Injection, Volume One - Review
Warren Ellis’s comics generally fall into one of three areas:
- Writer-for-hire stuff that takes an old property, shakes off the dust, and breathes new life into it; Hellblazer, just about all his work for Marvel, James Bond.
- A mind-bending concept that he wants to get out there; ReD, Switchblade Honey, Trees.
- Some story that won’t leave him alone – he’s been tinkering with it for a while and now it’s time to share; Planetary, Global Frequency, FreakAngels.
That final one, for my money, is by and large where his best work lies and Injection definitely falls into this category.
We’re presented with Ellis’s own versions of Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Greg House, The Doctor, and Elliot Anderson (a kind of modern day League of Extraordinary Gentlemen without any of the messy copyright issues). Uncle Warren is having fun subverting genres while at the same time spinning an intriguing tale – what if some smart people tried to give us the future we’d been promised and then had to deal with the consequences?
It really is a fantastic story that he’s obviously white-boarded the hell out of. The world-building going on is almost artisan in the level of craft on show; the secret agent’s choice of weapon, the group’s on-going obsession with sandwiches, and even the name of the asylum we find the weary scientist in when we first meet her (an issue Ellis explores further in his intriguing novella Normal) are given so much thought. It doesn’t come across as pretentious flourishes or Tom Clancy-esque unnecessary noise – these choices all help add depth to this world.
As with Planetary, The Authority, and Fell, the art-team paired up with Ellis are a perfect fit for the project. Shalvey’s art is just amazing; for me the best he’s done. It reminds me of a modern take on Romita Jr’s approach, and when combined with Bellaire’s luminescent colours, the whole story dances with a cinematic feel that pulls you in and fits with the hyper-real taste that the adventure is imbued with.
The beautiful splash pages and perfectly paced action scenes are the ones that will get the plaudits but for me, the thought and emotion present in the quiet moments when characters are talking, or contemplating what they’re about to do, are the panels that elevate the storytelling and make reading the comic such an absorbing experience. I must have gone back and read this first volume at least five or six times yet every time I get sucked in, finding something new on each visit.
The one problem I have with it is the style of the piece. Bits don’t quite land with me. The way the characters are introduced, the vagaries of the flashbacks, a couple of the one liners. It sometimes comes off feeling just a little bit cute. I would have liked them to trust the story and broken with convention a little bit more. Maybe it’s unfair to judge the first five issues instead of waiting for the series to finish but I can’t help but feel that rather than going for gold and attempting a triple twisting yurchenko they bottled out on their approach to the vault and settled for bronze. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still impressive to medal, it’s just that I’m really wanted them to finish at the top of the podium.
Any comic from Warren Ellis is always worth a look. I can’t wait to see where it goes but just fell short of a home run.
- Fresh concept
- Genre mashing
- Smart and beautiful storytelling.
- Could have been awesome instead of just really, really great.