Writer: Warren Ellis
Illustrator: Declan Shalvey
Publisher: Image Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A dark crossroads of science and fantasy steeped in an anxiety about the future. This is a story about how 5 crazy geniuses tried to help the future, ended up doing a massive amount of harm to it instead, and tried to do damage control.
Imagine Fringe mixed with House, M.D., where the 5 main characters in the comic are all Dr. House. Now, imagine if that targeted an academic audience instead of the general population.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
When the story opens, the damage has already been done. At least, that’s the sense we get from the dark, nearly dystopian scenes and a narrative alluding to present-day damage for past mistakes.
For example, we begin in a sanatorium, where we meet one of our eccentric geniuses, Maria Kilbride. She’s recruited to come out of a sort of “retirement” to solve a mystery filled with missing persons and a strange, new, fantasy-like environment which appeared suddenly in a building’s basement.
She makes calls to her partners from the past, who may be able to help her solve this mystery, and we find out through a series of flashbacks that these are the people she worked with to help save the future, and instead ended up poisoning it.
Each discovers, in their own way, that these strange happenings are all a part of something much larger and more sinister. Something that was entirely their fault. And something they might not be able to stop from causing the world irreparable harm.
Ellis’ writing style, Shalvey’s clean lines and realistic art, and Bellaire’s brilliant use of color lend a real cinematic feel to the book
It seems like Universal Cable Productions agrees with me, since they recently optioned the comic for a TV pilot
The cross between A.I. and shamanistic magic makes for a novel, interesting concept and antagonist
The contrast between the bright colors and clean, well-slept faces in the flashbacks against the dark grit of the environments and the characters’ shadowy eyes and (for the men) unshaven faces says more than any dialogue about what happened in the past
Witty banter adds some comic relief to the heaviness of the story, and Ellis’ dialogue is always sharp
The idea that a bunch of elite geniuses would try to help make the future better and end up creating something deadly and terrible feels all too realistic
I can’t stress enough how great of an art team Shalvey & Bellaire make on this book (see the image below) and all the others they work on together
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The book has adult themes, violence and language, so it’s definitely not for kids
Sometimes, I’d get confused with the Britishness of certain plot points or bits of dialogue, though Ellis gives some context clues
This first volume does feel like a prelude to what the “real” story will be, though that doesn’t make it less interesting or impactful; expect a decent amount of set-up
The slow reveal of the characters’ pasts, as well as each character’s current plans, can be a little confusing for some – just keep reading!
As mentioned earlier, it’s a story that’s better with some critical thinking on the reader’s part, so don’t go in expecting to shut your brain off in lieu of superhero fights, or anything
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
It’s one of Image’s best comics made by some of the industry’s top talent. The slightly dystopian tone, combined with the scifi/fantasy subject matter makes for a story that feels new and deep and keeps you guessing.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Injection, Vol. 2 by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey
Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson
LOW, Vol. 1 by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini
If you like the art:
Moon Knight, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey
Savage Town by Declan Shalvey, Philip Barrett & Jordie Bellaire
4 Kids Walk Into A Bank by Matthew Rosenberg & Tyler Boss
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Warren Ellis – Writer
Name Recognition: Over nearly 30 years in the industry, he has become one of comics’ best and most well-known writers
His writing often bridges technology with more fantasy/folkloric elements
Also writes the Netflix series, Castlevania
Many other comics creators met on his message board years ago, including Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
Declan Shalvey – Illustrator
Multitalented: Though he works primarily as an artist, he’s also written Savage Town and Deadpool Vs. Old Man Logan
Dream Team: Also worked with Warren Ellis & Jordie Bellaire on their brief Moon Knight run
Outlander: Lives in Ireland
Jordie Bellaire – Colorist
Multitalented: Also writes the Redlands comic
Name Recognition: One of the most talented and sought-out colorists in the industry
Dream Team: Often works with artist/writer Declan Shalvey
Outlander: Lives in Ireland
Steven Finch (AKA “Fonografiks”) – Letterer
Dream Team: Often works with comics superstars Brian K. Vaughan and Warren Ellis
Co-designed the “Comics Are For Everybody” logo with Jordie Bellaire
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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