Suffice it to say, new publisher Aftershock has been killing it in terms of talent accumulation, from booking CoN faves Justin Jordan and Marguerite Bennet to sequential art icons like Brian Azzarello to television powerhouses like Adam Glass. So, when it was announced they were developing a new book created by none other than Warren Ellis, and drawn by the criminally underrated Phil Hester, people like me lost our shit - WHY DO WE HAVE TO WAIT CAN'T YOU GIVE IT TO US NOW??
I'm happy to report that after months of (impatiently) waiting the book dropped today and highlights both creators' strengths while presenting the start of a dark, mysterious story that leaves the reader asking aloud, "what the fuck just happened?"
The several pages of opening scenes are an assortment of wordless images where Hester really shines. He excels when his artwork can show detail and dark shadows in the same image, and inker Eric Gapstur does a sublime job of keeping the pencil work dark and ominous. The series of images serve to set the tone of the book, which is uncertainty; Dr. Shipwright is a narrow, craven-looking man in a barren wasteland, but he doesn't know where he is any more than the reader does.
It's when Shipwright meets the inspector that things go from a feeling of trepidation to feeling dream-like, where the characters explore the backstory of Shipwright and his strange journey to his present state/location, but that exposition causes more questions for the reader. Hester shines again as he helps produce a disjointed couple scenes in the building, complete with suspicious characters and a gruesome kitchen segment.
And this issue is a seriously glorious taste of Ellis' storytelling - he explains deftly what happened, and explores the various skills that Shipwright retains, but betrays nothing about the overall narrative and what the hell's really going on. His dialogue is sharp but innocuous, where you read the explanations provided but they don't make sense...yet. There are some seeds planted here that could yield a heavy, heavy crop.
I also have to applaud the work of colorist Mark Engelert, whose palate of gritty earth tones clash with strange greens and blues, alternating the mood and keeping the reader on his or her toes with each scene. It's a real triumph to see how his colors affect the story, and mixed with Hester's continued motif of spiders and crows, the story is as tense as it is enigmatic.
This book is a hell of an introduction; the layers of plot, the stark representation of characters, and the overall vibe offer up an anxiousness to devour this story that I haven't felt since Planetary. Shipwreck is dark and forboding, and Ellis, Hester, and company have started weaving a tapestry that I for one can't wait to see unfurl.