25 October 2015

Karnak by Warren Ellis is sweetly dark and moody

I do not want to say that Warren Ellis is on a roll at the moment and that implies that the current form is unusual whereas he has become my favourite write of comic books by being consistently brilliant. However, his current crop of titles is right up there with anything that he has done.

Trees, which I wrote about earlier this year, is drawing towards the end of its second story arc and is still mightily impressive, not least because I do not have the slightest idea where it is going.

Injection, also published by Image Comics, also has a science fiction edge to it but here magic and folklore are the main ingredients. It is all terribly English (that's a compliment) and could have come from the pages of 2000AD. Obviously other people love it too and it is also coming back for a second series.

And now I have Karnak to enjoy too.

Karnak is/was a decidedly minor character in the Marvel Universe. He is one of the Inhumans who have generally only been a support act to people like the Fantastic Four and Karnak has generally been a support act to characters like Black Bolt and Medusa, even the Inhuman's dog Lockjaw has had bigger storylines.

Warren Ellis has taken Karnak away from the other Inhumans but left him in the main Marvel Universe, as the appearance by SHIELD's Agent Coulson quickly showed. He has also been elevated from a simple breaker of things seemingly unbreakable to a philosopher.

Karnak lives and studies in the Tower of Wisdom. It looks like this.

That opening page of the story, drawn by Gerardo Zaffino, sets the tone for the comic. It is dark, moody and mysterious, in much the same way that Ellis' run on Moon Knight was. The moods may be similar but the stories are very different, not least because the Moon Knight run was six single stories and Karnak #1 ends with "to be continued". It also ends with Karnak killing two people (violently) and disarming another all at the same time. He is still very good at breaking things.

In the middle we start to peer into a few mysteries about Karnak's mission and his philosophy which sees smiling as an insult and stones as more important than people. This is still an action comic, as the ending shows, but there is much more to it than that, as you would expect from Ellis.

Karnak is a mighty fine comic from a mighty fine writer.

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