Ignition City #1Ignition City #1 of 5
Written by Warren Ellis
Illustrated by Gianluca Pagliarani
Inks by Chris Drier
Colors by Digikore Studios
From Avatar Press
Warren Ellis may be the most successful writer in comics. When considering the diversity of his backlist, he is without peer. This past year, Robert Kirkman sent out a call to comics' elite creators, demanding they invest as much or more of their time in franchises and stories they control, and remain selective about their commercial work. Bold words, but Warren Ellis began living that philosophy in earnest 10 years ago.
There is seems to be no genre Ellis shies from. He has proven able with stories all the way from the smaller and intimate, to the cosmos-spanning grand, but he is at his best with the tools offered by science fiction. I believe this is because he is from the future, (which would explain why he was so ahead of Kirkman). Ignition City is a work of science fiction, but with the added layer of steampunk. Ellis takes the thesis behind steampunk, the retro-futuristic style of the industrial age and the close of the 19th century, and carries that concept through to the mid-20th century. This blend is almost a new genre in and of itself, and Ellis does it in about three panels. No, seriously, three panels. Go ahead, check.
Mary Raven just wants to go back to space. The daughter of a famed war-hero space pilot, she seems every bit as hardened as the typical Ellis protagonist at our introduction, but she exposes an uncharacteristic crack in the armor upon learning that her hero, her father, has died. The world has changed in the decade since WWII, and the once- glamorous space frontier has become politically unsavory, its heroes cast aside into obscurity. The last point of access to the heavens is the same place Mary must travel to retrieve her father's remains, the seedy harbor metropolis of Ignition City.
Ignition City is Earth's last spaceport, and the only place left for the lost heroes of yesterday. It is dirty and depressing, and wholly authentic as a city. There is a real character to the place, populated as it is by bastions of a bygone era. The idea that those who become isolated and ostracized for the very same accomplishments they were once celebrated for resounds as an issue of the real world, the signature of good sci-fi. Ignition City is a horrible place to visit, but these folks couldn't live anywhere else on the planet.
The art by Gianluca Pagliarani, Chris Drier, and Digikore is a bit cleaner than some of Ellis' other Avatar collaborators. Pagliarani fully delivers on the conceptual promise of space-steampunk. Drier maintains a strong line, and never distracts from the storytelling, while Digikore keeps to the washed-out, dingy color palate that so effectively matches the story. The only thing that bugged me about this issue, and it is something that happens often with Avatar books, is the omission of a tagline to the last page of the book. With no “To be continued” to punctuate the last panel of the issue, there is a hollowness to turning the last page only to find house ads. I understand that this is but a chapter in the five part series, but there is a need for closure to mark the finish satisfactorily. This is a minor qualm, but one that would be simply remedied.
Ignition City is innovative, with a strong high-concept and effective art. The pacing of this first issue is a primer on pitch-perfect structure, and keeps a brisk pace with witty exchanges. It presents a stark parallel reality, but one with all the nuanced flaws that make up our own. If anyone is curious to see what great comic minds do when unfettered from editorial limitations, this is the book to check out.