by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Gianluca Pagliarani
You only have to read the description of the series to realise you’re in very familiar Warren Ellis territory here:
“A retro-punk “future of the past” where spaceships still belched smoke and arguments were still settled with laser pistols. 1956. Personal space flight is becoming illegal all over the world. Grounded space pilot Mary Raven has to journey to Earth’s last spaceport, the island of Ignition City, to recover her dead father’s effects – and discovers that her father died on the wrong end of a ray-gun.”
But if you like Ellis’ work, which more often than not, I do, you’ll find him on good form here. That dirty sci-fi feel that he did so well in books like Planetary and Ministry Of Space is here, as is a staple of Ellis’ work often uncommented upon: the strong female lead. Have a look back over his work and you’ll see female leads and strong supporting roles all over the place. And so it is with Ignition City, where Mary Raven shows herself to be talented, dogged and driven, all to discover just what happened to the father she idolised, the father she so obviously followed into the space game. As the world of space travel shuts up shop she finds herself looking to get into Earth’s last remaining spaceport, Ignition City, to recover her father’s effects. Ignition City, in classic Ellis future-speak is “an artificial island on the equator, ringed by launch gantries and landing pads”. You rather imagine it’s the sort of place Ellis dreams about.
(Pure Ellis retro sci-fi; the Ignition City of the title. From Ignition City #1.)
It’s a strong opener for the story, which looks like being, at least in this first 5 issue series, just a scene setter for the world of Ignition City with Mary’s hunt for the truth acting as a reason to have the grand tour. Along the way you meet a drunk ex-Russian cosmonaut (called Yuri – that wouldn’t be Yuri Gagarin by any chance would it?) and a similarly drunk astronaut called Bronco dumped back here from the 25th Century (Bronco? That would be Buck Rogers then?). This smacks a bit of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in space, with Ellis playing the same tricks as Moore does with his work. Ellis has tried the meta thing before, most obviously in Planetary with it’s guest characters representing and satirising many famous comic and pulp characters, but it looks like the meta in Ignition City may well be the entire plot with every iconic outer space character from here, there and everywhere washing up, broken and without hope to languish in the world of Ignition City. We shall see how that turns out. So far, not bad.
(Gianluca Pagliarani’s art from Ignition City – is it the artist himself, the inker or the digital colouring that’s managed to take all the expression off the page?)
Pagliarani’s art, so detailed and fine in Aetheric Mechanics (review) is barely recognisable here. Now, unless he’s dramatically altered styles it’s got to be either the inking or the digital colouring or maybe both that turn the art into a rather bland, featureless thing with very little going for it. A terrible shame because I thought that Ellis’ Avatar books had finally found another decent artist (along with Paul Duffield – Freakangels, Raulo Caceres -Crecy and, to a lesser extent, Facundo Percio – Anna Mercury) rather than the random bloke off the street that they usually use. Sadly it’s just a letdown in an otherwise promising new comic.
I’ll be sticking with Ignition City as it’s Warren writing sci-fi in his usual demented and interesting fashion. I just wish the art was worthy of the concept or the previous work of the artist himself.
Ignition City is slated to run as a ongoing series of 5 issue cycles from Avatar Press. Issue 2 is available in May. There’s an Ignition City website from Avatar here.
Richard Bruton is looking wistfully at his Junior Space Cadet Acme Ray Gun and dreaming of that holidays in space future we were all promised decades ago.