May 2nd, 2006



I breezed through the four issues of Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith's Fell that my friend Mark lent me. It wasn't hard to do, since they're actually shorter than the average comic (part of a respectable experiment to make less expensive comics in this age of $3-$5 monthly issues), and because Ellis is an amazing writer.

Fell is about Police Detective Rich Fell, who moves from "across the bridge" to the dingy city of Snowtown, where everything is dark and gross and everyone is pretty much corrupt -- except, in true Ellis fashion, the young women, who are all cute and, if not exactly innocent, at least good-hearted. (It's a recurring worldview that Ellis really needs to get past in his work.) Each issue is a self-contained story featuring Fell and a host of other recurring characters, the most intriguing of which is a tiny nun wearing a Richard Nixon mask. The nun never speaks or takes part in the story. The nun just keeps showing up in creepier and creepier contexts. It's vintage Ellis detail.

Unfortunately, I don't like Fell quite as much as the other work by Ellis that I've read, namely Transmetropolitan and Planetary. I think the fact that each issue is self-contained may actually be working against it, since there isn't any overall arc to hook me into wanting to read the next issue pronto. I like the characters, and I'd love to know what's up with that weird nun, but so far the stories haven't rocked my socks all that much.

I'm still not sure I like Ben Templesmith's artwork, either. I think his scraggly, impressionistic style worked okay in the context of 30 Days of Night, but Fell is going for a little more of a realistic feel, and as a result the art doesn't quite work for me. There are two things Templesmith doesn't show us very well: faces and action sequences. The faces all look weird and distorted (which, again, works for something like 30 Days), and most of action panels required close scrutiny before I could figure out what was going on. A more clear-cut style might've served the story a little better.

Fell is good stuff. It's just not great stuff, and I've gotten used to expecting greatness from Ellis.