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Top Five Gross Yet Compelling Scenes from 2008 Comics

Here are my top five picks for the best gross, yet compelling, scenes I’ve seen in comics in 2008.

Enjoy!

HONORABLE MENTION, of a sort…The Boys has a lot of gross scenes, and I generally enjoy The Boys, but this past year, at least, I don’t think any of the gross scenes really helped the story, at least not in the same way they did in 2007. Nothing this past year was as compelling as, say, Tek-Knight dealing with the sudden compulsion to have sex with everything he sees.

HONORABLE MENTION, of a sort…to Scalped, which had a number of absolutely brutal scenes that I just don’t think I’d categorize as “gross,” most notably the scene where Dashiell decides to start doing heroin (in one of the best endings of any comic of 2008) or the scene where, when given a hamburger, the oldest son (of a bunch of kids) of a prostitute automatically starts splitting the burger up for his siblings until he learns that they are each getting their OWN burger – brutal, right? But probably not “gross.”

Before we move on, yes, Garth Ennis is on this list a lot, but you know what, that’s what Ennis does – he has more or less cornered the market on somehow making gross comics actually compelling.

5. The final FINAL battle between Punisher and Barracuda in The Punisher #54.

This was one explicit fight scene, including some gross violence, like Barracuda’s nose being torn off with a pliers. However, Ennis somehow manages to make the whole thing compelling by intermixing flashbacks from Barracuda’s life along with some excellent observations on the sheer monotony of the Punisher’s effectiveness – “He’s going to kill you. Not over me. You’re going up against him, so he’ll kill you. Because you’re a joke, in spite of it all. And he’s the most dangerous man who ever walked this Earth.”

4. The Crossed “zombies” masturbating on to a pile of bullets in Crossed #2.

I use quotes around zombies because the bad guys in Crossed are not exactly zombies, really. When you get bit by a “Crossed” person, you become insanely violent, often in sexual ways and psychotically sadistic, but you’re not really a zombie, per se. The effect, though, is sort of the same.

In any event, in the last issue of Crossed, one of the survivors we are following gets shot. Later on, the survivors spy a group of the Crossed masturbating in a group. One survivor notes that it is like the game with the biscuit (a group of men masturbate onto a biscuit – cookie in England – and the last one to ejaculate has to eat the biscuit) – only we soon learn that what they are masturbating on to is a bunch of bullets. You see, the bullet that hit the survivor earlier on was coated with semen, and as it turns out, you don’t just need to be bitten – ANY sort of exchange of bodily fluids does it (just not as quickly as simply being bitten), so the wounded survivor is now suddenly a Crossed in their midst!

The whole point of Crossed has been how screwed the survivors are – well, in this issue, Garth Ennis shows they are even MORE screwed that first thought, because the Crossed are apparently able to think strategically.

3. The cops examining a particularly gruesome murder scene in Echo #4.

I believe it is #4.

In any event, at the end of (#3, I guess) we see a conspiracy nut who got too close to the truth get murdered. In #4, though, we see the extent of it, as agents come to the man’s home and see that his body has more or less been exploded and almost fossilized all over the room. Terry Moore’s storytelling here in his artwork is spectacular – he gets across the utter disgusting nature of the crime as well as the effect it has on the people who see it – so creepy and yet so effective, as it sets up the dark villain of the piece (in the latest issue, there’s also a pretty gross fight sequence).

2. A husband and wife being anally raped while their daughter is ripped in two by “zombies” in Crossed #1.

That’s how awesome Garth Ennis is.

Look at the description of that scene – it sounds like the trashiest, vilest, most ridiculously obscene for the sake of obscenity type of scene imaginable – and yet Ennis really makes it work (I think so, at least).

In the first issue of Crossed, we meet our survivors who are just trying to come to terms with what is going on, only the situation is not one that you really CAN come to terms with. Ennis details all of the various survivors’ thoughts and slowly teases out the helplessness of the situation and he tempers it against one character’s seemingly naive idea about what could stop the “zombies.”

When he later tries to use the idea to save his wife and child instead of just taking his child and leaving his injured wife (as she desperately pleads with him to do), the end result is the gruesome scene described above, only adding in the fact that his wife is berating him while it is all taking place.

It’s a gross scene, but one that I think Ennis has “earned” with his set-up work earlier in the issue, making the scene certainly depressing as hell, but compelling enough for it to still work, which is an impressive job by Ennis.

1. Cee Cee saving the arm of her miscarried fetus in Young Liars #10.

Young Liars has a lot of gross scenes, but I dunno how many of them really result in all that compelling stories. I enjoy this series by David Lapham as a whole, but while I do not mind the gross stuff that goes down, rarely do I find it all that much help to the story – it’s more like something I put up with for the other stuff in the comic.

In the latest issue, though, the gross stuff really does help the story, as we get background on one of the supporting cast members, Cee Cee, including the fact that she keeps the arm from her miscarried fetus in her purse.

It is such a disgusting scene, but it also ends up working as a highly effective statement about Cee Cee’s mental state, and leads to an excellently written confrontation between Cee Cee and Danny (the character who is closest to being Young Liars’ “protagonist”).

Young Liars #10 was one of the best issues of the series yet, and the gross scene with the arm is a big part of the effectiveness of the issue.

That’s my Top Five! How about you folks?

42 Comments

This was an awesome list, Brian.

Three out of Five, AND an honourable mention! wow!

This proves Ennis is the Master of of Compulsive Gross-out….

I guess he’s been building up to it for a while with things like Preacher (and some parts of his Hellblazer run)

Where to in 2009, Garth?

The great thing is that he can mix it up by doing classic, beautiful stories like Dan Dare in the middle of writing The Boys (the morning after for Hughie didn’t make your list?) and Punisher… (I’m just guessing that time-wise Crossed was written after Dan Dare

I seem to remember a certain “Allfather Starr” wiping the butt of a retarded cannibal in exchange for a gun.

Garth Ennis is definitely an “awesome” (or should be “gross-some”) guy. ;-)

Man, that’s why I love Ennis so much!
The coolest thing about him is that he can run circles around other writers whenever he feels like it, but he seems content in doing these ultraviolent stories with a a dark sense of humor (that are still better than most comics out there).

Thanks for warning me from EVER reading Crossed, Brian!

Wow…that was like a list of “comics you should probably avoid” for me…

You beat me to it, Cat. I was just gonna post the same thing. :)

I was kind of surprised that there wasn’t more of a fanboy backlash against Ennis for setting up such an obvious fannish stereotype (into gaming, grasps at wanky, movie-style theories about the crossed, bearded, bespectacled, slightly chunky, named his kid after a fantasy character…) for a horrible end as a consequence of his insufficiently reality-focused ways.

Rosario Dawson’s character said it best about the donkey show in Clerks 2.

That applies to Ennis in no matter what he does.

Even tho’ what he writes might be considered disturbing, gross, obscene and disgusting, but also compelling, drawn-to, and entralling – you have to read it (or watch it) only JUST to satisfy your own curiousity (YOU SICK PERVERTS!!!!!!!!!!!!) and even morbidity.

Ennis probably knows this better than anyone and being the absolute bastard he is, and goes right ahead and does it. Much to his fan-base delight!

;-)

I f$%&ng love Ennis, he is a sick bastard, as simple as that. For me, definitely the anal rape is the worst, I think many people drop the book inmediately after watching this scene, but I’m more interested in watch what is the limit for Ennis, I mean, he has a limit, hasn’t he? If that was just for the first issue, can you imagine what he has in mind for the last issue. Can’t wait.

Oh, and the Punisher vs. Barracuda is one of my favorite fights, really vicious, is in my top ten. Peace.

Nope, sorry. Ennis used to know how to write compelling characters (on Preacher and Hellblazer especially). He apparently thought people liked those books because of the gross bits, so now he does strictly lowest-common-denominator bull$#!&. “A husband and wife being anally raped while their daughter is ripped in two by “zombies””– yay? Ennis has long since jumped the bodily-fluid-drenched shark. Maybe I’m not the kind of person he’s writing for, but I don’t want to be.

I can occasionally take a bit of Garth Ennis but find generally I’m not that interested in a lot of what he does, after reading this list I’m glad I passed on Crossed. I can’t believe, Terry Moore made this list! I have not read the first story arc to Echo only because I was trying not to get sucked into another title but I read issue 7&8 and I’m anxiously awaiting the first trade ( Damn you Moore!). As for Young Liars I read issue 9 and thought WTH! and followed up by reading 10 and have to say this is the most remember able book I read in 2008, disturbing and sad, just plain nuts! later

I grew up on horror movies, what Craven did in the seventies with Last House on the Left and the orignal Hills Have Eyes is actually far worse for me then what Ennis has done so far in Crossed. But the only thing Ennis ever did that really freked me was what we didn’t see in his first Ghost Rider mini-series when the angel Ruth says something to a little kid then we see Ruth boarding the bus and the mom goin back for the kid. Then she screams at something you don’t see. Maybe i’m sick for what i thought she did but that scene far disturbs me then what he’s shown on page.

You know what I miss? Hitman. The only legitimate proof that Ellis can write something with heart .

Now I can’t wait for the Crossed trade to come out.

Welp, I am never reading Crossed.

It’s not the naughty, gore bits that turn me off Garth Ennis’s work. I have a pretty high tolerance for those. Instead, it’s how Ennis is strangely judgmental and dismissive of pretty much everything, except for a few traits and things (macho bravery, male friendship, bars, cynicism) that are concentrated on his Mary Sue-ish badass anti-hero alter egos.

I used to think his Hellblazer was pretty good. Now I think everything he writes drips a certain worldy-weary, badder-than-thou arrogance. For all it’s gross-out and naughty jokes, the Pro was extremely moralizing and condescending. for instance.

One of the few thing I like about the Boys is that Wee Hughie is allowed to have doubts and fears and is a rather sweet, anti-violent fellow. Not a 100% cocksure macho guy like every other Ennis protagonist.

“You know what I miss? Hitman. The only legitimate proof that Ellis can write something with heart .”

Preacher doesn’t count? At all?

ew. ew. ew. ew. ew.

It’s not the naughty, gore bits that turn me off Garth Ennis’s work. I have a pretty high tolerance for those. Instead, it’s how Ennis is strangely judgmental and dismissive of pretty much everything, except for a few traits and things (macho bravery, male friendship, bars, cynicism) that are concentrated on his Mary Sue-ish badass anti-hero alter egos.

so his works don’t put you off, it’s actually his personality that you don’t approve of?

Preacher doesn’t count? At all?

it should, along with all the Belfast books he did, from TROUBLED SOULS to HEARTLAND to yes, even DICKS.

and most of his war stories are pretty heartfully written, too, albeit one-noteish (but it’s a wonderful, sonorous note).

” so his works don’t put you off, it’s actually his personality that you don’t approve of? ”

That generally seems to be the case with much of the criticism Ennis receives; it’s the overall tone of his works, not specific technical aspects, that people complain about. Generalities ( for example, ” Ennis is too gratuitous ” or ” Ennis is too blinded by hatred of superheroes ” ) are mentioned, but specifics are limited to key shock moments. The stuff that really makes Ennis’ comics is largely forgotten in these debates– the pub-side conversations, the validation of personal comraderie over societal BS, the brutal difficulties his heroes endure, and the cultural relevance throughout — in favor of the grace notes.

Also note that Ennis’ ” badass anti-heroes ” aren’t painted as always unflappable– Jesse Custer certainly had more than his share of doubts about what the right thing to do was. And the characters like Billy Butcher who do appear to have a clean conscience are shown to be dangerous psychopaths.

Confucius said: “When the people have lost their stock of virtue, evil men rule. The superior man withdraws to restore his virtue.”

So thanks for the heads up, I’ll give these titles a miss, and will proceed with a patented church lady superior dance.

Haven’t read Echo, but the rest of this list was basically some of my favorite comics of 2008, especially Punisher MAX and Young Liars. Crossed really is amazing though. It’s kind of like what The Walking Dead could be if Kirkman wasn’t so reliant on recycling movie scenes and making characters who turn out to be ridiculously unstoppable killing machines.

I’d think Hughie getting his red wings would easily count as the standout shock scene of The Boys for this year, although it was more of a throwaway joke and less of a compelling plot point.

although it was more of a throwaway joke and less of a compelling plot point.

Yeah, that’s how I took it as well, which is why it didn’t make the list. If one actually wished to make a “crass for crassness’ sake” argument, that’d be the bit to do it with.

That generally seems to be the case with much of the criticism Ennis receives; it’s the overall tone of his works, not specific technical aspects, that people complain about. Generalities ( for example, ” Ennis is too gratuitous ” or ” Ennis is too blinded by hatred of superheroes ” ) are mentioned, but specifics are limited to key shock moments. The stuff that really makes Ennis’ comics is largely forgotten in these debates– the pub-side conversations, the validation of personal comraderie over societal BS, the brutal difficulties his heroes endure, and the cultural relevance throughout — in favor of the grace notes.

Yeah. when I see an argument like that that is clearly not actually based in the work, I usually just don’t respond to it.

What’s the point, really?

Also note that Ennis’ ” badass anti-heroes ” aren’t painted as always unflappable– Jesse Custer certainly had more than his share of doubts about what the right thing to do was. And the characters like Billy Butcher who do appear to have a clean conscience are shown to be dangerous psychopaths.

exactly one of the many many many reasons why i love Ennis over, say, Gaiman (whose characters always seem to be, erm, too effete and book-smart) and Ellis (whose characters always seem to be carbon copies of authorial wishful thinking).

i hope he and Dillon actually find the time to do CITY OF LIGHTS.

That Scalped scene with the boy and breaking up the hamburger automatically was actually one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve read. Got me misty.

The Echo scene sounds somewhat like a scene in SiP where the guy who broke the Miracle story got killed. Probably grosser though.

Ennis is — ew. Maybe not him personally, but his work… ew. Maybe I don’t want to read Crossed. I got kinda queasy just reading your description, Brian.

And unfortunately, from what I hear, City Lights is kind of a dead project. Where I heard it was a trustworthy source, but I’m not sure if that source was “speaking on the record”, so I won’t say who, just to say it was at an Ithacacon in the last year or 2.

garth ennis; the oneiest trickiest pony the ever hacked.

Ok, since we’re examining this: for me the flaw in Ennis’ writing is that those aspects of Ennis’ personality previously mentioned feel like they’re not only recurring themes of his writing, but the only themes. The macho bravado, the love of comeraderie, the brutal hero’s struggle, and the derision for any kind of romanticism… I could read these once, or twice, or any number of times from various authors. But, from the same author, again and again, is tiresome.
Clearly this is what Ennis fans clamor for, so good for him for filling a niche, but I’m bored. The plot changes, but the theme remains, the style remains. At the the God of All Comics’ theme (hope) is broad enough to encompass a spectrum.
(And, I’ll admit, I don’t approve of some of Ennis’ themes, and that doesn’t help. I can appreciate good writing, and I feel like I’ve read what he has to say on the subject)

Dan Dare had real heart. No gore. Brilliant story-telling. Try it for Heaven’s sake!

I also think the core romance between Tulip and Jesse in Preacher was gold.

I don’t think he’s a one-trick pony, but I do think that Ennis is trying to see how far he’s allowed to go…

Guys, it’s sort of what Stephane said.

For the record, I recognize that Ennis is technically talented, and I sorta like some aspects of his work. But yes, his personality turns me off, and that infuses all of his works. Particularly the exaltation of “machismo” and the gleeful derision of any sort of romanticism. It seems like Ennis exists to tear things down (except for manly male friendship in bars, that is his sacred cow).

When I first read his, in his Hellblazer days, I was fascinated, because he was so different from everyone else, and had such raw strength in his writing. I loved his no-punches-pulled approach. When I read Preacher and Hitman, my enthusiasm was a bit lessened. The guy writes like this all the time, I thought. His protagonists are too much extensions of himself.

And yes, Jesse Custer had doubts, but not enough, IMO. I was mildly surprised by Wee Hughie, because he is the kind of guy that other of Ennis’s protagonists would have made fun of. In the Boys, it seemed like Ennis has managed to fracture his alter ego in two pieces: Wee Hughie is much more sentimental and unsure than usual, while the Butcher is Ennis’s hero with ruthlessness and sureness maxed-out.

I also recognize that guys like Gaiman and Ellis also do a certain kind of protagonist over and over, but I think I am able to identify more easily with them. Maybe I’m not macho enough or cynical enough.

But no, it’s not the violence and the sex that turn me off. You’re talking to someone who has a DVD collection with lots of Sopranos, Oz, Rome, Deadwood, and the L Word in it,

“Gleeful derision of any sort of romanticism?” I think you need to crack open Preacher and take a closer look this time. There’s quite a bit of romantic American imagery that Ennis indulges in.

Maybe I’m not choosing the correct words. Is “romantic” the correct word here? Cowboy romanticism is okay with him, because it’s rough and macho and self-reliant and down-to-Earth, know what I’m saying? It’s sort of a hyper-male romanticism, so that makes it okay for him. Ennis can recognize and cherise love, he does it a lot in his comics, but even so there is always the love between two tough, hard-hitting, cynical, world-weary soldiers. Tulip is tough, Jesse is tough, Kit (from Hellblazer) is tough, Constantine is tough, woman cop from Preacher is tough, Hitman is tough. It’s always two tough, tough bad-asses who know the score.

I think “The Boys” is a first for him, because Wee Hughie isn’t tough, and Annie January isn’t tough. But I suppose it’s all about getting them to be tough.

I meant, woman cop from HITMAN, whatishername.

CROSSED is so disturbing because the story’s zombie disease has these sexual and sado-masochistic elements which haven’t really been explored before (DEPRAVED might have been a more apt title). It’s what elevates the premise from a simple rehash of The Walking Dead or other generic “survival horror” scenarios.

Brian’s right on for having them in his top five, but textual recaps don’t do these scenes justice. The key is gross YET compelling and Ellis shows how high the stakes are with these moments.

@Wolfsbane, Given that the little kid was last seen clutching a sharpened colouring pencil about an inch away from his dilated pupil, I am pretty sure that we can make an educated–or is that, depraved–guess.

I can’t deny that I find it strange admitting that Ennis’s PUNISHER is what got me to like the man’s work. Was never a PREACHER fan, and thought his HELLBLAZER run was ridiculously over-rated. And I have revisited swaths of that stuff in the last couple of years and still find it quite average, if not poor. But gosh-dang if I ain’t just lapping up all the nought years. PUNISHER, GHOST RIDER, THE BOYS, KEV and, yes, CROSSED. To name but a few. Sometimes I hardly know myself anymore; still, I’m having fun not knowing.

I guess this a “guy’ thing to consider anal rape as entertainment. Dress it up anyway you like, it’s still a reprehensible way to get your jollies.

Looks like this thread’s winding down, but I’ll chime in. I read Crossed #1 to see what the fuss was about, and I did not find it compelling. The characterization was bizarrely off-kilter and the situation rang false as a result.

SPOILERS

To be more specific, I did not find it plausible that the father (can’t remember his name) would stake his and his daughter’s lives (as well as his wife’s degradation prior to death) on an untested theory of highly dubious provenance, as pointed out by other characters in the story. It’s frankly ridiculous, and it’s extremely jarring because of that. I could see him wanting to test his “salt” theory, but virtually anyone would try to do so under less dire circumstances. Yes, Ennis wants him to look stupid, but in typically Ennis fashion he overdoes it to the point that the character becomes a caricature.

I would find it more effective to have him look at the salt, his wife and child, drop the salt, and shoot his wife, then flee with his screaming daughter, showing the death of his naivete while offering some character development. That might bring me back for the next issue, to find out what effect his decision had on him and his daughter. Interestingly, it would also offer a stronger Biblical allusion, which I assume Ennis was clumsily trying to execute. As it stands, no characters shows any development within the single issue (decompression rears its tiresome head) and it simply strikes me as wasted opportunity sacrificed to shock value.

I stuck with Ennis through Hitman, but lost interest about 20 issues into Preacher, and have found no real reason to doubt that decision or to pick up any of his work since (except the Hitman/JLA two-parter). This issue didn’t change my mind. I’m not going to debate artistic merit, because it’s not necessary. Art endures, and the other stuff ends up in quarter bins. Mr. Cronin, it would be interesting to revisit this story in five years or so and see which fate prevails.

if you don’t like ennis stuff don’t read it and shut the fuck up…i never read his preacher stuff or hellblazer but i have read hitman and its my favorite comic and ive also been catching up on sum of his punisher stuff and its excellent…in a world of heroes he dares to show you the other side and be different…

Dear “bats” If you like ennis, read is and shut the fuck up. Or, accept that this is a message board, and that people are free to post their own opinions, regardless of if a hostile little jackass like you agrees with them or not.

I’ve never argued with anyone who dismisses Ennis’s stuff, because I know that arguing with opinion leads to nothing. I’ve even blatantly told certain friends that they absolutely should not read “Crossed”, despite the fact that I love it and think it’s one of the most genius dissections of the zombie/wasteland genre ever written.

It simply comes down to whether you are willing to accept some gross-out in your entertainment in exchange for well-written story. I’ll even admit that he sometimes goes too far for me. I had to put down the first “Crossed” collection multiple times and take a break, though I’m very glad I continued through to the end.

On a very specific note, I found it very surprising that most people found the “too-far” moment in the first arc of “The Boys” to be that there’s a part where someone pulls a “Richard Gere” with a gerbil. I barely blinked at that. The part I was genuinely upset by, which no one else seemed to mind, was the scene where a group of supes is having a party with a bunch of prostitutes, and one of them reaches down between her legs after being with a client and comes back with blood on her fingers. I’m pretty sure I actually had to close the book and choke back a bit of throw-up.

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