Trees: Volume Two – Warren Ellis

Thank heavens for another instalment of this excellent sci-fi series. As this is only six issues we didn’t have quite so long to wait.

With many of the characters from the last volume dead we focus on two survivors. Our botanist spends most of her time in Britain and we get to see a little more about how the UK has both changed and stayed the same. Our other lead is in NYC and his mayoral bid reminds us satisfyingly of Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughan.

Visually and narratively this an excellent work with Ellis not afraid to cut between storylines for just a single panel or have several mute pages. Graphically the shabby chic visuals do a wonderful job of portraying a world fraying around the edges.

The book ends in an excellent place and neatly answering some questions setting the stage for volume three.

Double Thumbs Up!!

Injection: Volume Two – Warren Ellis

This superb literary fantasia continues, building on the high bar set in the last volume.

Vivek Headland who didn’t get much page time in the first book is the centre of this esoteric detective story. The other protagonists certainly aren’t forgotten about and this feels wonderfully holistic in terms of character. Whilst an intriguing whodunit sprinkled with action it really is a philosophical look at some quite highbrow concepts. Ellis manages to make it all eminently palatable however.

The panels alternate between widescreen and square intelligently as does the detailed and then the plain background. The colours are mostly subdued and occasionally monochromatic but there are unpredictably garish tints often going through a whole spectrum on a single page. For whatever reason this seems fine and reminds you slightly of a Powers issue.

The whole thing is exceptional and it is so refreshing to get a story for grownups.

Thumbs Up!

Injection – Warren Ellis

Injection This is a great example of science meets folklore that you would expect to find in 2000AD or in the mind of Alan Moore. It definitely has strong echoes of Planetary. It is quite a gentle ride progressing logically and unfolding through flashbacks until by the end of this volume you have the whole picture. It’s a neat premise that works to intrigue rather than entertain you.

The art is great with an incredible matt palette, strong character design and contrasting flashbacks. There are several blank backgrounds but the rest of the panels make up for it. It’s easy to follow with most frames stretching across the page.

An excellent start and a strong addition to the Ellis renaissance that began with Trees.

Thumbs Up!

Trees – Warren Ellis

TreesThis is quite different from a Warren Ellis book and could shape up to be one of his finest works.

There is a sensitivity and maturity that Ellis has chosen not to reveal until now. Maybe his novel writing experience has changed his creative direction. There is no gross-out humour, in your face politics, or shock and awe of titles such as The Authority or Nextwave. This new string to Ellis’s bow is both unexpected and well received.

Visually this is also an incredibly mature work. Eschewing the digital and the neon this book feels hand drawn and very old school European in texture. You can see the pencil lines and this organic method of creation makes the characters feel much more real and human. The palette is pastel throughout and large blocks of limited tones give a very twilight feel as if the whole work takes place in the golden hour of daylight.

This is the rightful successor to Freakangels, Ellis’s other masterpiece in glacial storytelling. There is a large and global cast that is handled with aplomb and we cut between them expertly. You can feel the weight of research that has gone into this book and the slow worldbuilding creates a proper foundation for what promises to come. The world is ours but one step removed. Not near future, more a jump to the left – with more robots.

You wouldn’t think this was an Ellis book if you didn’t see his name on the title, but the occult references and political astuteness give it away.

Double Thumbs Up!

The Absolute Authority Volume One – Warren Ellis

Absolute Authority 01This is how to read comics. Even though the pages are only slightly bigger having that area makes a world of difference. Plus having a glossy paper as opposed to the newsprint stock Wildstorm usually uses allows the colours to be seen as they were intended.

The whole product oozes quality from the sturdy blue hardcover with blue foil embossing to the full colour dust jacket to the stylised slipcase. The book isn’t too heavy to hold, fits nicely in the hand and opens right up to lay flat with ease. There is even a ribbon bookmark to mark your page.

The covers are within the story (not at the back in a gallery like the smaller TPB’s) making great issue dividers. Each issue also has additional chapter labelling that was omitted from the TPB. There is the full script to issue one reproduced life-size and some notes on the creative changes the pages went through. There is full page creative breakdown and some witty creator biographies.

This is the whole of Warren Ellis’ run and packaging all 12 issues into one volume makes so much more sense. This is definitely the way to experience the Authority and comics in general.

Double Thumbs Up!

The Authority Volume Three: Earth Inferno – Mark Millar, Warren Ellis, Joe Casey & Paul Jenkins

A03This volume contains the middle Millar stories plus three mini stories from various specials.

The Millar story isn’t bad and you see him twisting and bending the characters to express the more home-grown political message he is wanting to. He has fun with his new toys and spins an interesting yarn. Casey delivers a run of the mill action romp with some old Stormwatch references. Jenkins turns in a mature and touching story whose title, Isolation, says it all. This is the star of the show.

Ellis has clearly said goodbye to The Authority by this point. He basically has Hawksmoor recap the previous stories while doing parkour. While this is a definite let down story wise it is actually quite a poetic and elegant delivery.

There are plenty of artists at work here. Even the main story changes penciller and inker halfway through in a noticeable but not disastrous way. All the minor stories are beautifully rendered, obeying the previous conventions. The Ellis story does have a very different visual style with the words and pictures kept very separate and this compliments the internal narration very well. Weston’s two issue stand-in for Quietly makes the biggest impression and his pin sharp detail seems to be the closest to the original Hitch vision and the most suited for the ‘widescreen’ format.

Thumbs Up!

The Authority Volume Two: Under New Management – Warren Ellis & Mark Millar

A02This is an odd volume as it has the last story from Warren Ellis and the first one by Mark Millar.

The Ellis story is a rather unusual take on the god is a Spaceman idea. He also builds to a climax for the team and certain characters superbly. You definitely get a sense of the curtain coming down. Not for good but for a planned intermission.

Then the entire creative team changes and Mark Millar discovers the project he was born for. Without any kind of restraining baggage normally present with superheroes he explodes in quite an accomplished and humorous state-of-the-world-address. There is plenty of violence and vulgarity, and no shortage of subjects to include in his tirade – including comics – but he takes to the concept of The Authority like a duck to water.

The art also changes. We say goodbye to the crisp clean lines of Hitch and hello to the looser style of Frank Quietly. You quickly accept him and it is a smooth transition. His habit of hiding interesting details in the background convinces you this isn’t just another paid gig for him.

One of the only people to bridge the two books is the letterer. The familiar captions and conventions established under the Ellis vision remain and bond these two stories together. The colouring is still bold and gorgeous even on the crappy newsprint paper Wildstorm insists on using. The covers are reproduced in a gallery at the end.

It seemed an odd choice to put the switch between two creators in one book but it actually works and serves to show you that The Authority is in great hands.

Thumbs Up!

The Authority Volume One: Relentless – Warren Ellis

A01This book, released in 1999, marked one of the turning points in Comic’s history. The advent of “Widescreen” comics with bigger panels and a more cinematic vocabulary influenced everything from Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men to Mark Millar’s The Ultimates.

Ellis resurrects some of his ideas and characters from the Stormwatch Universe and gives them a shove into the world of politics. Unlike the traditional superhero role of restoring the status quo these unusual people decide to use their powers to affect change.

There are two stories here. The first four issue block has to introduce us to our extensive cast, the world today and the current villain; as well as hosting a globe spanning explosive action sequence. It actually does this very well although mostly through dialogue than more elegant methods.

The second arc appears to be another world-shattering invasion but this time from an unusual parallel world. There is a lot of creativity at play here and there is a very Alan Moore feel to the magical-realism of the setting. The ending of this part shows you just how vast the scope of The Authority’s power and dominion is.

The art is a real treat. Most panels are page wide and there are more splash pages than you have ever seen before. This bigger canvas really injects a movielike experience and makes the danger and scale seem more tangible. Something reinforced by the global nature of the storyline. Brian Hitch does a great job of selecting viewpoints that draw you into the action or making the characters look right at you to unnerving effect. The colours are also superb alternating between subdued, limited tones and bombastic riots of colour at exactly the right moment. The digital trickery is covert with just the right amount of influence. Even the lettering stands out – in a good way.

Reading this now, more than a decade after publication, it seems a little restrained as it has influenced so much of Comics culture today. But it still gets a mighty Thumbs Up!

Global Frequency: Volume 2 Detonation Radio – Warren Ellis

Global Frequency 2Time for another six episodes of the Mission Impossible Social Network. These breakneck tales follow the same template as before and are just as enjoyable. The star of the show is the last one which does bring in some previous characters and give you a little peek at Aleph’s background. Sadly there were no more after this and the TV show never got past a pilot.

On the art duties this volume are Simon Bisley, Chris Sprouse, Lee Bermejo, Tomm Coker, Jason Pearson, and Gene Ha. David Baron continues to do all the colours. The art is a little more diverse with some of them pushing the panel boundaries. There are also some astounding colour combinations too. Gene Ha’s superbly detailed work is breath-taking and he uses some very imaginative backdrops. Definitely a high note to end on.

Thumbs Up!

Global Frequency: Volume 1 Planet Ablaze – Warren Ellis

Global Frequency 1Written in 2003 this is vintage Ellis. You can see elements of Planetary, Stormwatch, The Authority and even Fell. Each of the six issues here present a different potential disaster and different agents all around the world are pulled in to avert the crisis. This gives a really zippy pacing that feels like you are against the clock and makes for a real page-turner. It does in some way mitigate the lack of recurring characters and background detail but it could prove hollow in the long term.

Each story has a different artist and the roster comprises: Steve Dillon, Glen Fabry, Gary Leach, David Lloyd, Roy A. Martinez, Jon J. Muth and Liam Sharp. Normally this would be a problem but as each episode is self-contained with mostly different characters this is a highly workable idea. Having the same letterer and colourist gives you all the continuity you need.

Having the agents as normal people but with appropriate skills lends the book a grounded feel so this is more Bourne Identity than X-Men. You can see how this was made into a TV pilot.

Thumbs Up!