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Shipwreck Vol. #01 Review

5 min read

Not the shipwreck I was expecting.

Creative Staff:
Story: Warren Ellis
Art: Phil Hester
Colors: Mike Spicer
Letterer: Marshall Dillon

What They Say:
Dr Jonathan Shipwright, sole survivor of a very unusual and very secret shipwreck, doesn’t know where he is. Seemingly trapped on an endless road, in pursuit of a saboteur who holds the key to his salvation — or doom. Industry legend WARREN ELLIS joins AfterShock comics with this mysterious and captivating tale full of shock, secrets and surprises.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
A new AfterShock book means a new first issue for me to sample as I continue my promise to check out every series digitally this year from the new publisher. We’ve had some good winners in the mix and a book that’s done by Warren Ellis and Phil Hester? That just seems like a winner all around based on the creative. I’ve been enjoying Ellis’ run on Trees and I can see that style here to some degree, albeit in a more personal way, but this is the first time that I’m seeing Hester’s artwork as I’m mostly familiar with his writing. There’s a whole lot to like here and seeing how the two are coming together for this project will make it one very much worth watching for.

With a title of Shipwreck you can essentially guess the basics. But the twist here is something far more interesting as we’re introduced to Jonathan Shipwright. Thinking this would be something from the days of old or even a more modern shipwreck and an island, what we get instead is the discovery that Shipwright was part of a group that put together some kind of cutting edge spacecraft that has gone wrong and now he’s wrecked in this strange other place. It’s full of the familiar when it comes to the landscape as there are roads in ruin, buildings and even some people, but everything is almost out of a horror movie in a sense. There’s a surreal edge to it as he wanders trying to find a path that will take him somewhere that makes sense. The two encounters we get here at the diner shows that this is definitely some kind of supernatural place or other dimensional space that has given us a warped world, but what it does so well is to draw out Shipwright’s story in small pieces, like a mystery, that draws the reader in. With just a single issue you find yourself craving to know all the real truths behind what’s going on here.

As the series progresses we get more of the mystery revealed, which to some degree isn’t too difficult to figure out. There are interesting layers to it as we see Shipwright working his way through this strangely empty but familiar work in search of Ishmal while slowly but surely revealing more and more of what happened to bring him here.What I liked was that the mystery as to the reality of the situation is strong throughout, right up until the last minute in fact, about whether this reality is happening or if it’s some kind of twisted dream or something similar. The cast for this isn’t large as we only get barely a handful more characters as it progresses and it loops back to the start well in a way that works, but Shipwright is our centerpiece. Watching the way he copes with this situation and then seeing what he believes to have happened, which is in itself an intriguing storyline to follow in full as it reminded me of a twisted version of The Long Earth, makes for an exciting story even if it is moving slowly.

Ellis is definitely talented at these kinds of stories so I wasn’t surprised to be drawn into it, much as I am with his Trees series. What makes this even more striking in a way is Phil Hester’s artwork. There’s a bleakness about it that’s thoroughly engaging, more so with Mike Spicer’s color work, as it has a really great theatrical feeling that just comes to life. Those early pages with the birds in the sky are great but I just love the expressiveness of Shipwright’s face. The absurdity of the woman with the knives. The raggedness of it all is particularly haunting as it helps to really create a particular space here that’s familiar but distorted. Working with mostly wordless pages at first and then getting dialogue heavy also works really well in its favor as you get that initial starkness and then become weighed down by Shipwright’s questioner and the “oppressiveness” of the dialogue toward a man who doesn’t seem to know or want to reveal anything.

In Summary:
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this series as I went into it intentionally blind but the end result is fantastic. This is a series that did some really fun stuff with its reveals and twists that will delight mystery fans and those looking for something with no easy answers and plenty of twists and turns along with a few fake outs I’m sure. Ellis is a known commodity so you have a general idea of what to expect here – in a very good way – and he delivers on it. Combined with Phil Hester’s haunting artwork with Mike Spicer’s color design and the whole thing just elevates a couple of levels. This was a strong project, both for those that enjoyed the monthly experience and those that take it in through trade format and get it all in one sitting. Very recommended..

Grade: B+

Age Rating: 15+
Released By: AfterShock Comics via ComiXology
Release Date: July 18th, 2016
MSRP: $17.99

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