The recent Image books by Warren Ellis have been surprisingly calculated and slow for an author whose become famous for single-issue arcs and quick mini-series. Trees, Supreme: Blue Rose, and Injection have all shown a new proclivity for Ellis to take his time moving the pieces into positions and set-up his worlds. Unfortunately both Trees and Supreme were a bit lifeless as a consequence, often lacking the wit and charisma of traditional Ellis. Thankfully Injection, despite a slow start, proved to be a perfect synthesis of Ellis' new calculated pace and his former proclivity for craziness. Injection #6 marks the beginning of a second arc, this time focused on eccentric detective Vivek Headland. The story is an overtly and loving pastiche of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes wherein Vivek Headland receive a truly bizarre case involving a missing ghost. His Watson is a long-suffering former-mercenary (delightfully strange flashbacks show that he was Headland's antagonist in a case involving a Cyclopean Pig). His struggle with the lethargy associated with genius is also straight from holmes though a few touches also recall Watchmen's Ozymandias. Instead of feeling like a cheap tribute, the parallels to Holmes serves as a nice entry point to Headland and his bizarre history (the issue is peppered with odd, humorous flashbacks).
While the characters from the first arc of Injection are mentioned, this issue is almost entirely self-contained and makes no reference to the malevolent cyber-magic entity stalking the Injection team. This could feel like a setback since as I mentioned, the first arc got off to a very slow start, but instead it issue get's right into the action, starting a new story that feels unpredictable but hugely enjoyable. While parts of the comic are based on Conan Doyle's work, the so-gross-it's-funny twist of the second half of the issue is distinctly Ellis-y, and propels the story in a surprising, new direction.
And as a character, Headland manages to become a distinct and interesting character in his own right. His odd overreactions to the mundane and underreactions to the fantastic portray a man whose strange life has thoroughly unbalanced him. The issue opens with the image of a thin, sickly looking Headland struggling to get out of bed, the issue ends with him performing a feat of incredible skill while dress in a sharp suit and spouting a bizarre action movie one-liner. It's a clever way of showing how Headland thrives on the bizarre, and sets the stage for an exciting storyline.
I am curious how Headland's story will intersect with the rest of the team's as time goes on, and the issue gives a few ambiguous hints that all is not as it seems (Headland is oddly scared of mushrooms on his sandwiches, and if this issue shows anything, it's that he's comfortable eating much stranger things). But for the moment, if we continue to spend some time watching Headland eat sandwiches and wax eloquent about detective work, I wouldn't mind.
But for all the praise I may shower on Warren Ellis' script, I would be remiss if I did not mention Declan Shalvey's art. It will be news to no one that it's still excellent, but to my mind, he continues to demonstrate new range in portraying the eclectic world of Injection. A scene in Headland's parlor is creepy and subdued, while one flashback is lit entirely by apocalyptic firelight. Each scene appears to have no line wasted, switching effortlessly between beautifully detailed and smoothly streamlined.
To put it all simply, Injection is a great, and massively underrated book. Despite a first arc I highly recommend, issue six would make an excellent entry point. My only hesitation is, I wouldn't read it while eating...
Injection #6 Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Declan Shalvey Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/13/15 Format: Ongoing; Print, Digital