J.'s Reviews > Black Summer

Black Summer by Warren Ellis
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Oct 04, 11

Read in October, 2011

I have rarely been as pleasantly surprised as I was with this one. I picked it up entirely based upon the cover, and the fact that I generally like Warren Ellis's work. (But mostly the cover.)

The "heroes" in the book are technologically- or medically- modified super-people. Specifically, they all chose to get their powers, as opposed to the usual comic-book-accident kind of setup. It deals with why they were willing to go through with this and its repercussions. Of course, the quick description of the book tells you that it opens with one of them killing the president, and the book really seems to want to address that topic--can you go too far, even with good motivations?

The plot is too busy to delve too deeply into the characters, but they all get enough time to be fleshed out at least a little. It specifically takes time to flash back to the moments when they decide to go through the process and address their respective motivations, and you get a good sense of the strain between them from their interactions. Of course, during these flashbacks, Ellis takes the opportunity to give use the pseudo-scientific explanation for what, exactly, is going on. (And that's a lot of the fun from reading Ellis--I like a little science with my coffee.)

The storyline itself is a bit crowded. I rarely think graphic novels, particularly collected editions, are too short--the monthly comic format seems to lend itself to some level of padding. But this story really could have breathed a little more. I would definitely more stories about the same characters. The characters themselves, as well as the science, are both interesting on their own, and aren't showcased very well because of the time constraints.

The art itself is pretty incredibly detailed. It leaves me claustrophobic, or spending way too much time examining a panel because of all the detail. Having said that, it's a little TOO detailed, at times, because I spent way too much time examining a panel. You know, because of all the detail. So it's pretty impressive and awesome, but can be a little distracting at times.

Overall, I would compare it favorably with Watchmen, in that it seems to be addressing some of the same issues. But it's definitely more sci-fi, crowded, violent, and much less talk-y. The denouement itself uses a Chekhov gun plot device, so paying attention will pay off, but because of this it ends up being *very* slightly unfulfilling. (The suddenness of the ending probably also influenced that. Again, a little more room would be nice.)

But overall, excellent. I wish there was more like it.
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