Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Phil Hester
Release Date: 9th November, 2016
Dr Jonathan Shipwright finds himself lost in a strange land. With no memory of what happened to him or where he is, his only hope is tracking down the man who crash landed with him in this strange place, Isham. Thus Dr. Shipwright walks, and on occasion teleports, traveling this mysterious place searching for his colleague – and hopefully some answers.
Wait, teleports? Yes, Dr. Shipwright has a small ‘Apporter’ that he built as a test model. It allows him to travel instantaneously across distances. In fact, the ship he crashed in was the manned pilot vehicle based on the Apporter test model. That’s why Jonathan doesn’t know where he finds himself. Is it another planet, another dimension, or just the inside of his head as he dies at the crash site? Warren Ellis, amirite?
Issue two is called Bell, which you’ll learn (should you read the issue) is symbolic of death. In fact, much of what goes on in Shipwreck seems connected to death in some way. The story opens with a quite gruesome corpse mutilation. It’s shocking, open and stuns you as a reader, and then you learn that it’s not what you think it is. This act is actually something quite different, quite beautiful and prophetic. It’s this twisting of convention that Ellis is so good at. I find it impressive how easy he tricked me into assuming one thing, only to realise how completely false this expectation was. This is part of what makes Shipwreck such a captivating read.
Everything about this environ in which Dr. Shipwright finds himself is ‘just’ out of sync. You, as the reader, get to explore this psuedo-reality with him as a blank canvas. This place he is in looks familiar (it has, buildings, cars, people), but is also alien. The people Jon encounters know of – or about – him, yet he knows nothing of them. Some talk to him with both a past and a present knowledge, as if he’s been here for some time, and yet has only just arrived. It gives the narrative a prognostic edge that is fascinating, somewhat other-worldly and gripping. David Lynch, eat your heart out.
Phil Hester’s art has just as much impact as the script in Shipwreck. In fact, the triumvirate that make up the art team on this project are bringing their ‘A’ game. Hester’s acute penciled lines belie much detail, but carry off a slight unreal quality in tone. There is a lot of centre symmetry in his panels that he uses to great effect, especially on faces. This is further emphasised by the ink work of Eric Gapstur, whose blocked shadows bringing a sense of solidity to this world. Even the colors of Mark Englert evoke the sense that things are not quite normal here. Sky’s are not blue, they are yellow, or orange. Like a different atmosphere, yet people are still people, and blood is still red. Even the lettering used looks like the notes font on an iPhone, suggesting this story is based on recollection, and not actually happening as we read it.
Shipwreck is enigmatic. It’s a cryptic Pandora’s Box of a story that reminds me in so many ways of how I first felt when reading Planetary. It’s an infuriating, complex, hypnotic tale, that carries a kind of cold beauty to it. Yet, I still have to admit that I have no idea what’s going on… but I love it.
PREVIEW ARTWORK (courtesy of CBR.com)
[Click to Enlarge]
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.