NON-DC: Warren Ellis’ Fell

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Some news: WTF, DC? has, after a little over two years online, finally squeaked past 250,000 views (mostly people directed here after entering some combo of “Starfire” and “sex/nude/slut” into Google, it would appear). Not that big a deal compared to the millions of views Newsarama, CBR, IGN (et cetera) get every month, but I’m impressed – I don’t promote this thing, nor do I update it very often.

To celebrate, I’m introducing a new category: NON-DC, devoted to comic books that aren’t published by DC Comics. The reasoning behind this: I loathe the New 52 – a horrible idea, poorly executed – and I can’t in good conscience fork over $3 for slim, nearly content-free books featuring characters I used to love who are now completely, infuriatingly different due to corporate mandate. As a result, I’ve been picking up Marvel NOW! books recently – Daredevil, Hawkeye, Wolverine and the X-Men – and they’re all resoundingly awesome comics that are a pleasure to read. And I’d rather write about stuff I like than whine about the same mind-bogglingly uninspired garbage DC’s been spewing for two years now. Hence, NON-DC.

And first up to bat: Warren Ellis’ Fell, one of the best titles released by Image in the past decade.

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Fell has had a bizarre release schedule: three issues came out monthly in the fall of 2005, then three more issues were released sporadically in 2006, two more in 2007, and one in 2008. Then Ellis’ computer died. When the next issues will come out is anyone’s guess, but Ellis says the title will only go up to #16. Since the first eight issues were collected in the trade Feral City, it makes sense that another eight would make up the next trade.

Ellis’ intention with Fell was to create a comic book on the cheap. Each issue is 16 pages long, with an extra couple pages at the end featuring a short essay by Ellis, or fan email, or pictures of people’s tattoos inspired by the book. I can’t remember exactly what each back section contained because my floppies – a term I only recently learned in a horrifically embarrassing exchange at my LCS (I’m old) – are on the opposite side of the country and Comixology doesn’t include that material in the back of the digital editions. But I’m pretty sure the first issue had a piece by Ellis on how expensive comics had gotten and how he wanted to get books into people’s hands and give them as much bang for their buck as he could.

And boy, does he.

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What the book lacks in explosions and action sequences, it makes up for in style, an atmosphere of dread, and a town that’s as much of a character as the protagonist, a detective named Richard Fell. Fell has been sent to Snowtown – a noir cesspool reminiscent of the unnamed city in David Fincher’s Seven (Se7en?) – under mysterious circumstances that are never explained. He seems to be in some kind of exile, though it appears to be the self-imposed kind. And here’s the kicker: like Seven‘s (Se7en‘s?) William Somerset, he’s an honest cop who genuinely wants to do good, despite insurmountable evidence his efforts will be wasted on those he’s trying to save.

One of the book’s biggest selling points is Ben Templesmith’s art. Templesmith is one of the best artists in the business, but rarely are his talents applied outside the realm of supernatural horror, which is a shame, because Fell is straightforward noir and Templesmith’s style suits the grime and grit of Snowtown perfectly.

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Fell is also a much-welcome throwback to simpler times: each book is a self-contained story and only a few elements (Fell himself, his bartender girlfriend Mayko, a creepy nun in a Nixon mask) carry over from issue to issue. The reason I avoid DC now is because every monthly title I pick up feels like 1/4th or 1/8th or 1/16th of a story rather than anything that can stand up on its own (I seem to remember one recent Death of the Family tie-in issue of Catwoman being her swinging from a patio to a rooftop and little else).

As mentioned previously, Feral City collects Fell‘s first eight issues, but if you’re hesitant to dive into a trade, try to find issue #4, a story concerning a serial killer who murders Snowtown residents and then dumps their bodies in a river. It’s got the best ending of any of Fell‘s individual issues, and is a stellar example of Ellis’ storytelling strengths and Templesmith’s evocative artwork.

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2 Responses to NON-DC: Warren Ellis’ Fell

  1. Mike P says:

    I asked Ben at comiccon a few years back. He said Warren gave him 3 pages, he did all the artwork and then Warren told him to trash them. He then gave him some more pages and he held off doing them just in case…. that is the last I herd.

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