Doctor Shipwright is trapped on a nearly-destroyed parallel Earth after a scouting mission went wrong. He has a rescue beacon, but he can’t get home unless he gets to the point where the ship will be sent. A man named Isham is apparently planning to destroy the rescue ship when it gets there. A pair of strange women promise to take Shipwright to where the ship will arrive, but only if he gives them the schematics for his personal apporter, a device that could take him to any point on his own world.
Ah, Warren Ellis: Trees, Thunderbolts, and Moon Knight. This man is easily one of the greatest talents working in comics, and he is easily one of my favorite writers on the scene. His stories tend to be dark, weird, or both. He will make sure you get shown bizarro imagery that will make you wonder what you are reading. I’ll never forget the psychic mushroom dreams and ’80s punk rocker ghosts from his short run on Moon Knight.
Shipwreck seems oddly conventional by his standards, but it is no less compelling for the difference. Shipwright is a very interesting character with a well-defined personality. He’s a coward and a follower. He’s a very intelligent man, but his lack of ability to handle people makes him easy to manipulate.
There is a twist in the final few pages of this issue of Shipwreck, which, while not surprising, is subtlety signaled by the characters and dialogue throughout the runtime of the comic.
The plot of this comic, while somewhat complex, is straightforward at its heart. It’s about a man who wants to get home. While Shipwright may not be the most noble man, and he’s done some bad things for sure, many people can sympathize with that idea. Everyone’s been homesick at some point. Everyone has a had a moment where they just want to get home.
There is a lot of dialogue in this comic, and it makes up a good portion of the runtime. It’s all quite interesting, but it does make you more relieved when the road trip sequence occurs and this book remembers it’s a visual medium with an artist on staff.
When it does get to that point, it does get even more interesting.
As if to make up for the relative conventionality of this comic book plot, Phil Hester makes sure some of the imagery of the wasteland that is this counter-earth is covered with insane shit. From people with paper grocery bags on their heads dancing ritualistically around a burning old and wooden church to a redneck in an astronaut suit leading around camels, you’ll remember a lot of what you’ve seen in this comic.
It makes you wish that these were more than simple non-sequiturs that were explained. Like the crow-men from Mad Max: Fury Road, it adds some interesting depth to the world, but you want to know their story, too.
Hester’s art is quite good, with a faded feeling that still conveys a lot of detail and facial expression. The complementary color work of Mark Englehert, who focuses on faded and pale tones as well, really creates the atmosphere of a semi-post-apocalyptic world where people are just squeezing by day to day.
Ellis, Hester, Gapstur, and Englehert earn their recommendation with this issue of Shipwreck. It’s a great read with solid characters and fantastic art. The story is simple at its heart, and it’s easily engaging. Pick this one up when it comes out.
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