Sunday, 2 September 2012

Ignition City

Ignore the “Volume 1” slapped onto the cover and spine of this book. Volume two is not coming. These five issues are a complete tale in and of themselves and Warren Ellis has no plans for more. Although the world that’s constructed is so rich that it’s easy to imagine this becoming an ongoing series.

In a way that is Ignition City’s greatest downfall. There are so many hints at a wider world and an unseen history between the characters we meet and it’s a great shame these won’t be taken further. It feels very much like the first half of a TV series cancelled before its time by 20th Century Fox: there’s lots of invention but everything’s over before you can fully appreciate it all. It’s sort of a comic book equivalent of Firefly.

As ever with Warren Ellis one of the central motifs of the title is technology. Whereas Ellis usually enjoys writing about the future of technology here he plays around with its past, imaging a world that’s a mixture of steampunk, early rocket science and space exploration.

The story takes place in the eponymous Ignition City, Earth’s last remaining spaceport. There’s a sassy, foul-mouthed, empowered female lead on hand (another Ellis trope) to guide us through this world, acting as a cross between an exposition device and a vehicle for Ellis’s femdom fantasies.

Mary Raven is fleshed out a little with a backstory concerning her father being a famous space pilot and wanting to follow in his footsteps. It’s not the most touching story you’ll ever come across in a comic, nor is Raven the most empathetic character, but you find yourself warming to her anyway.

The real strength of the title is in its cast of supporting characters and Ignition City itself. As comic book locales go Ignition City seems very real, and its various cast of characters never feel too ridiculous. That’s pretty impressive when you consider that the list includes giant green alien crabs and a man who was once “Russia’s greatest cosmonaut.” Gianluca Pagliarani does a great job making a grimy town built on mud seem varied and interesting and gives us a surprisingly wide range of facial expressions.

The plot is centred on the tried and tested murder mystery formula. It’s not especially inventive but doesn’t need to be. The real joy of this book is discovering its secrets, not following a complex story. If you’re looking for something you can breeze through in a day then this is for you. It will leave you wanting more though.
Critical information:
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Gianluca Pagliarani
ISBN: 9781592910878

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