Better Living Through Graphic Storytelling
A Comics Blog About Shit We Like
25 August 2007

In England, the word cunt is punctuation.

The other day I had gone back and re-read a few stories from Warren Ellis' brief run on Hellblazer, which was really quite good. Ellis is one of those creators that I trust, but only as far as I can throw him. When he hits the mark, he hits it hard. But unfortunately, he often misses the mark too. Ellis is an "idea man", and while I think that this is something sorely lacking in most modern comics, it can also hold a good writer back.

All of this occurred to me while I was reading Hellblazer because, frankly, it's really fucking good. Ellis' famed smarminess (see Warren Ellis (dot) Com for examples) has been a useful tool over the years, but too often it is apparent that most of his protagonists at this point are little more than Spider Jerusalem derivatives, who himself was admittedly a Hunter S. Thompson derivative. All of this nut-kicking, chain-smoking, and swearing is quite charming in the beginning, but it begins to wear itself pretty thin after a while. Especially when considering that Transmetropolitan is 10 years old now.

The reason I frame this in the context of Ellis' Hellblazer run is because Ellis is just that much more convincing when he's writing British characters. Looking back on series like Desolation Jones reaffirm this suspicion.

Crecy, Warren Ellis' new graphic-novella released by Avatar Press as part of his Apparat Line, is another perfect example of why Warren Ellis should not be writing Thunderbolts and should be writing Wisdom instead. Crecy is a surprisingly economic piece of work about the Battle of Crecy, from the British point of view.

There's a reason why Hugh Grant movies sell in America. Warren Ellis' omniscient narrator is a perfect example of how the British could be verbally abusing you to your face, and you'd still walk away from the conversation having been charmed. Take out the racism, the perpetual class-warfare, the hatred of everything not English, the constant need to correct everyone who is not English that they are wrong and backwards, and you'd have a Summer Blockbuster on your hands right there.

Crecy doesn't read quite like a story, but it also doesn't quite read like the overt history lesson that it is. More than anything it reads like a lament and an admission of not only the things that the British got right, but also the ugly things that the British had to get wrong in order to survive. The combination of admitting your mistakes while also admitting that it is necessary to continue them is extremely powerful when handled by Ellis. These are the kinds of lofty experiments that make it worth buying as many Warren Ellis books as possible.

Crecy bodes well for not only Avatar, but for comics as well. With the release of both Doktor Sleepless and Black Summer, the Apparat line has shown that it is not only alive and well, but more than willing to kick in your nuts.

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