cover image Warren Ellis' Apparat Volume 1

Warren Ellis' Apparat Volume 1

Warren Ellis, and various. . Avatar Press, $12.99 (112pp) ISBN 978-1-59291-032-8

Ellis's Apparat comics were originally published as four first issues of otherwise hypothetical series, drawn by four different artists—an experiment in imagining what comics would be like if they'd evolved from the pulp magazines of the '30s instead of superheroes. The conceit extends to their visual style: Carla Speed McNeil's rough, chiseled art for the compassionate hardboiled detective story "Frank Ironwine," for instance, draws more on pulp traditions than spandex conventions. Ellis's dark SF world of a future dragged down by humanity's own frailties has power, but the one-shot nature of the series sometimes works against it. "Angel Stomp Future" (drawn in magnificently gross, squirming detail by Juan Jose Ryp) is supposed to be science fiction, but Ellis gets so caught up in a lecture about his pet themes that he neglects to give it a plot, and the aviator comic "Quit City" (with clear-lined, photo-inspired art by Laurenn McCubbin) devotes most of its space to setting up characters we'll never see again. The most intriguing story here is "Simon Spector," about a brutal, Shadow/Doc Savage–inspired hero whose "supersane" high-speed thought is fueled by potent drugs. Curiously, both Ellis's script and Jacen Burrows's art suggest superhero comics' style more than any other story here. (Nov.)

Correction: In the Oct. 24 Q&A with Dennis Cooper, the publisher of his novel God Jr. was misstated. It is Grove/Atlantic. Carroll & Graf will publish Cooper's The Sluts next month.