Warren Ellis needs to be given more free reign to wage war with (and against) Marvel’s minor characters. And Immonen works perfectly with the style, most awesomely demonstrated by the penultimate issue where the team fights through wave after wave of insane and parodical opponents for 8 hilariously glorious 2-page spreads. But every issue is great, dripping with dark humor and frantic absurdity. Action comedy at its finest.
After reading Crooked Little Vein, I wasn’t sure my favorite comic writer would transition to novels on the same level. Gun Machine proves he can. His descriptions, the one thing a comic book writer doesn’t get to show off, are masterful. They’re like describing a scene not with a photograph, but with a painting. As usual, he creates odd but likable characters with ease and throws them into a plot intriguing in its concept, but interesting in its meanderings.
Warren Ellis loves to write about strange and extremely niche subjects. I think he had a few ideas that were a little too out-there to be illustrated in a graphic novel and this book is the result. After you get past the initial wave of insane debauchery, a decent detective story worms its way out of the filth. Nothing on par with his usual work, but certainly some entertaining segments. It slams the US hard with hyperbole, but it does a decent job at making you enjoy the blows.
Warren Ellis has this uncanny ability to take some crazy idea (this time steampunk), grab a talented artist, and whip out a story full of great moments. Captain Swing may not be the best example of this, but his take on the origins of the London police was certainly entertaining. The artist found a great way to depict the surging electrical gizmos, and Ellis created some pretty fun characters. There are full page text interruptions where the titular character sort-of-narrates what’s going on and unfortunately, I felt those pages hurt the flow of the action, and bogged down what would’ve been action packed.
It’s easy to get tired of the X-Men. They’ve been slammed with nonsensical plotlines and roster changes for so long it’s laughable. But Warren Ellis knows what he’s doing, and crafted a stand-alone story that can be read without much knowledge of the series’ current machinations. He took his knowledge of sci-fi and stuck the X-Men in the thick of it, and it worked, for the most part. The art, however, was very strange, especially Emma Frost. It brought unnecessary attention to the character and away from the rest of the team.
Warren Ellis simply understands comic science fiction. He understands how to take theoretical technologies and implement them in relevant contemporary settings. In this regard, he is absolutely perfect for Iron Man. He also understands story structure, dialog, and character development and showcased that familiarity here.
Here, Ellis wants to showcase too much. The other volumes of Gravel had the titular character battling a new foe in each issue, allowing for time for proper understanding of those characters, while in this volume he introduces them all in one issue and dismisses them just as fast. It seems almost like a forced sequel, but still held plenty of great sections, especially the final battle sequence against the new antagonist.
Warren Ellis took a futuristic (actually alternate-reality) setting that he has used several times, most notably in Transmetropolitan, and loosely wrapped an action-comedy around it. There’s a silly romance between the main two characters but the primary function of the comic seems to be to allow Ellis to jam as many wacky things into a three issue series as he could think of. The semi-cartoonish artwork works well with this premise.
Like the first volume, and most of his other works, Ellis throws around characters almost too fast for my imagination to keep up. The main character is a bit typical, and re-used from other Ellis greats such as Planetary and Red. (And like Red, all should be portrayed on film by Bruce Willis.) The cinematic panels and pacing allow for another bloody fun ride through England that leaves action on the page and a smile on my face.