Injection Volume 1
Five fresh-faced idealistic geniuses in their specific fields are grouped together to prevent a predicted entropy of the advancement of society in the future (Whew). Their good intentions backfire when some disturbing incidents break out around them. What did they do to the world? Why does it still haunt them? Enter into a mystery that weaves together time, technology, magic, physics, and folklore. Follow some bizarre characters down a haunted rabbit trail to draw closer to the truth.
All five covers in full color at the back of the story.
October 7, 2015
Author: Warren Ellis
Artists: DeClan Shalvey
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Science fiction, fantasy, horror
Rating: M for mature
This is Warren Ellis’ latest creation. He is an award-winning graphic novelist from Britain, known for marrying technology and futurist themes with philosophy and mysticism. This is evident in his other titles such as TransMetropolitan, Fell, and Planetary. He is also known for Iron Man Extremis, the graphic novel that the movie Iron Man 3 was based off of. Before this title he wrote Moon Knight: Back from the Dead.
Declan Shalvey is an Irish artist. His works have been sighted everywhere lately, from the variant cover page for Venom #37, to his work in Civil War II: Choosing Sides, to illustrating and inking the “Merc with the mouth”, Deadpool. He made a giant impact when he teamed with Ellis to become the artist behind the acclaimed Moon Knight. In Injection, he takes on another dark-themed story with Ellis, orchestrating his pencils in a twisted world where there are more questions than answers, more riddles and rabbit holes.
Violence: Tons. And a lot of horror-film gore scenes. There are bodies being torn up, someone set on fire, others getting shot-point blank in the face, and a bloody scene with a ceremonial knife that seems unnecessary.
Language: A lot. The F*** word is used the most. The s*** word is thrown around a bit too.
Spiritual Content: Technology and occultism merge. Magic themes are used heavily throughout. Superstition of folklore are used to go on the offensive. Readers should expect to be tutored in the ways of magic at times with the writer’s background and philosophy.
Sexual Content: There is full frontal nudity of a human, who is possessed by a spirit. Not for kids!
Drug/Alcohol Abuse: They reference getting drunk as a group. Brigid Roth nurses a beer. They hint about drinking wine.
Positive Content: The group seemed intent on making the world a better place at first. They may have had good intentions. Often in their past, the group showed comradeship.
Negative Content: The group tampered with the natural processes of the world. They wanted the world to keep progressing, and in many comic universes they could be perceived as villains. All of the heroes act like villains in a way. Simeon Winters kills people without explaining why he does it. Dr. Kilbride does something violent with a knife, and Dr. Morei is interacting with the same monsters they are fighting against. So there is ambiguity here.
When I first heard about this title, I was immediately intrigued. When the first sentence on Amazon’s review is, “Once upon a time, there were five crazy people, and they poisoned the 21st Century,” who wouldn’t be interested?
Perfect for lovers of sci-fi and horror.
Ellis could do no wrong according to many in the comic world. When I read that this volume met with mixed reviews, I took the outlook of many out there. I gave Ellis the benefit of the doubt and read it anyway.
I didn’t know what to think of the story at first. The characters seemed bland, the plot was convoluted, and although the art was amazing, there was something really strange about the whole thing. At times, the writer didn’t even sculpt his sentences to flow fluidly.
So I went through Ellis’ background, examining his philosophy in his own words. I discovered some stuff that may help describe the strange vibe I got from “Injection.”
But first off, how does this book stand without that?
For a story to draw me in right away, it begins with the characters. There are five players caught up in Ellis’ newest drama. They are really basic and somewhat stereotypical. There is Dr. Maria Kilbride, Dr. Robin Morei, Bridget Roth, Simeon Winters, and Vivek Headland. They form a group like Inception.
Roth is a computer whiz/hacker. Headland is a Sherlock Holmes type character. Winters is a secret agent for the government. Kilbride is the scientist and Morei is a magic man.
They help form the Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit that will give the world the Injection, a type of program they created to keep the world from falling into a second Middle ages where no progress can be made.
From the first page, they are in a place where history, ethics, philosophies, cultures, folklore tales, and technologies all collide. What are the results of this according to Ellis? How does this affect his characters? It seems the answer is “madness” because that is the common thread among this group.
Case in point, one of the top scientists in Lowlands University, Dr. Maria Kilbride, is the first one we meet. She is pale, has sunken cheeks, and is looking out the window in Sawlung Hospital, a mental institution. Two backwards crosses point to the azure sky. It is a beautiful shot.
She is haunted by something in her past. She tastes coppery blood in her mouth. Then she moves down an empty hallway into a pitch black room. There, she is met by an older lady in black, who grins at her wickedly. The old crone’s name is simply, “Control.”
We discover later that Dr. Kilbride and the other four work for a company called Force Projection International, under a smaller company, “Cursus.” Throughout the present, Dr. Kilbride is at their mercy. She is a slave to some unseen higher force that sends her out to hunt whatever phenomenon is loose in their world.
Crushing guilt pushes her along. As a scientist, she searches for answers within the senses realm, but as Ellis stated, “the wind from tomorrow is scouring her away.”
Of all the characters, Kilbride seems to be having the hardest time with what the team did. It is tempting to read ahead and see what turned her from the excited and confident leader of the team to an institutionalized loner who has to make some hard choices.
The magician, Dr. Robin Morei, is another prominent character in the story. He is tied to his past as a “Cunning,” which means his family practiced magic for centuries. He is also a loner who talks to the dead. He can control the elements, deeply rooted to Britain’s mythological yesterdays. He shows no surprise of what is happening at the present time. Folklore stories coming to life seem to be an everyday occurrence for Dr. Robin Morei.
His development is intriguing because of his neutrality. His past and present look very similar. He is the only one who seems to know what is going on. Will he be friend or foe? Will he be a hero or a fiend?
The rest of the characters seem to be a supporting cast as of right now. I see shades of development in all of them, but if it wasn’t for the amazing art, I’m not sure I would really care for them as much. The art brings the haunting rhythms to Ellis’s language.
Shalvey’s work here is simply incredible. This is a non-linear storytelling experience with frequent flashbacks. The artist shows off his incredible talent by his use of lines. In the past, the lines are ordered. In the present, he makes patterns that hint there is something sinister and lurking, and older. He also molds his characters quite differently depending on the era they’re in too.
Timelines alternate with absolutely no narration between the two. He takes you through a sinister world of monsters, tendrils, and wild forests in one panel. Then with no warning, you are in a well-lit office building, or an elegant dining room surrounded by a wall full of clocks.
In the past, the world is brighter, more symmetrical, and shows that the group thinks they can control their surroundings. Our five characters are not affected yet. They are still just some fresh-faced idealistic kids trying to make the world a better place.
Dr. Kilbride still has a healthy hue in her cheeks. Her posture speaks of confidence. Brigid Roth, the technical hacker and computer whiz, is just a kid who is prone to roll her eyes and provide sarcastic remarks.
But the post-Injection era is portrayed with slumped postures and hollowed out looks. The scenery changes from industrial to small towns, and magical places in the lowlands. Dr. Kilbride looks skeletal at times like she’s a medieval painting. Brigid Roth is slumped in her chair; she often tries on a violent smile. These are little things the artist does in the anatomy to draw out this sharp contrast of past and present, and he does them to perfection.
The backgrounds are beautiful too. Even the dark chaotic underworld has glowing patches of light and crystallized vegetation.
Shalvey’s use of symmetry and perspective is like watching a well shot film, not like reading a typical comic book. The art is clean, providing enough white space to move the story along. There are no unnecessary movements. It is like he thought about every pencil stroke before he did it. His use of the widescreen panels paints a powerful picture throughout the series.
His monsters leap out of the page too, riding along with Ellis’ eerie storytelling. To support the many abstract ideas, clean, clear images are a must.
Despite the images being so clear, the themes are a little less easy to spot. Ellis likes to throw everything at the reader all at once. His scenes show the philosophy of madness, stress hard science, and are riddled with death images.
But of all of them, I believe magic is the overriding theme here — at least in the first volume. As scientific as Ellis is at times, it seems like magic takes preeminence. Even when there is science, it is still being controlled by magic in some way. Ellis describes it through the lecturing of the fictional Dr. Robin Morei.
When convincing Roth about magic, Dr. Morei sums it up like this:
“Science came from magic. And magic is simply a way of understanding and affecting the unseen systems and processes of the world.”
This appeared to be Ellis’ voice lecturing us through his characters.
In 2006, Ellis was asked on his personal message board if he practiced magic because of his connections with Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. Ellis wrote back:
“I don’t, no. I’m interested in too many things to give my life over to magic, which is what it really requires.”
But after reading this volume the second time, I can’t help but see all of the themes of magic in the story. The main weapon was a “ceremonial sword” that was used in a very violent fashion.
Dr. Morei’s magic plays a vital role in getting the ball rolling with the Injection. There are magical creatures that must be vanquished by using superstition and occult information, not science.
And Ellis himself admitted in the same message board that he cannot dismiss “sigals” so easily. Sigals are words or symbols that represent ideas which can be “charged” by the one using them. So it may be an endorsement to his readers by Ellis to explore these themes. Maybe that was the odd feeling I got.
But I appreciated the story more the second time around too. I find his imagination refreshing. The art is top-notch. And I like the idea that science and magic are not incompatible. If this was a series or film, I’d be right there. I am a sucker for all things vague, mysterious, and supernatural.
So what do we do as avid comic readers who love great stories? Do we see the Devil in everything until we can’t do anything but read the Bible and listen to Adventures in Odyssey? Do we go the other extreme and think that every book is fine as long as we have strong enough faith? I believe the answer lies somewhere in between.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” I John 4:1
That is what I choose to do. This series has potential to be incredible. It is highly imaginative, but it is also important to remember we have a super-smart, incredibly crafty adversary out there whose breath smells like Brimstone, and who would love to weaken our walk in Jesus Christ.
If you do choose to read this book, be cautious and read with discernment. Ask God to show you what this series is about. When he worked for Marvel, Ellis’ stories could be contained somewhat, but this publisher (Image) gives him more freedom. Just like the characters in Injection, we the readers have to be careful what doors we open up.
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+ Highly imaginative
+ Great potential for story to build
+ Excellent art
+ Keeps you guessing
- Awkward, strange wording at times
- Characters slow developing