(Titan Books, £18.99)

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IT seems that you can’t go anywhere these days without stumbling across another post-apocalyptic struggle for survival by a rag-tag bunch of disparate survivors.

But if it’s not zombies or vampires threatening to wipe out what remains of humanity, then it’s hoards of madmen infected by the latest biological super-virus, stripped of conscience and restraint, and driven merely to butcher, rape and destroy.

Nobody knows the origins of the Crossed, so named because of the crucifix-shaped facial markings the disease triggers, they were just suddenly upon us, and in a matter of days, the world was lost to their rampage. Planes were deliberately crashed out of the skies, nuclear plants were forced into meltdown, and thousands upon thousands of people were either transformed or slain.

So far so 28 Days Later, with obvious comparisons between the Crossed and those changed by exposure to the Rage virus, but whereas Danny Boyle’s movie suggested the possibility of humanity fighting back against the infected, in Garth Ennis’ twisted new world there is no such hope. All that remains is the possibility of survival, but with each new challenge comes a further loss of humanity, and those struggling to stay alive must ask themselves how far they can go before becoming monsters themselves.

Released in the UK as part of Titan Books’ new deal to reprint projects by the largely horror-focused Avatar Press, this is a cold, brutal and largely humourless story of death, destruction, depravity and despair, and makes for tough reading in one go.

Those few moments of blackly-tinged brevity do very little to raise the overall feeling of dread and hopelessness, but will ensure you never look at Bugsy Malone in the same way again!

Jacen Burrows’ starkly realistic artwork offers a level of detail and depth which ensures the reader experiences every disgusting aspect of a post-Crossed world, with some remarkable double-page spreads that succeed in conveying the utter horror of this new reality.

Don’t expect an easy ride here by any stretch of the imagination, but persevere and you’ll be rewarded with a fascinating look at humanity’s ability to survive against almost incalculable odds, and our coldhearted ruthlessness to achieve this.

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