Archive for the 'warren ellis' Category

21
Aug
08

Crooked Little Vein

By Warren Ellis

295 pages, Harper Perennial

Fiction/Pulp Detective Nonsense/Perverted Potato Farm

On Warren Ellis’ first outing making a full-on novel(or novella, if you’re psychotic and want to be a dick about it), he actually does something I don’t see other writers who branch out beyond their comfortable little home worlds, which in Ellis’ case is science fiction and superheroes, he writes a story that would make for an oddly-voiced comic book. As much as I like Peter David(and I really do respect him as a character writer of superheroes) most of his fantasy novels would be much better as comic books but Ellis pulled a Meltzer and manages to be good at two mediums, telling two entirely different kind of narratives.

As a side note, this book will make you shit yourself laughing. I cannot recall actually laughing out loud whilst reading a novel. Ever. But I did over and over while reading this which, in a shocking turn of events, really only took about two days to get through. Somewhere, perhaps in his Bad Signal column, I swear I read Ellis write about how science fiction is in trouble/dead/status up for debate but definitely not red not because it now seems impossible to get a novel of that sort out in under 300 pages, which severely limits the overall audience a book will get in todays society of all of us working ourselves to death via the assistance of pills, caffeine and an indomitable desire to crush our own spirits and die at 35. Although I don’t know the status of the detective story, I’d imagine that a more concise storytelling method would only benefit the initial audience outreach ability. I take notes on these things, I watch people test things out and I try to only steal the good ideas. This is one of them. You should be paying attention.

as Harper says:

Burned-out private detective and self-styled shit magnet Michael McGill needed a wake-up call to jump-start his dead career. What he got was a virtual cattle prod to the crotch, in the form of an impossible assignment delivered directly from the president’s heroin-addict chief of staff. It seems the Constitution of the United States has some skeletons in its closet: the Founding Fathers doubted that the document would be able to stave off human nature indefinitely, so they devised a backup Constitution to deploy at the first sign of crisis. In the government’s eyes, that time is now, as America is overgrown with perverts who spend more time surfing the Web for fetish porn than they do reading a newspaper. They want to use this “Secret Constitution” to drive the country back to a time when civility, God, and mom’s homemade apple pie were all that mattered.

The only problem is, no one can seem to find it . . .

So who better to track it down than a private dick who’s so down-and-out that he’s coming up the other side, a shamus whose only skill is stumbling into every depraved situation imaginable?

With no lead to speak of, and no knowledge of the underground world in which the Constitution has traveled, McGill embarks on a cross-country odyssey of America’s darkest, dankest underbelly. Along the way, his white-bread sensibilities are treated to a smorgasbord of depravity that runs the gamut of human imagination. The filth mounts; it is clear that this isn’t the kind of life, liberty, or happiness that Thomas Jefferson thought Americans would enjoy in the twenty-first century.

But what McGill learns as he closes in on the real Constitution is that freedom takes many forms, the most important of which may be the fight against the “good old days.” Like Vonnegut, Orwell, and Huxley before him, Warren Ellis deftly exposes the hypocrisy of the “moral majority” by giving us a glimpse at the monstrous outcome that their overzealous policies would achieve.

Indeed. I’ve come to the point in my life where the only stories I want to hear about America are ones being told by people who didn’t grow up here in the disseminated brain-washed insane culture that I myself am completely wrapped up in and seemingly unable to escape no matter just how Wally West I got on their asses. This is one of those stories, with many ruminations on America and Americans. Let’s be honest, the detective story, like the science fiction or fantasy novel, is merely an excuse to either bitch and complain or stand and salute. Or, when you know what you’re doing at the keyboard, a biased mix with bile, slam-dancing and maybe even a Super Grass song mixed in there.

Michael Chabon has said that the detective story is one of the greatest fictional devices to tour a city, to treat the city as the greatest character of the story and to work all plot points around that city. Who is, after all, Batman without the ever-almost-being-date-raped Gotham City hanging on by a thread? Just some dick in a suit, that’s who. In Crooked Little Vein, Ellis uses America as the main character and some serious shit is happening all around her. Warren Ellis seems to be very interested in body modifications, which are explored in some detail throughout the book, the impact of technology on our lives, the filthy, creepy, insane sex we’re having all over the country and, most importantly, the American way – the strongest desire to fuck your boss in the ass and still get paid for a job that you hate to show up to.

take a look inside

buy the book

buy the e-book, you crazed hi-tech fuck

20
Aug
08

Astonishing X-Men #27

Written by Warren Ellis

Pencils by Simone Bianchi

Part two of Ellis’ first story for Astonishing, “Ghost Boxes”, started to get horrible reviews about four days before it came out.  I get the feeling that, because x-men fans are usually comic book drones who like nothing but that same old shit fed back to them so they can shit it out instantly and greedily anticipate the taste of recycled fecal matter in their mouths once again, the typical reader would really hate anything Warren Ellis does on this book.  Thus far I think I’m right.  I don’t know how Joss Whedon managed to calm the flock down, because outside of a resurrection and some really fun space travel business, he didn’t use his time on Astonishing to seemingly attempt to please the boring x-men fans.  He did a good job, Astonishing was the title that got me to pick up a comic book again and four years later I’m spending money on comic books like a junkie with a smack habit.  Thanks a lot, douche.

Psychosocial/monetary issues aside, Warren Ellis is one of my favorite writers working today.  He has a deep interest in how technology impacts our society and our perceptions of self and he’s filthy mouthed English bastard with a true understanding of what bastards people really are.  I expect his run on Astonishing X-Men to fully delve into science fiction and explore the human condition, which is what Claremont and Byrne were certainly attempting to do on their run of Uncanny.  Or X-men, Which became Uncanny, unlike New Mutants, which became X-Force, which became X-Statix, which became X-Force again, which became X-men, which became Generation X which was canceled and turned into New Mutants again, which became New X-Men, which became X-Men again, then turning into New X-Men, then becoming X-Men once more but is now X-Men Legacy.  I couldn’t make that shit up.  There’s a reason I only read Astonishing X-Men and X-Factor and I wouldn’t be reading either of those books if they weren’t being written by fantastic writers.  I don’t care about the characters, I care about the writers.

Speaking of which, the writing is good.  Ellis is good at tackling language and the dialog in Astonishing is very representative of a group of people who obviously have known each other for a very long time and don’t feel it incredibly necessary to blab on about incessant shit in a transparent attempt to build rapport among the characters to give the illusion of characterization to the reader.  A strength of the books is Ellis knowing that, when writing a 40 year old character, you don’t have to grind the key concepts of this character into the pages until blood pours from the eye sockets of innocent(if mildly socially challenged) readers across the globe.  Overall, it’s what I expected.  A science fiction story is being set up, loosely revolving around some kind of new forced mutation and there are broken space shuttles too.  I’m rather happy to see that Armor, a more interesting version of Jubilee, hasn’t be thrown away sans issue #25, I think the relationship between her and all of these people three times her age could build a great story and engage the characters in some interesting trans-generational situations.

When I showed this issue to a co-worker, who obviously had no interest in it and didn’t want to read it, he replied, “it’s not very colorful”, and after about five minutes of me bitching about how great the art really is, he conceded that yes, it was good art and yes, the idea of bright yellows and reds and oranges is an annoying, childish art style that deserves to stay dead.  Bianchi’s art on this book is fantastic.  Following John Cassaday’s pencils is tough and would be compared to him, but Bianchi’s pencils are actually better with greater detail and an elevated sense of realism.  This is probably the closest to seeming to be real people I’ve ever seen comic book characters drawn.  And yes, it isn’t very colorful, but neither are your father’s genitals.

03
Sep
07

Doktor Sleepless #1

Written by Warren Ellis

Art by Ivan Rodriguez

Avatar Press $2.99

  I think science fiction is most effective when it creates paranoia about the present with presentations of the near future.  Doktor Sleepless does this rather well.  Although no real year is given, or I totally missed it, everything to appear to be slightly in the future, but things haven’t much changed.  Graffiti is all over the city with bitter slogans like, “not my future”, or “where’s my flying car”, indicating that technology hasn’t progressed in the way that people want, but Doktor Sleepless, a mysterious, yet famous figure, has reemerged onto the scene and has shown up to yell at everyone over their apathy and discontent.  Though there are no flying cars, there are wireless instant messaging systems programmed into contact lenses that allow everyone to know where their friends are and what they’re up to at all times.  This system is called clatter.

In addition to his anger over the unappreciated technology that virtually no one has worked for, Doktor Sleepless is also annoyed that youth culture, Grinders, have taken to modifying their bodies with no concern over what the effects will be and what that means when it comes to science.  This seems to be a direct commentary on current body modification, like tattoos, piercings, scarification and the like.  I haven’t entirely figured out what Ellis is trying to say about this current trends and what they will ultimately lead to when trendiness grows more and more extreme when it lends mass “individuality” an easy way to feel(although it’s an artificial feeling) different.

So for a first issue you get some commentary about a modern phenomenon(body mods) and how we are unappreciative towards technology and demand much while inputting virtually nothing(which I essentially wholly agree with).   The art is really great, especially the busy ass covers, but I’m really intrigued by the writing.  It has the makings of a very thought-provoking science fiction dystopia mixed up in a rather interesting universe with some diverse and twisted ass characters.  Couple all of this with the knowledge that this isn’t a miniseries, but an ongoing series that will hopefully see at least fifty issues, and this could turn out to be a really great thing.

I’m just happy I have an awesome comic shop that was willing me to order a copy because they sold out and I didn’t even realize this was coming out.  READ THIS BOOK

27
Aug
07

Black Summer #2 of 7

Written by Warren Ellis

Art by Juan Rose Ryp

Avatar Press $2.99 

Some readers seem to have a problem with Warren Ellis because, like most of the English, he doesn’t particularly abide by the nonsensical adoration and respect toward superheroes and formula storytelling that Americans are used to.  It’s actually because of this that I really enjoy his superhero stories.  Like Garth Ennis or Grant Morrison, you get an outside perspective on an old theme, but getting a superhero story from someone who doesn’t particularly like superheroes is great because you get to witness a writer take something bland and make it stand out.  Not just to the reader, but to the writer as well.

Black Summer is about the most powerful superhero in the world, John Horus, who has just killed the president and endangered the superhero team he’s part of by involving them by association in the event.  This issue mostly focuses on what we do when we’re backed into corners, when we’re scared and when we’re forced to fight.  The outcome is generally bad.

Ryp has seriously cleaned up his art for this issue, which improves the look quite a lot.  Instead of a messy, cluttered panel, you get a neat, clean one like above. This is far less a distraction from the story and more like an additional dialog you get visually, which only aids the story’s progression.

All in all, this was a great issue where Ellis tries to humanize the superhero by showing  them under pressure and terrified, not knowing what to do.  By doing this, showing human beings who happen to be superpowered, he comes very close to what Alan Moore did in Watchmen, making the fact that the main characters are heroes secondary and making the fact that they are people with problems primary.

26
Aug
07

The Sunday Hangover with Warren Ellis

the sunday hangover

THE SUNDAY HANGOVER

So what do we know today that we didn’t know last week? Well, there’s members of the Quebec police posing as demonstrators in order to kick up a ruckus and create an excuse for their uniformed comrades to go into the otherwise peaceful protestors with batons. The Quebec police, caught red-handed, openly admit they did it, with a “and what the fuck are you going to do about it, Anglo peegs?” attitude. Which would be new, if most people didn’t already know that French Canadians are among the most unpleasant mammals on the face of the planet. I couldn’t give a fuck how many soldiers they send to serve with the United Nations — if Canada wants to impress me, it needs to saw off the French bit and float it out of the Cabot Strait and into the North Atlantic. Let’s see how long those shiteaters last when they only have each other to sneer at.

What else? Ah, yes: it turns out that a company hired at great expense to take on dangerous and difficult demolition work at Ground Zero in New York City doesn’t actually… exist. This is a wonderful story. This company has no records to speak of, its president is contractually prevented from talking to the press or anyone else, and very few people in the architecture and engineering trades have actually heard of it. Which may possibly explain how, on Friday, one of their workers lost control of a pallet jack — not the most complicated bit of apparatus you ever saw — while working on the 23rd floor of the building, managing to somehow drop it on a temporary shed and all but killing the two guys inside it. And it was the third incident there this summer to harm or kill firefighters. The name of this operation? The John Galt Company. Who is John Galt? That’s the question that runs through mad-as-arseholes Ayn Rand’s novel ATLAS SHRUGGED, wherein he appears as a mysterious character hellbent on destroying the world that terrible leftie types made. He’s a fake engineer. And John Galt Co would appear to be a fake company, insofar as they don’t seem to have done anything but make the area more toxic and kill even more people. People on the net, of course, are already asking if John Galt Co are a shell or storefront company for the CIA. Which sounds like bullshit at first blush, but, really: who could invent the idea of a fictional company actually named for a fictional character getting hired to clean up Ground Zero and doing nothing but making more mess and killing more firemen?

And, apparently, a great Cosmic Nothingness has been found. A void in space that’s a billion light years across – a significant chunk of the visible universe, in fact. Right now, as I type this, cosmologists and technologists are developing a perfect explanation of why we have dragged ourselves from the amniotic muck of early time, through a history rank with blood and horror, into an age of scientific marvels, striving to see through millions of years of old light and across the immense and jeweled universe itself – to look at a fucking great hole.

See, this is why I don’t have a fucking jet pack. “No, no, we need umpty million quid to look for fucking great holes, why on earth would we want to cure cancer, the common cold or Frenchness?” Bastards. Happy Sunday morning. Now fuck off.

read Warren Ellis’ column here  or buy his book

13
Aug
07

Warren Ellis’ The Sunday Hangover #7

I’ve decided to expand this blog to things outside of just comics, including, but not limited to, all kinds of writing, art, movies and the very small collection of television programs I’m interested in.

The  Sunday Hangover is a column by one of my favorite comic writers, Warren Ellis, it appears on the Suicide Girls website weekly and I think it’s quite good and occasionally inspirational.  He has a new book out called Crooked Little Vein, which I intend on buying and finishing this weekend.  A review will surely be posted.  Carry on.

THE SUNDAY HANGOVER
007
WARREN ELLIS

“The other week I made reference to “the Philip K Dick Condition.”

Philip Dick, to my mind, was the great visionary writer of the 20th Century. Alan Moore thinks it’s Lovecraft, but I think Dick contains Lovecraft, and Kafka, and in his own visions recontextualises and adds to them both. He was a visionary in both senses: he saw the future, and suffered his own instructive hallucinations.

And never doubt the power of seeing things that aren’t there. Rene Descartes, the father of modern mathematics, had his whole method explicated to him by an angel he saw in a dream. Mathematical logic as we understand it today is a hypnogogic vision.

Which is as good a way as any to understand Philip Dick and the 21st Century. What makes Philip Dick more relevant to today is not necessarily the quality of his fantasy, but the complexity of it. And him. Philip Dick was as much an anti-hero as any of his characters. He’s a counter-cultural hero whose personality was forged in the fifties, not the sixties. He was a champion of the drug culture who attempted to sell out friends and acquaintances to the FBI. He saw into people, but knew himself not at all. This is a guy who took speed every day for years, and then was told by a doctor that his liver was so fantastically efficient that it processed out any drugs in his system before they had a chance to affect his central nervous system. To which he replied, well, I guess that explains why I like to take speed before I go to bed. The only writer on earth who’d write for ninety-six hours straight and then pass out on the office floor due to the placebo effect.

He was religious, in that slightly creepy near-agnostic way that seems to affect middle-aged American science fiction writers. Whitley Strieber’s another one — before he got into the whole anal-probe stage of his career, Strieber freely admitted to having tried every religion on the shelf. He actually said out loud the words “I have experimented with worshipping the earth.” He spent a significant chunk of his life looking for something bigger to give responsibility to. As did Philip Dick, who went through various denominations of Christian church in the hunt for something. Which he found in 1974. Just as Whitley Strieber supposedly found Anal Aliens, Philip Dick found his own science-fictional epiphany. He swore blind, in fact, that a satellite was firing into his brain an information-rich pink laser from orbit.

Like many middle-aged American science fiction writers, he needed more spaceships in his life.

He wrote a million-word diary, termed his Exegesis, where he tried to understand what he perceived to be happening to him. Something was streaming data into his head. He needed to understand what. He believed — and this is hardly unique to him — that something was seriously wrong with the nature of reality, and he needed to understand that. (His problems with reality extended to considering that a chunk of history actually hadn’t happened at all. For a good piece of his later life, he thought we were all living in the early years of the first millennium. That in fact we were stuck in the emergent years of Christianity and everything we think we know is fake. Most of you will recall this notion from THE MATRIX.)

Phil Dick didn’t need a vast invisible satellite to explain away the fact that he finally started paying his bills and chasing his agent for slipped royalties. But it helped to think so. He suddenly “knew”, one day, that his son had some kind of undiagnosed physical defect and took him to get checked out. Which is either knowledge from beyond or the sudden paranoia of someone who was both a famed nutcase and drenched in amphetamines and also wrote some of the most paranoid fiction of the 20th century.

And make no mistake, Phil Dick was mental. As mad as Lovecraft, who was afraid of everything. Phil Dick used to leave notes for the FBI, informing on his friends, under his garbage cans, certain that that was where the FBI were checking. On the street, he’d be almost overwhelmed by the compulsion to surrender to passing police officers. If he were around today, he’d be holding up handpainted signs reading “I give up” to security cameras. In Britain, there are plans to erect listening posts running software coded to pick out criminal phrases and terroristic language. Trust me: as scary as it seems here, George Bush’s America doesn’t have a monopoly on the Philip K Dick condition.

I honestly think Phil Dick was hearing the same thing that Terence McKenna was hearing when he thought the mushroom was speaking to him, and which magicians hear when they enter into conversation with angels or demons. I’ll return to this another time, if I for some reason have another lucid Sunday morning soon.”

Read all of Warren Ellis’ column here

06
Aug
07

Black Summer #1 of 7

Written by Warren Ellis

Art by Juan Jose Ryp

Avatar Press $2.99

bsum1.jpg

Easily some of the busiest work I’ve seen in a while, his detail has to be respected, it’s great and obviously well thought-out, highly conceptualized, but as sprawling as it can sometimes be, it occasionally feels out of place in this science fiction work. Being an Avatar comic, you get the annoying randomized distribution of several covers, so I couldn’t actually find a scan of the wraparound cover that I have, which is considerably more interesting that the scan above, as well as a good example of his busy style.

That said, I still like the art, I just don’t really know if it is suited for this book. But we’ll see, I anticipate this to be a thoughtful little book, which should wrap up sometime in February with it’s seventh and final issue.