some time ago, Warren Ellis, in yet another effort to assure
that Planetary would never even approach a monthly
publishing schedule, decided to write up and team up with
some of comicdom’s most applauded newcomers (and some
not so new) for a series of three-issue vignettes on a variety
of ideas that had been bouncing around his brilliant nicotine-addled
mind. Among these were Two-Step, Red, Tokyo Storm Warning,
Reload, and Mek.
a comic buyer, myself included, bought the issues separately,
thinking there would not be a collection of these stories,
as three issues is hard to price in terms of a graphic novel.
But lo and behold, the boys at Wildstorm/DC tricked us and
decided to put out collections of two stories per graphic
novel. Red and Tokyo Storm Warning were
paired, as were the topics of this review: Reload
and Mek. Two-Step has been lost to antiquity,
as far as I can tell.
paring could not be more different from each other in terms
of story. Ellis, along with artist Steve (Queen &
Country) Rolston and inker Al Gordon, create in Mek
a world where the latest fad, after nipple piercing and
lip stretching have finally become gauche, is biomechanical
body modification. Cell phones implanted directly into your
ears, entire arms replaced with chrome covered metal limbs,
bioluminescent arm sheaths and eye attachments, etc. The
world is a cyborg fetishist’s wet dream. But when
Sarissa Leon, the progenitor of the Mek movement, returns
to where it all began after the death of her former boyfriend,
she finds that Sky Road has become something else entirely:
a place of black market, military weapon mek.
flipside (literally) of the collection is Reload,
Ellis, penciler Paul Gulacy and inker Jimmy Palmiotti’s
story of a Secret Service agent who is having the worst
day of his life; the president gets assassinated by a beautiful
and incredibly skilled assassin, and this is the least of
his problems. Soon he’s involved in a cover-up that
reaches all the way to the White House, as well as a seditious
plot to murder the entire cabinet, and he’s not sure
if it’s an entirely bad idea.
stories have the usual Ellis flair of at least one fairly
interesting twist: Mek’s being the goth/punk/body-piercing
paralleling subculture world of body mod, and Reload’s
being the reason behind the assassinations, but the stories
here fall a little flat from we should normally expect from
major problem is that it meanders too much when dealing
with the main character Sarissa. She is all over the place
as far as characterization and the reader can never really
get a feel for her. One minute she’s mourning over
the death of her former paramour, the next she’s a
moralizing about the use of military mek. She’s seen
touting the purity of the Sky Road movement, regaling the
joy of mek as a culture, then she’s seen destroying
it and killing one or two people along the way. And she’s
a hypocrite, as the badly plotted ending reveals. With so
very little time to tell the story, coupled with the lack
of supporting characters, the reader’s connection
to the main character is somewhat important, and Ellis fares
poorly here, liking the idea of the story more than the
actual telling of it.
is sad, because the art by Rolston is quite good; his character
designs for the world of mek are creative and I really like
some of the hidden military mods he designs.
also has some problems, though not as bad as Mek.
The only real problems stem from the big reveal on why exactly
the assassinations are taking place. The first is the believability
of a rather mundane criminal organization managing to get
power at the highest levels of government. I won’t
say what organization for those that actually plan to read
this, but it’s not Ellis’ best idea and that
one fallibility drags the rest of the story into question.
He never bothers to explain how this organization got into
power and happens to be rather vague in its motivations
for doing so in the first place.
while Palmitotti adds great depth with his inking to Gulacy’s
work, I very much dislike one aspect of the penciler’s
stuff: the eyes are way too damn big. He has a great sense
of action and movement, but his facial designs freak me
out: think Steve Dillon’s work with giant bug eyes.
Other than that, he services the story fine, but the story
is too thrown-together to really be helped.
three-issue projects, I only liked Red, done with
Cully Hammer. It had a tightness of script and an undertone
of suspense that truly worked, greatly accompanied by Hammer’s
artwork. If I had to guess, these three-issue projects were
the precursor to Ellis’ Global
his collection of neat story ideas in a done-in-one issue
format that is far better than these prototypes. For $14.95,
you do indeed get two stories in one, but they aren’t
very good ones. So go and spend that cash on Ellis’
finished product, Global Frequency, and just ignore
these short stabs at brainstorming.