I Read SVK by Warren Ellis & D’Israeli

25 Oct

by Mike Hansen

Warren Ellis at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego

The hat protects the precious brain inside. (Image via Wikipedia)

Alright, stop what you’re doing, and GO BUY THIS COMIC BOOK NOW. Not later, now. I’ll know if you’re lying. Because SVK might be the very best comic book you read this year.

There is nothing like SVK. You will see things you have never seen before. And then you will see things you didn’t see the first time.

Because SVK is printed with an additional, invisible ink. And comes with a handy pocket flashlight to illuminate it (and no, you don’t need to be in the dark for it to work). For all I know, the light will cause blindness, cancer, and AIDS, but I don’t care, because this comic book is worth it.

You don’t need to believe me. Ask William Gibson; he wrote the introduction. And if the father of Cyberpunk, the man who sees the filthy future before the rest of us, digs this comic, that’s good enough for us humans.

Warren Ellis revisits the future for the first time (I think) since his masterpiece, Transmetropolitan (the comic book that will outlive us all). As Gibson observes, Ellis uses “a very small number of words” to tell his story, because that’s all he needs. Some of the words are invisible, but the reader can do something about that.

And what a story. A freelance agent is hired to locate a missing security device, and he’s smart, clever, and dangerous enough to have a chance to succeed – on his terms.  The invisible bits aren’t just a gimmick, either; they’re a part of the story, and it’s one I haven’t seen in comics before. The creators (and publisher, BERG) have just given graphic novelists a new tool for their kit. This is something that can’t be replicated on an iPad or Kindle or whatever, and is a convincing argument for why print matters.

D’Israeli (a.k.a. Matt Brooker) does possibly his best work on SVK, in a wonderfully minimal black-white-and-blue/grayscale that feeds the reader exactly what needs to be shown, with enough detail to immerse us in his world, without one bit of unnecessary distraction. There are touches of Geof Darrow and Rian Hughes and Dean Motter in Brooker’s style here, but it’s very much his own beast.

There are even inventive, imaginary advertisements scattered throughout the story, taking the idea of the actual 19th-century ads used in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and placing not just the story, but the entire comic in the future. The content dictates the format, and it adds much to the experience.

The first printing of SVK sold out immediately, but it’s available again after a few months; as far as I can tell, there’s no difference between my reprint and the original. I hope it remains in print, because it should be seen by as many people as possible. It pushes speculative fiction into a new place, and everyone should be experiencing new things instead of the old things over and over. Life’s too short for reruns.

I don’t want to say anymore about SVK, because it is brief and special. This deserves to win an armload or two of awards, and it is well worth the cost (even the extra shipping to the U.S.). So wherever you are, whatever you’re doing – and I know what you’re doing, you’re reading this – drop everything and buy SVK and open your brain to something new. Unless UV light causes you indescribable pain, you’ll be better off.

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