Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Ben Templesmith
Publisher: Image Comics
Opening with one of the funniest single panels I’ve seen in some time, this issue of Fell brings us more of what we’ve come to expect from the title: an atmospheric, twisting detective story with well-defined, interesting characters and a sinister sting in its tail.
This time round, we get to see detective Fell take a day off, but it isn’t long before he gets drawn into yet another weird and unsettling problem involving some of Snowtown’s less desirable elements. Truth be told, this issue feels slightly less dense and less disciplined than those which have gone before it, and there’s too much reliance on a grim shock ending to carry the story, but there’s still a lot to be said for Warren Ellis’ ability to write a satisfyingly self-contained and conclusive one-shot story which continues to move some of the longer-running subplots along for regular readers. Anyone looking for more background on Fell’s mysterious past or the motivation of the Nixon-Nun won’t find it here, but it’s reassuring to know that Ellis hasn’t forgotten about those elements.
Ben Templesmith continues to impress with his artwork, with each page carrying a ring of truth and reality which is given an unreal, unique edge by his stylised figures. Not for nothing do fans talk about the town of Snowtown itself as acting like a character in Fell, as Templesmith’s moody, evocative dingy grey streets and dirty alleys really sell the atmosphere of degradation and social dysfunction that underpins Ellis’ book. The action is brief but brutal, the human emotional content is surprisingly complex for such deceptively simple figures, and the colouring techniques give the whole thing an eerie, dreamlike quality which sets it apart from any other book on the market.
Ellis’ gruesome yet gripping storytelling, Templesmith’s distinctive art, and the allure of the writer’s ever-present “Back Matter” text column at the end of the issue all serve to set this book apart as something unique in an industry which thrives on the recycled and the derivative, and that alone should make this comic worth your time and money. Take a chance on Fell if you consider yourself at all open-minded or jaded about the current state of comics storytelling: at just $1.99 it won’t break the bank, and it just might expand your horizons of what can be done with a mainstream comic book.
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