Monday, January 19, 2009

Doktor Sleepless #11

I've slowly begun to understand that there are two very distinct types of stories Warren Ellis likes to tell: inspired, intelligent action / adventure and elaborate, high-concept musings on culture. Like Transmetropolitan, this one falls firmly into the latter category, and I'm not overly impressed by it. When he has a specific route in mind, I count Ellis among my favorite writers. Take his all-too brief runs with Ultimate Fantastic Four or The Authority for example; both spotlight his powerful imagination while also telling a deep, compelling drama that keeps the pace moving at a good clip. He keeps a specific finish line in sight, and the plot is constantly moving in that direction. But when he spots an opportunity to slow down and wallow in elaboration, Ellis loses me. And that's precisely what he does from page one in Doktor Sleepless.

Look, I'll never be able to fault this writer for telling a dull, empty story – it just never happens. Even when he's lost on a tangent somewhere far, far removed from the central storyline, Ellis is filling our minds with something undoubtedly original and fascinating. Problem is, without that forward momentum his diatribes take the shape of a blog entry more than they do a legible storyline. Roughly half of this month's issue is blown on a long-winded conversation between two characters with zero connection to the reader, serving as little more than vessels to recant another twisted vision of the future. It's full of great theories and fun ideas, but makes for slow, dreary reading. The pace is much quicker in the secondary storyline, focusing on a rumble in the city's drug market, but it never feels important. The characters at its core aren't worth all that much, neither to their community nor the narrative, and many are thrown out with the garbage within pages of their introduction. Ellis gives you seven pages of talking heads, four pages of gunfire, then three more pages of dinner table dialog. It makes for awkward pacing and random narration, united only through a shared lack of consequence.

Ellis's artistic companion for this series is Ivan Rodriguez, whose bland style and dull choice in camera angles may have soured me to the issue before the storyline took its first turn for the worst. Rodriguez is better suited to the scenes that focus on the drug dealers, primarily because there's actually something happening beyond the lighting of cigarettes and the drinking of wine, but even then his work is nothing to write home about. His perspectives are odd and repetitive, many characters look the same and there's a noteworthy lack of energy throughout. He's like Gary Frank on Ny-Quil.

If you like the idea of two ladies sitting at a table, debating the finer points of a hypothetical culture clash in a dreary future, this is your jackpot. It's the ultimate pontification, a whole lot of concept with a serious lack of follow-through. I'll readily admit that my opinion of Warren Ellis's work is decidedly hot and cold, and in Doktor Sleepless it's frigid. There's nothing happening here, and the artwork doesn't help matters. Skip it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 1.5

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