Take Control Of Your World: Revisiting ‘Injection’ By Ellis, Shalvey & Bellaire [Sci-Fi Week]
Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire’s Injection is a comic that I was incredibly excited for, based on the same creative team's groundbreaking reinvention of Moon Knight at Marvel --- yet I felt underwhelmed after reading the first issue.
Injection is now ten issues in, so I recently caught up and discovered that it the series is nothing like I expected it to be from that first impression. It’s a series with bold ideas, stunning art, and a twist that’ll send your head spinning. Most importantly, it’s one of the most exciting and cutting edge science fiction stories on the stands today.
In retrospect the biggest fault with my experience with the first issue may have been my own impatience with the story. The book demands a commitment to the first arc to really get a handle on. Perhaps I was comparing it too much to Moon Knight, which really began with a bold mission statement and used the format of propulsive single issue stories.
Injection is worth the time you put into it. The discovery of the plot itself is part of the experience, so it’s hard to talk about what Injection is about without robbing you of some of its strengths.
Ultimately, the series follows five very broken people who made a very bad decision as part of a think tank aimed at improving the future.
The one-time members of the Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit discovered that at some point in the near future, human innovation will flatline, and there will be no real progress for a while. In an effort to shuffle humanity along a little, the CCCU implemented a plan that goes horribly wrong. Years later they are faced with the reality of the world they created.
It reminds me of a dark reflection of Ellis and John Cassaday’s great treatise on the nature of superhero universes, Planetary, where the core concept came down to the quote, “It’s a strange world. Let’s keep it that way.” The members of the CCCU thought similarly, but their attempts to keep the world strange, new, and exciting backfired massively, and now, individually and together, they try to clean up the mess.
The very first thing you notice about Injection is Fonografiks’ lettering on the narrative captions. There’s nothing quite like it in comics, and the decision to eschew color coded narrative boxes for free floating words on the page feels like a very deliberate and important creative choice. Pay extra attention to the narration throughout, trust me.
It’s hard to talk about the art of Declan Shalvey without talking about the colors of Jordie Bellaire and vice-verse. As collaborators, they have become one of the most recognisable and exciting teams in comics, and their work together here is a step up from Moon Knight, or anything else they’ve worked on either individually or together.
Bellaire’s use of color to set a scene makes her one of the best in the industry, and at times feels like a throwback to an era of superhero comics where pages were colored for effect rather than reality. We’ve all seen recolorings of The Killing Joke or Flex Mentallo, which take the fun out of things by replacing intentional color choices with more realistic greys and browns, but here Bellaire will happily have the lighting of one scene cycle through all the colors of the rainbow from panel to panel as the mood shifts and tension ebbs and flows.
The art team makes the world of Injection feel so very normal, except when it’s not. This isn’t Planetary, or Global Frequency or any other of Ellis’ great sci-fi comics. Injection is about five (mostly) ordinary people who have accidentally turned their world into a Warren Ellis comic and are struggling with the consequences, and Shalvey and Bellaire create a world as down-to-earth as an episode of Broadchurch --- if David Tennant was the last of a line of magicians tied to the history of Great Britain.
Injection is still ultimately a science fiction story, but it is one set in a world that reflects our own. Three fifths of the cast are people of color and several of them are bisexual. This isn’t Ellis, Shalvey, and Bellaire hitting a quota, as I’m sure some readers will suggest; it’s accurately reflecting the real world we live in, something far too few comics manage to accomplish.
Through the protagonists, the series manages to transcend sci-fi and tell different kinds of stories at the same time. There’s a magic user, a Sherlock-style detective, a computer whiz, an action man, and a weary bureaucrat tasked with solving the mess she and everyone else accidentally unleashed.
Like I said, I initially wrote off Injection as not for me after the first issue, but digging back into the first trade proved to be one of the most rewarding reading experiences of my year. If you’re after grounded sci-fi with relatable characters and legitimately some of the best art in the industry, Injection is well worth your time.