Wildstorm/DC Comics 2005
2 TPB volumes 144 pages per volume.
Approx. $10 each volume.
Available at Instock Trades and Amazon.com
Something a bit darker today, I think. Global Frequency written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by a host of some of the best artists in the industry, is dark in the same way that Disney films are bright and sunny. It is an anthology series of 12 individual issues and at times reads like 12 separate things bound into one, or in this case 2 volumes. Published as individual issues from 2002 to 2004, it does read at times, like it was not really meant to be collected. That is the mark of a good anthology title. Not to say that the collected editions don’t work, that is not the case. There are simply chapters of the book that seem a bit out-of-place.
Miranda Zero and Aleph are the only 2 recurring characters, more or less, and they are the head and the chief intel officer of The Global Frequency, a not as secret as you would think rescue and counter terrorism group consisting of “1001 members from all across the world”. They deal with the threats that the world we live in has created. Military, political, industrial and even threats to us from the people who are supposed to be on our side. They employ tactics that are a bit harsh to say the least, but are tame in comparison to the threats they are dealing with. That is where the more cliché aspects of the story end. Ellis is, to say the least, a bit of a maverick in his style and his worldview. He revels in the conspiracies and dark secrets that have made the world his characters populate a very dangerous place to be. Many of the threats used in the book seem mostly pulled from science fiction, and some are. but the most compelling and frightening elements are firmly rooted in real science fact and theory. And even when there is licence taken with the science to make narrative sense, they work well and are actually less effective that the real world aspects. It is from these dark and even evil corners of science, that the stories in these volumes take on the sometimes unpleasant form that only rarely misses the mark.
The first chapter is, from a story sense, the least satisfying of the 12. Mostly the first and second parts are there to establish the world, and this it does very well, even at the cost of a slightly weaker start to the series. This is not the fault of Ellis or the artist, as much as the nature of the comics storytelling medium. The second story is where things start to take off. With art by Glenn Fabry, the only fault with this part is that it feels too short. The other stories are a bit hit and miss. The chapter illustrated by Jon J Muth was one i really wanted to like, but found his art didn’t fit the story as well as I had hoped. Roy Martinez does a fantastic job with his story, but after that the issues of this volume drag a bit. There are moments in every story that make them worth reading, to be sure, but they feel a bit uneven.
Volume 2 fares much better. It is the darker and more intense of the two, particularly the segments drawn by Simon Bisley and Lee Bermejo. The Bisley segment has a very loose feel as is inherent in his style of art. It creates an absurdist quality, particularly in the violence. The Bermejo story is beautiful. That beauty making the story that much more effective and disturbing. Another chapter unfolds much like a Holmes mystery to great effect. The last two stories, illustrated by Jason Pearson and Gene Ha respectively, were my personal favorites. The first focusing on Aleph, is just good old-fashioned spy fun. The last story is spectacularly disturbing and has a science hook that will have you doing lots of internet research by the time it’s over.
Violent and extreme in its style, this is NOT for everyone. In fact, I would say it’s not for MOST. But those of you out there that like gritty and dark, will enjoy. Anyone that wants intelligently constructed fiction with thought-provoking subjects will enjoy as well. While fairly typical of Warren Ellis’ style and temperament, these two volumes make for a fairly intense experience. Just be sure to have something a little more light and fun to follow it up.