredeemable monsters who need to be put down for everyone’s good are wimpy gay serial killers.

So they murder some crying, screaming children, because children who see bad things are less than people.

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And that’s not the end. This is revisited, with the characters repeatedly thinking back to it…and how super justified it was.

Next episode the rest of the group is subdued, and it’s because the two of them murdered those kids.

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“It was the only real choice.”
“It was the hard thing but the right thing.”
“You could even call it moral courage.”

As I said, the comic dwells on this to give the appearance of deepness. There’s never any actual question about what they did, and they only think back to it like this for angst porn points, about how hard it was to do the absolutely right and justified thing and how really is serves to show how morally courageous they are, how in fact they’re superior to anyone who didn’t do this. The worse the thing they did, the better it proves they are. Because it was necessary, and they shouldered that necessary burden for everyone.

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And it’s again brought up in the end, where again, “We were right,” without any room for doubt.

You can feel bad that the world happened to include children that needed murdering, but since it did, the children definitely needed to be shot, and their willingness to make this hard choice, this great sacrifice on their part, just further proves their worthiness as survivors in this world, unlike, for example, that weakling from issue one who didn’t shoot his wife. Any unease felt about murdering kindergartners is transmuted into manpain that shows how hard life is for him.

This comic is unusually unashamed about all this, but the basic idea actually pops up more often than you’d first think. I’m not entirely sure why, but I think the core elements are what you see here – the more horrible it is that children have to go through something, the more people want an excuse to get rid of them. The same innocence that means they should be protected from these things ends up being the justification for why they’re no longer deserving of protection or even basic consideration

It’s a visceral reaction, in all the worst ways. In the comments for the last post, I said it’s ultimately about the kids being deemed unclean. They’re gross. And that’s the real reason they have to die.

Bear in mind, also, the main character will later kill someone for much less of a reason than starvation. But eating people is a taboo and children doing bad things is taboo, so the kids are monsters and he’s just a guy in a bad situation.

(As an aside, this is about the only thing I thought the Walking Dead did right. A little kid in this situation would see horrible things just like an adult, and they’d likely end up having to do horrible things too. But that doesn’t change them instantly into monsters.)

27 Comments

  1. Zolnier says:
    For all Warren Ellis hates organised religion for it’s myriad crimes against the innocent in the name of fighting “sin” he sure does approve of the activity.

    That was worse than Wither, at least that didn’t suggest it was okay to deliberately murder children because they’ve been tainted. Even Hunger Games on some level knew the Games were evil.

    Funny fact, Warren Ellis’ comic Transmetropolitan has a whole story about the plight of child prostitutes. Guess it was before he saw the light and realised damaged kids need to be shot.

    Also why are they shooting them? If they’re asleep wouldn’t smothering them be less likely to wake the others up and cause their deaths to become prolonged and difficult? Or hell they might be able to overwhelm them as a group. And you know save bullets for the psychotic adult armed not-zombies who like torture and rape!

    Actually I’m surprised Warren didn’t have the kids wake up and futility attempt to defend themselves. Could have “proven” their evil. Because a child not willing to take an honour killing is bad.

    Hell he even has two kids wake up, and he then shows run trying to shield the other while crying in fear.

    Also wouldn’t the teacher have mostly been killing Crossed people? Don’t they outnumber normals?

    Surprised you missed the implication of the person arguing for the kids being a gay serial killer. It’s the “Gays are paedophiles” bullshit that anti-gay adoption people use.

    And calling this moral courage is so cheap when you realise in real life there are some people who’ve had to kill a child in actual self defence. They usually don’t think they did a good thing.

    1. illhousen says:
      This comic is by Garth Ennis.
      Transmetropolitan is by Warren Ellis.
      1. Zolnier says:
        Sorry, my mistake. Explains why Transmetro understands children don’t turn into inhuman monsters when bad things happen to them.

        Garth Ennis I should have known, I read The Boys, he has no comprehension of moral greyness.

        1. Farla says:
          They are impossible to keep straight. It’s like some sort of internet confusion spell.
    2. Farla says:
      The Transmetropolitan story was particularly good for not going the other direction of HERO SAVES CHILD PROSTITUTES, ALL IS WELL LET’S HAVE CAKE. The kids are doing disturbing stuff and we don’t know how to help! But they’re still kids and deserving of sympathy!

      The main character here would probably just set up a sniper rifle on a building overlooking the orphanage. The hard choice but the right choice.

      1. Zolnier says:
        And one of the reasons Spider gave for the child prostitutes doing what they do, people writing the kids off as ruined and not even trying to help. You know what I want these characters too meet Spider Jerusalem, tell their story of moral courage and die with shitty briefs.
  2. illhousen says:
    “Children are flowers of life. They should be put into either soil or water.” – Kharms.

    To be fair to Kharms, he had a good reason to hate kids since he was stuck writing poetry and stories for children due to censure.

    Garth, on the other hand, seems to write this stuff simply to be edgy. At least that’s my impression. I think he just wanted to include something disturbing to show how zombie apocalypse sucks. Child murder was an obvious choice. Then he quickly came up with a reason for good guys to kill kids, and here it is. He probably didn’t really think about the implications.

    1. Farla says:
      Edgy is definitely a component, but it’s the way he keeps returning to it, keeps explaining how just and good he was to do this, that pushes it farther. I’d like to think that no one in the real world would be in favor of killing kids…but too many people in the real world are in favor of the hard choice in killing things they’ve decided aren’t kids.
      1. illhousen says:
        What I meant is that he probably doesn’t actively believe that “unclean” children can never be saved.
        He reached for a “plausible” reason for the protagonists to murder kids while being morally right, he created a story about cannibalism. He didn’t notice implications because they are too visceral for him, too integrated into his psyche to really see.

        Which isn’t any better, of course.

        Not sure if I explain successfully.

        1. Farla says:
          I would hope, but he likely is the sort of person in real life who says that they need to be put down for their own good and accepts people making that choice, just because you don’t write this much about what an objectively right decision it was and not come to think the same thing when you hear real people do it.

          Even Scans Daily, which was progressive to the point of turning into social justice nutjobs, has a few people on issue three thinking the choice was reasonable.

  3. illhousen says:
    The sad thing here is that I kinda see how the idea could work.
    Imagine this: protagonists start as perfectly normal people trying to survive. In order to do that they commit more and more atrocities. It starts relatively small: abandoning someone doomed to die anyway, not helping people in need because it’s their problem… The process escalates. At some point they kill some innocent person for food, for example.

    The moment with kids those is the point where it hit the readers: the protagonists became monsters and they don’t even see it.

    For this idea to work, however, you need counter-point characters.
    Someone who is willing to commit small crimes in the name of survival but has a clear line they won’t cross even if it means their death.
    And someone who never abandons their ideals even in the face of failure because otherwise this ideals would be meaningless.

    You may also change the reason for killing kids from “they are unclean” to “they are a bother” to get rid of implications and focus on moral destruction of characters.

    1
    1. Farla says:
      Unfortunately, the only time anyone kills an innocent for food, it’s the teacher. The realization the guy didn’t even have any makes her decide to eat the body instead, so as least she didn’t do it for nothing.

      Later on the main character will kill some guy for kicking his dog and being annoying, but we’ve had it hammered in that the guy is a dick by then so the reader’s not exactly upset.

      1. Zolnier says:
        I’ve never before wanted children to actually tear apart a character and eat him, until today!

        Also I can’t wait till they encounter Crossed and don’t have enough bullets. They’ll probably remember they wasted a few on some crying six year olds. And think it was a heroic sacrifice.

        1. Farla says:
          That final image? That’s from the final comic issue, after they’ve successfully made it to their destination without ever running low on bullets.

          They are the only survivors.

          Everyone who couldn’t bring themselves to murder children personally is dead. Remember, merely going along with it won’t save you, headshot the kindergartners yourself.

          1. Zolnier says:
            I love how in zombie stuff food and shelter is always scare but not bullets or gun parts. Also guns never need to be cleaned or repaired.

            Also let me guess, these people have screwed over and killed innocents during their journey just like they think the kids did. Even though it was the teacher.

  4. Space Blizzard says:
    What the fuck is wrong with the people who made this comic?
    1. Farla says:
      They are men who stare unflinchingly at What Must Be Done, and then do it.

      The rest of us argue that it was probably a minor cold and not a death plague that had to be stopped by firebombing the entire house to burn everyone in contact with the sniffling child alive, because we’re sheeple who will be first against the rape mutilation wall when the zombies come.

      1. Zolnier says:
        It’s the fantasy of people who think they’ll be the ones to teach the poor the libertarian truth.

        Also are the crossed really weak against salt coming I to contact with them? If so how are they destroying the world?

  5. Guest says:
    Children. Strength? Clean? How can anyone who sees that read this. I wanted to read this, I thought it would be interesting like some gory b movie, but now after reading this… The author is a fucking pig.
  6. Elisabeth says:
    Are the kids mindless flesh-eating zombies, or going to turn into zombies? If not, then I don’t know what to say. :(
  7. SpoonyViking says:

    Just read “The Boys”. It’s a great story with a terrible writer, unfortunately, but more than that, it’s “nice” to see that Ennis is consistent in his viewpoints: it’s best that a bunch of people who were abused as children were horribly killed, because it’s “sorta like cancer, innit? I mean, how’re you supposed to know where to stop cutting?”. I don’t know, Ennis, but I assume an actual surgeon – you know, someone with the proper knowledge – would.

    1. Farla says:

      Yeah – and it’s a clever slight of hand, too. Surgeons often will cut out past the end of a tumor, removing some healthy flesh along with it to be sure…but people aren’t cancer. People aren’t one whole individual who has some malfunctioning parts. The quote assumes that some portion of people definitely need to be viciously killed, and the “hard choice” bit is about deciding just how many extra people you need to murder to be sure you got them all, and then the real manly hard choice is admitting the answer is “nuke the patient from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure”. (And, you know, the “patient” is supposed to get a say, surgeons don’t just jump you in an alley and hack bits off.) 

      Which gets back to the purity thing. If you assume the only thing you can do to stop bad things is kill people, and that people who do bad things exist solely to do bad things and have no other value as people, then there are three types of people:

      1) People who have done a bad thing, and are therefore cancer with no right to exist.

      2) People who haven’t done a bad thing, but will do a bad thing and so are secretly also cancer, and only by preemptively murdering them will you ever make bad things stop happening.

      3) Pure cinnamon rolls, who you must protect from 1 and 2 with murder.

      And on some level the comic understands that this isn’t actually right, that there has to be some room for a constructive interaction with society…but it can’t actually get there, so you have a hundred comics about heroic murder with a “maybe…murder bad?” moment right before the end, which is handled by more murder.

      1. SpoonyViking says:

        And on some level the comic understands that this isn’t actually right, that there has to be some room for a constructive interaction with society…but it can’t actually get there, so you have a hundred comics about heroic murder with a “maybe…murder bad?” moment right before the end, which is handled by more murder.

        Indeed. I think part of what’s wrong with the comic is an issue of framing. There’s a single issue where Ennis’ mouthpieces address how shitty it is to treat non-hetero sexualities as “unclean” or similar… But all the other 70+ issues show only terrible, terrible people engaging in non-hetero sex, which is always treated as sexual deviancy.

        And then we have the more general hypocrisy (fuck identities, any identity other than [your nationality] doesn’t matter! Except the Irish identity, apparently, because those fucking Irish-Americans are a bunch of posers), the actual writing issues (Supers are a bunch of incompetent idiots! Oh, wait, they’re actually a real threat! Except against the protagonists, apparently)…

        Sorry, I’m going off on a tangent about “The Boys” here. But really, this is all so typical of Ennis’ writing!

        1. Farla says:

          Yeah, he flirts with good ideas and then it’s back to brutally murdering the bad people status quo. That was what was so frustrating about it. It keeps almost rising above things, and then it doesn’t, again and again and again.

          He’s much better on shorter things.

          1. SpoonyViking says:

            That was what was so frustrating about it.

            Indeed!

            He’s much better on shorter things.

            Hm. Any recommendations off the top of your head?

            1. Farla says:

              I really liked the stuff he did in Battlefields. It’s a string of oneshot comics, and it’s about war, so really playing to his strengths. It’s still full of gore, rape, and awful people doing awful things, it just feels realistic and even respectful of the subject.

              Reply
            2. SpoonyViking says:

              Hm, sounds interesting, I’ll check it out. Thanks!

              Reply

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