an obligatory cavil


I haven’t read Warren Ellis’ GUN MACHINE, though now that he’s emailed his subscribers about selling out, I kind of want a first edition. I’m glad that he got a good review from the NEW YORK TIMES, and almost everything about that review makes me happy and excited to read the book. But I’m going to single out the one thing about it that, not having read GUN MACHINE and having read Ellis’ other work, still nags me like a hangnail:

Mr. Ellis, the British author of one previous thriller, “Crooked Little Vein,” was a well-known and successful writer of comics and graphic novels before turning to prose fiction. (The best known among them is probably “RED,” which was turned into a movie starring Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren.) There is nothing comic-bookish about his writing, however, which races along in crisp hard-boiled fashion, and the world of the novel is less cartoonish than just odd and pretty grim.

If I read GUN MACHINE, and I will read GUN MACHINE, it’s on the strength of Ellis’ comics—of TRANSMETROPOLITAN, which was my gateway, and then of GLOBAL FREQUENCY, of NEWUNIVERSAL, of NEXTWAVE, of BLACK SUMMER, of the never-to-be-finished FELL and DESOLATION JONES. I have nothing but respect for his turn to prose fiction, as I have nothing but respect for China Mieville’s work on DIAL H; but Ellis’ writing comes from comics, and there is not a shortage of comics writers as good as Ellis. (If you need a list: Carla Speed McNeil, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Matt Fraction, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Brian K. Vaughan; I know I’m forgetting some).

I know what Charles McGrath means when he says “comic-bookish.” But that word doesn’t mean what he thinks it means.

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