Gun Machine is the new book by Warren Ellis and it is great. It’s less weird than Crooked Little Vein, but is a tight little police story you can tell is from the same guy who wrote Fell.
John Tallow is a New York City cop who accidentally finds an apartment full of guns. Not just a few shelves of them, but guns arrayed on the walls and floor like a shrine. Once they start getting analyzed it becomes clear that this isn’t just a gun nut’s shack; each weapon has been used in an unsolved NYC murder. Investigation ensues.
There’s a lot to love about this book. Tallow is a detective who is very believable in his “just going through the motions” before he starts working the case. Ellis writes likable foul-mouthed weirdos as Tallow’s sort-of assigned partners. The story (and the case) moves quickly, but it works. I bought that this didn’t need to be five seasons of a TV series (though The Wire made me right at home with the police politics on display in the story). There are a few coincidences at work that might make your eyebrow raise but Ellis is playing fair with you. It all works.
My least favourite part is the Native American history that gets bandied about, and that was mostly because I know Warren Ellis is an Englishman and this stuff is easy to get wrong. But anything here is way less problematic from my point of view than Johnny Depp as Tonto.
Though Pappa Warren writes great violence — “From his vantage, three steps back and to the right, Tallow could see Rosato’s eye a good five inches outside Rosato’s head and still attached to his eye socket by a mess of red worms.” — I think my favourite bit of pure wordsmithery was a cooking scene late in the book. There are all these details that work into Tallow’s mental state and the realization he has works so well with them, I wanted to applaud.
It’s a pretty quick read so if you’re not a huge Warren Ellis fan, you might want to go for an ebook edition, but the jacket design is great. There’s also a website with some interesting supplemental materials.
I love Ben Templesmith’s work with Warren Ellis on Fell, and his art is really cool in 30 Days of Night (even if I wasn’t a huge fan of the story). Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse sells me on Templesmith as a writer (well, this and his Twitter feed).
In Birds, Bees Blood and Beer we meet Wormwood and his clockwork genital-less companion. An ex-girlfriend of Worm’s is supposed to be guarding a portal between realms and stuff keeps on sneaking its tentacly way through and erupting out of people’s bodies. Wormwood has to get things sorted out to keep his beer supply and the rest of reality intact the way he prefers it.
I love Templesmith’s art. It’s got this rough, yet digital nature to it that a lot of people try to imitate, but man, he’s just good. And then i loved the characters. Because Wormwood is possessing a corpse, terrible things can happen to the body with little serious trauma to the character (he gets his head blown off and his body ripped in half in this volume). I love that kind of posthuman type stuff, even when it’s dressed up in magickal garb instead of nerd-rapture accoutrements.
Lots of blood and cussing and strippers so probably not a book destined for the shelves of younger readers, but it works really well for tough-talking neo-noir magicky stuff (for my money this is similar to and better than Sandman Slim)
Supergod is the story a British scientist tells of how the world was destroyed by nations putting their trust in hugely powerful beings who can fly. It’s an interesting read for the ideas and the pictures of superbeings reshaping the world.
There aren’t really any characters to get attached to apart from the narrator, who basically takes the place of Uncle Warren telling creepy tales of mushroom sex and soviet robots. Also, because it’s a Warren Ellis comic, of course the British space program plays into the story.
It’s a different take on superhumans than something like Black Summer; a much bigger picture story, and one that highlights how badly people would really deal with that kind of thing.
Setting Sun collects the end of Warren Ellis’ run on Hellblazer. It’s an assortment of short horror stories, all of which I liked. John Constantine is such an arrogant bastard he seems made for Warren Ellis to be giving him words. One of the stories in the book was about a guy who thinks he’s stumbled onto the great conspiracy, and Constantine just feeds him more and more and then disappears, all for the sake of a laugh. The idea that magic is real combines really well with the idea that believing in any old thing because it says it’s magic is completely stupid.
One of my favourite things about reading Hellblazer is that I’ve never felt the need to start at the beginning. Storylines just kind of float around and work. That makes this just as good a starter volume as any.
Two-Step is a light little story about a Zen gangster and a woman who gets paid to walk around London and look at interesting things (with all her cameras she wears). It’s a really colourful book, collecting a three issue miniseries (and the script to the first issue, which is an interesting document in how little there is to it, making comics-writing look super easy).
It’s a science-fiction kind of story, with a bunch of banter and a stolen giant penis and an enforcer who fucks cars because they’re so sexy. It feels closest to NEXTWAVE as far as Ellis’ other work. Fun. Fluffy. I liked reading it but am glad I didn’t buy it.
Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cinderry Island is the story of a London constable in 1830 who tries to solve the murder of a fellow Peeler (or Bobby as the police are sometimes known) and gets mixed up with pirates in a flying electrical ship.
Written by Warren Ellis, it’s filled with cursing and scientific emancipatory exultation. Raulo Caceres’ art is dark and bloody. I liked it a lot. One of the cool things they do is have pages with the pirate captain discoursing in prose (over schematic engravings) explaining all sorts of history and background. It’s more effective than putting it in as expository dialogue, and enhances the notion of this being a document of secret history.
I haven’t read enough of Doktor Sleepless, but the two books feel connected. I’m unsure how deep that connection is.
Ocean is a great little scifi story about a UN weapons inspector who heads out to Jupiter’s moon Europa because a scientific team there found a shitload of billion-year-old alien coffins. There’s another corporation out in orbit of Europa too and they’re interested in the weapon potential of these alien devices.
The book is full of good Warren Ellis dialogue between bitter cranky people trying to save the world. The evil corporation guys have all had personality replacements for the length of their contracts so they’re full on corporate drones, while the heroic real people make terrible food and talk about sex a lot. There are some cool ideas about weapons in space, a great fight sequence using manipulation of the space station’s gravity, and Ellis’ old-school rocket fixation (transferred to the main character) helps to save the day.
I really enjoyed the book and it’d make a great movie.