Warren Ellis’ comics tend to be so dense and buzzing with creativity that they’re difficult to sum up. Shipwreck, the prolific British writer’s new series with veteran comic artist Phil Hester at AfterShock Comics, is in the grand tradition of previous Ellis works like Transmetropolitan (where “cyberpunk Hunter S. Thompson with a gun that makes you poop” doesn’t even begin to cover it). Shipwreck opens, as one might expect from the title, with the last survivor of a devastating crash (coincidentally named “Shipwright”), but quickly reveals that all is not as it seems.
“It’s the story of the last survivor of a shipwreck, trying to find out what happened to him and his ship,” Ellis tells EW. “But the ship was a vessel designed to travel to another planet, the engine of which was his brainchild, and the shore he’s washed up on is that of another world. Possibly even another Earth. And nothing seems to make sense. But he’s positive his ship was sabotaged, and is chasing the saboteur down an endless and somewhat surreal road in the middle of nowhere … I like to think of this as what would happen if you made Cormac McCarthy and Samuel Beckett write a road movie.”
The first issue features both surreal images (the first few pages are completely dialogue-free, as Shipwright awakens on a desolate beach surrounded by swirling birds) and horrific gore; several kitchen implements are involved. Needless to say, this mixture provides all kinds of fodder for Hester’s skills.
“I’m three issues in and on my third different desecrated corpse, so we have that going for us,” Hester tells EW. “Honestly, it comes back to the quality of the narrative. There’s a big mystery at the heart of the book, both a technical, hard sci-fi puzzle, and a deeper, existential question. Solving them, or at least exploring them, takes the reader through some pretty horrific visuals, and it’s been decades since I got to sink my teeth into something like that as an artist, probably since my time on Swamp Thing with Mark Millar. I get to draw skeletons, space ships, a genuine femme fatale, gore, a death-obsessed barkeep, blasted desert vistas, and a ghostly scientist staggering through it all like its some sort of live-action near-death-experience life review.”
Shipwreck #1 hits stands this week. Check out a preview below.