Published by DC/Wildstorm
Desolation Jones is a detective story, one that tells a familiar tale. There is a femme fatale, a client with hidden motives, a hard-bitten hero and a mystery that needs unravelling. Michael Jones, sole survivor of the Desolation Test is a private investigator in Los Angeles. Trapped there alongside many other ex-secret service types from around the world, LA operates as a type of holding cell for out of work spooks. In typical Ellis fashion this story is not for the faint-hearted, covering as it does Hitler’s secret sex tapes, the LA Porn Industry and an alcoholic Englishman tortured well past the edge of his humanity.
Jones is yet another acerbic Ellis character, foul-mouthed yet fearless, his strange appearance and gruff manner hiding the heart within. Many criticise Ellis for writing the same type of protagonist time-after-time, yet I enjoy them so much that I cannot agree. To me heroes resonate best when they ring some aspirational bell inside you. So I guess I wish I was a sharp-tongued loner equally skilled at kicking arse and taking names.
J.H. Williams art is praised high and low and for very good reason. Aside from his highly skilled line-work and amazingly expressive characters he successfully mixes styles more than any over. Jones experiences visions due to neural fallout from the Test, to show this Williams paints the angels he sees into the panels. The variety in Williams work never fails to astound me, it often feels like a team of artists have put it all together after many decades of working together to gain seamlessness.
Williams also does interesting panel layouts to suit and shape the tone of whatever is currently going on in the story. This leads to my only minor issue with the book, and the cost of innovative use of panels. Sometimes the panel flow can be confusing and it takes a moment to work out if you should read across the fold or continue down the page. But it is a small price to pay for an artist to try and test the boundaries of what he and comics can do.
The action sequences are some of the best ever to grace a comic book. Red is used to enhance and focus in on the motion and small panels almost zoom in on key action beats.
The colouring is fantastic, and it’s obviously been a ton of work for the colourist Jose Villarubia. The palette is constantly changing, from stark black and white splashed with red for action scenes, painterly pastels for the visions and differing washes and wispy fades for the flashbacks. I loved the contrast between the dark tone of the story and the brightness of LA.
This is a book which I have re-read many times but particularly enjoyed reviewing. There is so much to focus and dig deeper on. The characters and plot just feel so contained and strong and the art could do with an entire post of its own. And the ending is powerful and so very fitting. A great comic to end my Month of Ellis.*
Should I Buy it? If you like gritty twisted crime fiction, Warren Ellis wit or jaw dropping art this is a comic you must read. If not I can’t believe you have read this far anyway.
Next time: A creator I first learned of thanks to Warren Ellis and the book that inspired me to start this blog. King City by comic book revolutionary Brandon Graham.
*There will be a addition in a few weeks, my copy of Gun Machine just arrived in the post and I thought I would break with tradition and write about an actual book. A novel I think they are called.