Warren Ellis is a fleeting writer.
That’s not to say he isn’t good. He’s great. As one of the most prolific comic book writers today, Ellis has managed to create great books over the years like Transmetropolitan and Planetary, always striking a cool balance between high-tech sci-fi tales and mysterious spy capers. The only issue is that recently, he never stays on a book very long.
Credit it to wanting to do different things to avoid getting stale, maybe, or just that he’s done trying to tell long-form stories over dozens of issues. Whatever the case may be, it seems like he’s never attached to a book longer than twelve issues, jumping off with little fanfare to debut a new series a few months later. With that in mind let’s look at some of his more recent, and in some cases “current”, books to determine what their status is.
-James Bond: When Dynamite Comics won the rights to publish new James Bond comics, they quickly signed Ellis to be the man to relaunch the comic book adventures of the world’s greatest super-spy. Ellis’ take brought Bond down from the suave silver-screen hero and returned him to the roots Ian Fleming planted in his novels. The result were two stories, “Vargr” and “Eidolon”, that saw a grittier, more world-wear Bond who was more apt to snap someone’s neck to save the day instead of pulling out a crazy gadget. A great book for not only fans of “classic” Bond stories, but also of Ellis’ gripping spy tales.
Ellis’ Bond is a perfect example as to the kind of skipping across books he has become known for. While both arcs didn’t sell that great (credit either bad marketing or just the lack of resources on Dynamite’s part), fans and reviewers seemed to take to Ellis’ more grounded take on the character. Despite this, Ellis appears to be officially off the series, as Dynamite has been releasing other miniseries concurrent to the main book (including Andy Diggle’s “Hammerhead”) and is relaunching the main Bond book with writer Ben Percy this week. Would he come back? Unlikely, as he seems to have made his mark on the famed character.
STATUS – Relaunched
-The Wild Storm: Launched just two weeks ago, The Wild Storm is the latest imprint DC Comics has launched to appeal to a wide audience. Taking the fan-favorite characters from the WildStorm Universe and imagining them through a more grounded lens has gotten fans excited, with Ellis both writing the flagship book and acting as the “showrunner” to the entire imprint. The opening has shown Ellis, one of the biggest names to work on the original WildStorm books, building a brand new world around the characters he helped make famous. Anyone who hasn’t read his WildStorm books, fear not, as this new series is totally accessible. A good place to jump on to see Ellis spin a brand new tale in real time.
This series seems to be on more solid footing, as it’s been reported that Ellis has been signed to twenty-four issues of The Wild Storm per his contract with DC (which is echoed in the logo design, with the numbers one through twenty-four located just below the title). It’s unlikely that Ellis will be writing any of the proposed spinoff books (which, as of this writing, have yet to be officially announced), but his involvement as showrunner should ensure that all of them follow the tone he sets down. It’s unlikely he would stick around as a writer past the issues he’s contracted for, but would he remain as showrunner is the real question. Only time will tell.
STATUS – Ongoing
-Injection: Perhaps Ellis’ densest book going (which is saying something), Injection follows five proclaimed geniuses trying to fight against the very things they created so many years ago. Part X-Files, part Orphan Black, and a whole bunch of horror tossed in for good measure. This is quintessential Ellis, slowly doling out details for readers to process while also weaving a larger tale about the strangeness of the world and how the futuristic science fiction we’ve seen in movies might already be upon us. It’s also Ellis’ best-looking book (in my opinion), with Declan Shalvey drawing the madcap details of Ellis’ scripts with a haunting beauty. If you’re a fan of Ellis’ work and want to really sink your teeth into a book that’s as close to his classic works as you’ll likely get, Injection is your cup of tea.
Injection comes to us from Image Comics, who aren’t super keen on hitting proposed publishing dates (just look at the release dates of Southern Bastards). They don’t take a large cut of their books’ profits, instead simply helping to distribute and promote them, which is why so many big-name creators have gone there to have total storytelling freedom – but they also don’t harangue the creators to keep their books moving along. Because of this many of their books often takes a few months off between arcs to avoid guest artists having to step in. While the quality of Injection remains high, the book has been released slowly since it’s debut in May of 2015. But the book continues to plug along, with the twelfth (twelfth) issue solicited for release in April.
STATUS – (Sporadically) Ongoing
-Karnak: Ellis doesn’t shy away from working with anyone, even the mega-machine that is Marvel. Instead of doing big-name, movie tie-in books that are heavily monitored by editors, Ellis has worked in the sandbox of re-imagining smaller characters. His latest work saw him take on the Inhuman Karnak, the guy with the goofy green costume that can “see the flaw in everything.” While most writers took this to mean that he was a world-class fighter, Ellis looked at the idea in a wider sense – philosophies, technology, and structures were just as susceptible to his powers as the human body. Teaming with Agent Coulson to dig through a disturbing mystery, Ellis makes the character equal parts compelling and horrifying and brought his grounded writing to a character that couldn’t be more fantastic. Fans of Marvel Comics should definitely check this series out.
Out of all the books Ellis has been working on over the past year, this one is the biggest trouble spot. The series suffered a four month delay after the first issue was released due to “serious personal issues” on the part of artist Gerardo Zaffino, followed by many other increasingly troubling delays with following issues. Issue six, the final chapter of Ellis’ story arc “The Flaw in All Things”, was released this month, and Ellis put out a statement before it’s release saying that he was done with the series after the arc, similar to how he bowed out of his run on Moon Knight. With the upcoming trade being billed as a single collection instead of a “volume 1”, it would seem that Marvel has put the proverbial nail in the coffin of Karnak and elected to not bring in a new creative team to continue the series.
STATUS – Cancelled
It’s easy to get frustrated at Warren Ellis’s lack of a long-term project over the past few years. In this age of seeing writers tell compelling, grandiose tales stretched over years on a single book, constantly seeing a writer of Ellis’ caliber only work on short runs is a bummer. But when his collections are as good as they are, there’s no real need for a long-term book by him. His quality of work speaks in how he can capture your imagination over the span of a handful of issues.
The books of Warren Ellis, including James Bond, The Wild Storm, Injection, and Karnak, are currently available in single issues at your local comic book shop. James Bond and Injection each have two collections available, with Karnak‘s collection due out March 1.