By Molly Jane Kremer. Warren Ellis is a creator whose name automatically lends his projects an elegant air of prestige. Now spanning over twenty years, his comics career has been wide and varied, and has inspired (at least in part) an entire generation of writers. And with many of those aforementioned writers spearheading this creator-owned renaissance at Image Comics, it’s only natural that Mr. Ellis – who is no stranger to creator-owned books – would be amongst them.
Injection is Ellis’ second series to be published by Image within the past year or so, and his co-creators – Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire – recently worked with him at Marvel on Moon Knight, to great critical acclaim. It’s no surprise then that Injection is equally as good as that Marvel team-up, but an Image book allows them to pace and plot their own story within their own artistic discretion (it being their property and all) and that freedom produces great things.
While much of the advanced solicitation materials make this book out to be rather post-apocalyptian and science-fiction-y (not like Image isn’t already publishing fifteen comics that are one or the other or a combo of both… No, seriously, there are like fifteen of them) it’s actually much more vague on its genre, and blessedly so. This is instead pre-apocalyptian (or it seems to be, as yet), and it’s full of all the paranoia and tension and horrors-yet-brewing that should entail.
Instead of firmly establishing a genre or a recognizable plot, we’re introduced to the main characters – members of the FPI’s Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit – both now and in a diaphanous, unestablished “before”. Professor Maria Kilbride is now “in hospital” at a sanitarium (?) called Sawlung (Ellis does have a way with words, doesn’t he?), and is brought out to deal with one of the effects of their Unit’s activities. (Here is where we namecheck the book title: “The Injection” seems to be the cause of all this misfortune, but is only mentioned once; I have a feeling we’ll get back to it soon enough.)
The comic has a free-flowing structure, and is truly ambiguous with much of the events, institutions, and terminology. This is easily forgiven, however, as we’re given an extraordinary amount of character-study and -building: I’d rather learn about a character and grow to love them first, and then follow them into whatever odd/strange/horrifying occurrences might come their way. Ellis knows how to do just that.
The art is similarly excellent. Declan Shalvey draws very relatable people and great expressions, but also excels at the ambience and atmosphere that the creepy, foreboding aspects of the book need desperately. (And, it seems, will need more and more of as the storyline progresses.) Jordie Bellaire’s versatile colors are, as usual, rich and complementary no matter the art style.
They do a masterful job of communicating Maria’s… unhinging, just with her hair and her coloring. “Before” Maria has well-coiffed, coppery hair, with a fair complexion and a quick smile. Sawlung Maria’s hair is a wild, almost garish orange mane, covering her face and leaving much of her pallid face in jagged shadow. Fonografiks’ lettering is outstanding as well, especially in the sporadic narration that shows up to add both a semblance of poetry and more than a little unease.
A quiet and meditatively ominous book, Injection knows exactly where it’s going – even when it leaves the reader mostly in the shadows – and it’s going to drag you along, slowly but surely, down its foreboding-as-hell rabbit hole, whether you want to go or not. It’s gonna be a dark trip.
Written by Warren Ellis.
Art by Declan Shalvey.
Colors by Jordie Bellaire.
8.5 out of 10