Monday, June 17, 2002

Yeah, I realize Warren Ellis is a tedious, unimaginative writer but descriptions of his work always sound so interesting that I keep checking it out. Ellis apparently thinks he's the second coming of Harlan Ellison, always loudly proclaiming how innovative and "sideways" he is while dismissing most other work so you'll know he's really far above all this. Too bad his own comics barely even come across as failed attempts to push the boundaries. It's like he feels so far above the superhero genre that he's just showing up for the paycheck while pretending to actually be "revitalizing" the whole concept.

You can see in the first eight issues of DV8 where the idea of a superhero team that's actually more supervillain (they kill, do drugs, proclaim their superiority, etc) could have potential. But almost immediately DV8 goes up against their genuinely evil equivalent and start to bond together, thereby normalizing the team so they're marginal anti-heroes now (which could possibly have been an editorial decision but Ellis still doesn't do much with this). You can see how much Ellis' issues plod when the new writer Mike Heisler takes over with issue 9 (I only read up to 14) when the dialogue improves and the stories gain focus. Doesn't help that all issues have those instantly forgettable covers that are an Image trademark; can't imagine how people ever kept from buying the same thing again. (You might compare this to Thunderbolts which plays out with real--though simplified--moral issues rather than tabloid sex-n-violence.)

Three Stormwatch TPBs show Ellis at his worst and by comparison best. I don't know where Force of Nature (collecting Vol 1, #37-42) fits into Ellis' career but it has all the signs of first work. If you're going to reference Nietzsche then do just that: explanations and glosses only drag down the story for no reason other than making the writer appear to be throwing out half-learning (from what's here there's no indication that Ellis even read Nietzsche let alone understood him). Lightning Strikes (#43-47) consists of routine superhero stories that mostly focus on Stormwatch members individually. You can see Ellis straining for shock effect (JFK & Marilyn Monroe's illegitimate son as a serial killer) even when it's off-key (an attempted militia bombing in Alabama that couldn't have been written by anybody who knows anything about Alabama or possibly even militias). Complete junk. By contrast A Finer World (Vol 2, #4-9) actually collects two decent arcs that are better than Ellis' work on The Authority (which follows from this). Both arcs are well constructed--I particularly liked the way the second makes you wonder what you've missed, possibly an idea borrowed from The World According to Garp--and unpredictable. Bryan Hitch's art is as clumsy as what he later contributed to The Authority but it works passably enough.