Thursday, 9 February 2017

Karnak, Volume 1: The Flaw in All Things Review (Warren Ellis, Roland Boschi)


Karnak, a misanthropic Inhuman warrior monk, is hired by SHIELD to rescue an abducted Inhuman teenage boy who’s gone through Terrigenesis but seemingly didn’t receive any powers or undergo a transformation - or did he? The stoic Karnak might face his greatest challenge yet as he is confronted with his deepest desires, desires he may not even be aware of… 

Like a lot of Warren Ellis’ recent comics, Karnak took a helluva long time to complete its arc – 15 months in total for six issues! Was it worth the wait? Eh… The Flaw in All Things is… flawed. Not bad but not great either. 

I can see what attracted Ellis to the character: Karnak is a grumposaurus like almost all of his protagonists. In fact he might be the most appropriately labelled of them all: “inhuman”. He’s an anti-hero, one brutal son of a gun, sadistic even, with no qualms to torture or kill. But, like most of Ellis’ characters, he’s still somehow likeable despite being actively unlikeable – or maybe I just enjoy reading about total bastards! That said, I liked how Ellis threaded in the occasional panel to show us his well-hidden vulnerability beneath the in-fucking-vincible exterior, making him a somewhat tragic, lonely figure. 

The story is fairly straightforward: search and rescue, which turns out to be simplistic with few surprises along the way. Karnak fights A LOT, always lethally injuring, if not straight up killing, his opponents - he’s such a badass he can even split bullets fired at him in half with his fingers. It also makes him a bit boring as there’s never any tension in the fighting. I mean, if he can get through squads of armed guards so effortlessly, why even have them there in the first place? 

I’ve read a few Inhumans books though I definitely don’t know much about Karnak – I picked this up purely as a fan of Ellis’ – but you don’t need to know anything about him as Ellis provides all you need to understand what’s what. That’s one of the best things about this book: it’s a standalone, self-contained story that doesn’t get interrupted with crossovers, events, or any of that bullshit. 

Part of the reason for this title’s delay was that the original artist, Gerardo Zaffino, left the title before the second issue was done for personal reasons; Antonio Fuso completed the second issue, and then Roland Boschi took over from the third issue until the end. Still, both replacements managed to more or less match Zaffino’s style so the changes aren’t too noticeable. The art is decent but not that special – it’s a little too sketchy for my taste - but I loved David Aja’s striking covers and the scene with the creatures in the chapel looked like something out of HR Giger’s imagination, which was cool. 

Karnak, Volume 1: The Flaw in All Things is a mildly entertaining read that’s slightly smarter than the average superhero book though ultimately it’s unmemorable with a massively overpowered protagonist who never really gets challenged enough to feel in the least bit of danger. It’s not among Ellis’ best Marvel books but I’d say it’s still better than most of the publisher’s current line!

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