Warren Ellis & J.H. Williams III (Wildstorm Signature)
As you can probably tell, I enjoy the work of Warren Ellis. There is something about his style, his inventiveness, his dialogue, his attitude and his sensibilities that speak to me. I don’t automatically believe that everything he touches will be genius – Mek and Tokyo Storm Rising didn’t thrill me, for example – but I’ll still get something out of an idea or his technique. I don’t post on The Engine [EDIT: dead link] (nor was I a prolific poster on the WEF) so don’t think I’m an acolyte or stalker, rather an appreciator of his work (much like Nik at Spatula Forum, as you can see in this post).
With that in mind, I just wanted to talk about a recent book of his, Desolation Jones. There is a quote that Roger Ebert uses in his review of The Maltese Falcon: ‘Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean’ by Chandler about his hero, Philip Marlowe. As Warren admitted, there is a connection to Chandler in this first arc, following plot patterns, so the quote feels appropriate, even if Jones himself can be a little mean (although there is a humanity in him that infuses his character.)
There is an overall McGuffin of Hitler porn, and sees Jones delve into the underworld of porn, spending most of the issue talking to a girl in the business, but the story is more than about just that – for better analysis of the issue, go read Jog’s critique.
As I said in my comments in response to Jog’s post, ‘I’ve seen other people’s comments about the seeming lack of story but I find the “relating a new thing” is one of the interesting sections in a story. I enjoy finding out information I don’t know, especially when told in an conversational tone. It’s part of the writer mentality, the squirreling away of facts and the fun of sharing them, and it makes me feel that the writer has done some research and is doing storytelling in its most primal sense. Or that could be just me.’
The majority of the issue is talking but it is interesting conversation, telling us about something we might not know about (in this case, the world of porn; I love the line ‘gay for pay’) as well as giving insight into the mind and character and of Jones, as his perceptions distort during the discussion (as Jog states, that ‘everything in this series is glimpsed as Jones sees it, even when he’s on panel.’), which also breaks up the talking heads nature of the issue, allowing J.H. Williams to strut his stuff. He can do the normality of everyday life, talking in a pub, psychedelic views and the visceral quality of the fight scene at the end, making you feel the violence, which is a jump in tone from all the talking.
The ending, in keeping with the Marlowe connotations, sees Jones getting knocked out, so we should see some interesting visuals of him unconscious and recovering in the next issue, if the Chandler parallels are continued – I’m thinking of Dick Powell in Murder, My Sweet (based on Farewell, My Lovely) as Marlowe, getting swallowed into a black hole when he is bashed on the head. Williams’ art is a perfect accompaniment to this tale of a strange man in a strange place, allowing Warren to write whatever his fertile and diseased brain can originate, which can only be good for us readers.
In future on this blog, I hope to spread my love of certain creators, both writers and artists, giving others a fair shake, so don’t worry that this will become an Ellis shrine, even if I just spent some time recently enthusing over Fell.