Although Warren Ellis is mostly known for his work on various Marvel and Wildstorm titles, he is also a prolific creator owned writer with his most famous work being Transmetropolitan. Recently, Ellis began doing his creator owned work at the smaller publisher Avatar and, being a big fan of Ellis, I've been picking up trades for some of the works he has does there. Apparat is an Avatar project as well as the webcomic FreakAngels, which currently has two volumes out for those who are not interested in digital comics. Today, I'm taking a look at his Anna Mercury, so hit the jump to find out what I thought.
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Facundo Percio
Collects Anna Mercury #1-5
Anna Mercury is one of the recent creator owned works by Warren Ellis from Avatar. Although it may look like a Lara Croft-esque book, it is actually a fantastic sci-fi story that has a lot to offer.
The core concept of Anna Mercury is a twist on the basic multiverse concept. Instead of having multiple universes linked together, there are nine small planetoids that orbit the Earth, called the Constellation. They are unaware of either the Earth or each other. However, various governments on Earth are aware of the Constellation and send agents to those worlds on a regular basis. So far, the only world of the Constellation that has been revealed is New Ataraxia, which is where most of Anna Mercury takes place.
The basic story of the The Cutter is that New Ataraxia is the home of two city states, Sheol and New Ataraxia, both of which are caught up in something of a cold war. New Ataraxia is a militaristic society that turned militarism into something of a religion after the warship USS Eldridge appeared there (a nice easter egg for those in the know), which was also the first contact with any of the worlds of the Constellation. They have tried to convert the citizens of Sheol to their ways, but they refused, having never seen the Eldridge, which lead to New Ataraxia trying to find a way to destroy Sheol. Mercury's job is to prevent that from happening and in the story she has to destroy the Cutter, an electromagnetic gun designed to destroy Sheol.
Anna Mercury, being a sci-fi book, lives or dies on the strength of its concepts and, being written by Ellis, it thrives. Ellis firmly establishes the ideas behind the book early on and uses them in some interesting ways, mostly with the way Mercury travels between worlds. The device that allows Mercury to travel between the various worlds also allows her to change the laws of physics in small spaces, temporary gain super strength and enhanced abilities as well as other, unique properites. Anna Mercury is not a hard science fiction book, so Ellis never gets bogged down by the details, but he still provides enough to make the concept believable within the logic of the story.
Ellis does a good job of world building with New Ataraxia. The visual look is kind of a mishmash of various styles and inspirations from the 1920s to the 1950s. The average everyday things, like cars or trains, look like they belong from those time periods while the future tech is inspired by the way people thought it would look like. It definitely has a retro motif going on with it, but it fits with the story. Anna Mercury doesn't look out of place either and Ellis has a nice little explanation about why she dresses the way she does.
Anna Mercury is more of an action style book than anything else. Ellis does a good job of balancing out the fast paced parts of the story with some down moments, but the story usually moves forward at a brisk pace. Since it is an action based story at its core, there isn't a lot of characterization, but the characters are generally well defined. They play to archetypes generally associated with these stories, so it's easy to get the basics of the characters in a short amount of time. Mercury, herself, is an interesting character, but that mostly has to do with the way she acts and operates than any kind of standout personality traits. There is not that much of a supporting cast, so those that do show up usually are not that well developed, with the lone exception being the director of the Constellation Project, which, again, is the organization that Mercury works for.
The art by Percio is very enjoyable. He does a great job rendering all of the various locals and tech that Ellis's script calls for. He also does a good job with the characters and his art doesn't have the problems that a lot of Marvel and DC artist do when depicting the human form. His faces and how he depicts emotions on them are something that stands out to me. His art has a nice visual flare at times that adds something extra when called for. Normally, I'm not big on artists (story first, art second for me), but Percio's work really does stand out from your average Marvel and DC artist and he does play a large part in my enjoyment of Anna Mercury. Overall, his style is very enjoyable and really adds something extra to Ellis's script.
Verdict - Must Read. Ellis and Percio craft an enjoyable action sci-fi tale that may not be the most unique book out there, but still excels at what it does and creates a wonderful experience.
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