Saturday, 8 October 2016

Shipwreck #1 Review (Warren Ellis, Phil Hester)

Dr Jonathan Shipwright is dead. He was a civilian scientist in a top secret experimental plane that crashed. So why he is walking around? And where the hell is he?! Jonathan doesn’t know what’s going on but he knows the plane was sabotaged and he’s going to get the culprit. So begins his bizarre odyssey into this dangerous new world.

Warren Ellis and Phil Hester make their Aftershock Comics debut with Shipwreck #1 and it’s an... interesting... start to the series. If you’re a fan of Ellis, Shipwreck basically continues his latest trend of barmy/arty comics like Supreme: Blue Rose and Injection. And if you’re unfamiliar with those, all that means is prepare for an unusual read! 

Given the uneasy and menacing tone, sense of displacement, strange circumstances, and (definitely grown-up) Lewis Carroll-esque characters like the Inspector and the Cook (who is deeply disturbed and disturbing!), Shipwreck reminded me very strongly of the 1960s British TV show, The Prisoner. Grant Morrison paid tribute to The Prisoner in The Invisibles and The Filth and now it’s Warren Ellis’ turn with Shipwreck! 

Is Jonathan dead - is this the afterlife? Is he dreaming or in a coma? Maybe this is all actually happening! I do enjoy Ellis’ subtle storytelling. What do birds signal to the shipwrecked? Hope of survival, that land is near. And so Jonathan follows the birds on foot to what he hopes is his salvation. 

Hester’s art is quite nice, particularly the birds, and its general blockiness reminded me of Mike Mignola’s style which I love. The colouring is a little flat though. There are some very gory scenes in this one too so watch out if you’re squeamish! 

I’m not sure what the point of the Cook was though. Maybe Ellis just had this weird skit written out and decided this issue was the place for it? I suppose it sets the tone for the world but it felt overlong and unnecessary, like he didn’t want to give anything else away about the story in this issue but also needed something to soak up the remaining pages. 

Shipwreck #1 is an intriguing start but I’m sure it’ll take a few issues to see where it goes, if anywhere, or whether it’s another of Ellis’ abstract comics about… something! Worth a look if you’re a Warren Ellis fan, particularly if you love his Image output, but after this first ish I think I’ll trade-wait this puppy.

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