“Electropolis” and “Supergod”

Posted: January 6, 2010 in Braak, comic books, Curse You Warren Ellis, reviews
Tags: , ,

Two things I read in the comic shop.  One is Electropolis, by Dean Motter.  The other is the first issue of Warren Ellis’s Supergod.  Let’s do…ah, Electropolis first.


I picked up this graphic novel for one reason only:  it has a cover of a robot in a trenchcoat on the front, and I was given to understand that this character would play a prominent role in the story’s narrative.

I was correct.

Electropolis is a sort of mash-up of The Maltese Falcon and Metropolis, a retro-futuristic noir detective story in a mad electric-powered sci-fi world.  There’s robots and zeppelins, femmes fatale, gangsters, detectives, newspaper reporters.  About the kind of thing you’d expect in a detective story.

Motter’s art is good; it’s got a crisp, clean look to it that reminds me of Immonen’s work on Nextwave.  It does sometimes feel a little out of place, given the source material — you might have thought that a noir detective story would benefit with a dirtier, grittier style.  But, it’s also a book about people and their dreams of the future, so we’ll give him that one.

The problem — and I wonder if this is a problem endemic to detective comic books — is that the thing is mired in backstory and explanation.  In order to understand the nature of the crime (which, I’ll be honest, I’m still not sure about — a guy was killed, or maybe he wasn’t, or maybe he was but by someone else, I don’t know) — you also have to understand all the machinations that went on sixteen years ago, and you ALSO have to understand the history and nature of the city, and even then, the relationships are fucking complicated.  A third of the book is given over to word-balloon narrative, and I’ll admit I found that a little tedious.

Also, every single person in the book has a name that’s a pun.  I can’t really support a practice like that.

I kept comparing this book to Automata, of which there is no graphic novel — something that I think is a crying shame.  The comparisons were less than favorable.  I’m not really sure it’s fair to do that, but using something like this as a basis of comparison, it’s pretty easy to see:  “Oh, yes, here’s what this book would have looked like if the art style were more attuned to atmosphere.  Here’s what this book would have looked like if it were a little less serious, if the exposition were a little less clunky, if the situation was a little more clear.”

In summation:  a fun read, but I don’t think a sixteen-dollar one.


Warren Ellis is great.  I like Warren Ellis.  The first issue of Supergod unquestionable showcases the depth of invention that he’s capable of, and hints that, maybe, possibly, some kind of story will be involved in this book. Maybe.  Who knows for sure?  Ellis does, I assume.

In my own opinion, Ellis’s imagination often gets away from him, leading him to write what are essentially long travelogues through alien space.  That’s a lot of what Planetary felt like to me (though, that was exacerbated by the fact that I was reading it monthly, a form in which I don’t think Warren Ellis is really at his peak), it’s a LOT of what Ocean felt like, and it’s my biggest complaint with Crooked Little Vein.  As a connoisseur of weird shit, Warren Ellis can construct a pretty interesting piece like this — but in the end, there’s something vaguely dissatisfying about discovering that, really, you’ve just been reading a long catalogue of weird shit.

Anyway.  Can’t judge too much by the first issue.  I’m optimistic, we’ll see how it goes.

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