The world has been brought down by a psychic catastrophe and survivors are banding together to form groups. We follow a clutch of young people in the ruins of flooded London. They have psychic powers and slowly, as the story progresses, we learn about the nature of the disaster and their part in it.
Ellis used the open-ended format masterfully. Without the need to create regular cliff-hangers or issue breaks he was able to slow the pacing right down. With over a hundred pages gently building character and secreting clues to the big picture this is storytelling at its finest. When the action starts it is all the more tense and dramatic and you really appreciate the groundwork that has been laid.
As most of the characters are telepathic this frees you from all manner of dialogue conventions and we are spared the endless talking heads that plague most comics. Having one, or more, conversations with people in different locations allows you to keep a lot of balls in the air at once and means the visuals can act independently and not just service the text.
The art is wonderful. It has a beautiful hand-drawn, hand-coloured feel despite being destined for a digital medium. There are wonderfully thin lines and soft tones. The whole thing has a washed-out or over-exposed feel to it that really anchors you into the quiet dystopian mood. The bright lights of London are gone and it is the art that really conveys that unearthly hush. Because it is all drawn freehand the straight lines are a little skewed making the buildings look slightly off kilter adding to the atmosphere.
The art is definitely king here with words used only where necessary. This is visual storytelling at its best. Often details are hidden in the frame and you just catch a small hint of movement between panels. This effective foreshadowing is an immensely rewarding experience as you get to see and feel the world as the characters do. London under water is a wonderful location and it is great to see the familiar landmarks gently eroded rather than blown to smithereens Hollywood style.
The post-apocalypse genre has been done to death in comics and just when you think there are no new ideas Ellis blows your mind. A superb Double Thumbs Up!!
Tomorrow: FreakAngels Volume Two – Warren Ellis