“Injection” #1 from Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire is complex, thoughtful, absorbing and definitely not for everyone.
Written by Warren Ellis
Illustrated by Declan Shalvey
Once upon a time, there were five crazy people, and they poisoned the 21st Century. Now they have to deal with the corrosion to try and save us all from a world becoming too weird to support human life.
INJECTION is the new ongoing series created by the acclaimed creative team of Moon Knight. It is science fiction, tales of horror, strange crime fiction, techno-thriller, and ghost story all at the same time. A serialized sequence of graphic novels about how loud and strange the world is getting, about the wild future and the haunted past all crashing into the present day at once, and about five eccentric geniuses dealing with the paranormal and numinous as well as the growing weight of what they did to the planet with the Injection.
When Marvel announced that they would be reviving Moon Knight, a character who rivals Hawkman in number of confusing retcons, it seemed like an interesting proposition to say the least. Then they lined up a stellar creative team of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire who produced six issues that stand as some of the best comics produced last year. After dropping the proverbial mic and heading over to Image, the team is back with “Injection”, a dense comic that sets out to challenge the reader in rewarding ways.
The premiere issue bounces around hospitals, sinister facilities, downtown London and the English countryside as we are introduced to Maria, Robin and Brigid, three members of shadowy company. Their past is barely glimpsed, and only hinted at through disjointed memories and brief remembrances. Suffice to say, something big happened and the aftermath pushed their group apart. It appears, however, that whatever they did while with the company has had larger repercussions than they planned and now the three are being drawn back together.
It sounds like Warren Ellis is drawing on some of the familiar ideas that make up the techno-thriller genre, secret agents, morally ambiguous agencies, dark pasts and like, but the way he presents them veers strongly back towards his own distinct sensibilities. Every first issue needs to set up a new world, but readers familiar with the regular pump-and-dump of exposition typically found in a #1 will be in for a surprise. Ellis is content to drop readers right into the middle of this world, and observe a cast of characters who already have all the information they need to make sense of things.
It makes the world and their interactions very true to life, and the characters converse like real people while spreading out tantalizing clues for the reader. Ellis’ writing flows just as well as dialogue or narration, moving with poetic grace between character descriptions, internal thoughts and threatening conversations. Instead of giving a detailed encyclopedic backstory through dialogue, Ellis uses conversation to highlight the mental state of each character. This is especially apparent with Maria Kilbride when she is visited by a representative of the company. At first Maria seems not to follow the conversation, and she veers back and forth between observations about the taste of pennies, business rebranding and sandwich requests. Slowly, her unique state of lucidity become more obvious, and only makes you wonder what made her like this.
Perhaps not surprising with a British/Irish creative team, a sense of Englishness prevails throughout this issue. It’s not just because of sightings of double-decker buses and discussions of regional accents, but it’s a pervasive attitude and demeanor that seems to affect the entire cast. The art from Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire continues this tone, and they present every exterior scene, from country side to city, with a slightly overcast look that is so common throughout the country. Shalvey’s style is very versitale, it remains consistent throughout every scene. His crisp lines and light tough render banks of computer monitors just as well as century-old ruins.
As with the story, the art focuses more on hints and implications than crystal clear information. There are many moments that just feel off in terms of the story and the world, even if it’s hard to tell exactly why. When the Permanent Parliamentary Security tracks down ex-operative Robin in the countryside, the art turns the simple conversation between the two into a tension filled moment. The Secretary mentions The Breaker’s Yard, which obviously has a deep meaning for Robin. His face becomes filled with shadows, and dark smears of paint hover around his head as if to suggest that unhappy memories are rising to the surface.Continued below
There are subtle hints to unusual talents that the operatives possess, and Shalvey seems to enjoy playing with some of the familiar visual elements that readers will expect from comic book teams. Robin turns to face the Secretary in a moment of anger, and instantly the wind picks and sends his coat billowing out behind him. It’s the same pose that’s struck by Wolverine before he pops his claws or Batman when he steps out of the shadows. Of course, Robin doesn’t tear off his sweater to reveal a set of brightly colored tights, but there is a clear implication that there is more to him, and his fellow operatives, than meets the eye.
Bellaire’s colors work in perfect tandem with Shalvey’s pencils. The first scene with Maria is covered in messy shadows, and is than immediately followed by a flashback scene that features the character is presented with an almost sterile level of whiteness. The change in coloring simultaneously suggests the fragile nature Maria’s memory, while indicating just how much things has changed for the team of operatives.
It will be easy for some to dismiss “Injection” #1 for feeling more like a giant teaser than actual proper introduction to the series. Nothing is revealed, resolved or explained, and that is clearly not intent of the creative team. The lack of clear information in the issue is not due to any mistake or lack of skill on the part of the creative team, but is in fact carefully laid out and fully intentional. It’s like staring at a corner of a painting, only around it may be blurry but you can still see that it’s there. We just have to wait a moment before we can step make and view the whole thing. “Injection” #1 will be sure to please fans of Warren Ellis and his densely plotted stories. It moves and flows with grace, and gives readers every indication that this series soon be taking unexpected turns.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – The team of Ellis, Shalvey and Bellaire work in near-perfect harmony to deeply layered visual story. This series is only going to get bigger and better.