Ellis is a limey bastard, kids.
has created some of the most creative comics in recent memory
and become a force in the comic market. His labor-of-love
book Planetary, despite its ridiculously long wait
between issues, has taken superhero deconstruction to new
levels, combining comic archetypes with both pop and pulp
culture influences. Global Frequency has helped to
reintroduce the common fanperson to the anthology series.
And if you haven't read Ellis' run on Stormwatch and
The Authority, I pity you and your entire social network.
ask yourself, "If Sparling likes Ellis so much, why all
the swearing?" Because the man can't get a single frigging
book to come out on time, that's why! Do you know how long
the wait for Planetary was? About a year and half between
issues. How long has the wait been for the next Global
Frequency issue? Going on two or three months. It's galling
to us fanpeople that such a good writer has so many conflicts
when it comes to print time. I swear if the third issue of
Red doesn't come out soon
I'll probably just keep
waiting, but there will be one mother of a politely written
e-mail that will outline my grievances rather eloquently.
those conflicts is the topic of the article, a recent side
project of an original graphic novel called Switchblade
is at war two hundred years from now, and its forces are not
winning. The Chasta are a hive mind alien race that has targeted
humanity for annexation and possibly destruction, though not
without provocation (first contact involved a bunch of rowdy
humans making friends and then making stew from the Chasta,
have all but won, and will soon take control of our solar
system. The naval brass has one last ditch effort: man a ship
with military prisoners, arm it to the teeth, and tell them
to become the Viet Cong. "If you can't give them Hell,
give them shit," as one general said.
is always good for interesting concepts in his works. I'm
fond of some of the special touches he adds to the story that
give it a more realistic bent: sticking an "e-station"
officer on the bridge, whose job it is to search, hack and
destroy other vessels' computer systems, is a nice and logical
touch. Using part of Jupiter as a bomb had a nice ring to
concept is like Star Trek, but instead of a sterile
and bland future where humanity seems to have stepped above
all things petty and habitually destructive, the world Ellis
creates is, well, actually fun. The characters smoke and drink
while on duty. They fight dirty and they fight hard. Ellis
has always had a nice touch with dialogue, and the way certain
characters interact has a good flow, especially in the case
of first mate Susan "Switchblade" Nile and Captain
Nile questions Ryder's orders allow Ellis to pose some very
interesting questions about war. If it brings about actual
peace, should they let the Chasta occupy without opposition?
Do you fight to the last man or try to salvage what's left
of your crew? These are good questions to ask, and they add
a deeper level to what could have been just a good sci-fi
complaint concerns the characterization. Other than Ryan and
Nile, we only get the barest glimpses of the other characters.
I would have liked to have more story on the drugged up e-station
operator Milligan (which may be a literary nod to fellow writer
and Brit, Peter Milligan) and the engineer Rhodes, who has
been known to lock himself in the engine room. The lack of
characterization for these characters can be attributed to
the smaller size of the OGN, running at 96 pages. I'd say
that Ellis could have bulked the work a little more, but god
knows if it would have actually gone to print if that happened.
is damn impressive, and I fault myself for not already knowing
about Brandon McKinney. The man knows faces very well, which
is a talent very much underscored in the art department of
most print houses. He knows how to cover the emotional range
with the characters, and he can make them expressive. I'm
also impressed with the artistic choice to not make anyone
too pretty. More often then not, an artist will make the males
and females of any story uncharacteristically beautiful when
it doesn't serve a purpose. McKinney doesn't set out to make
anyone ugly, but all the faces look fairly realistic: Nile
isn't a knockout, but she isn't bad; Ryder doesn't have the
chiseled face or physique of a Greek god (the man chain smokes,
not like he'd be the paragon of health anyway). It all lends
to Ellis' theme of applying just a touch of reality to the
also handles the technical aspects of the ship design and
the outer space combat very well. While he doesn't reach the
highest level of technical clarity, he knows structure well
and has a good eye for the practical design of the ships and
the aesthetics involved.
is offering the book for only $9.95, which isn't going to
put anyone in the poor house. Ellis also did the introduction
to this book, which is pretty damn hilarious and explains
his motivation for writing it: an explanation involving weed,
wine, and Star Trek. Enjoy.