Warren Ellis first mentioned “Ignition City” back in 2005 via Bad Signal, and then, in 2006, on his website, explaining how the concept came about in an odd mix of “Deadwood,” Alan Moore, and various old science fiction serials. He gave updates a couple of more times in 2006, but the concept seemed forgotten (at least by readers) until 2008 when Ellis began talking about it again as a series from Avatar with his “Aetheric Mechanics” collaborator Gianluca Pagliarani on art. A trio of covers appeared and, now, finally, the first issue of the five-issue series has arrived.
“Ignition City” #1 is pretty much what Ellis talked about back in 2006: old, forgotten space heroes living on an artificial island located at the equator. If you have a hankering to see a Buck Rogers stand-in lament no longer being in the future and drinking himself to death as a way of forgetting the present, or ever wanted to know what eating food in pill form would do to bowel movements, then, hey, Ellis and Pagliarani deliver.
Beyond those elements, the plot that drives the series is that Mary Raven’s father has died and she must travel to Ignition City to obtain his affects and find out a few more things about the old man. Rock Raven was a space hero and his daughter idolized him, wanting to grow up to be just like him. The world hasn’t turned out that way as space travel is all but dead with Ignition City acting as the only place on the planet where non-military space launches happen. The issue is divided rather evenly between Raven and scenes of life in Ignition City.
The middle part of the issue delves into part of Raven’s past as she writes her estranged mother, discussing her father and how his career affected all of their lives. Ellis is at his best here, alternating between hard-edged cynicism and bile, and heartfelt emotion. In Raven, he’s able to give readers a glimpse of the sense of wonder he has for space travel.
The issue suffers a little from the relaxed pace of the main plot, though. It’s a low key story, so the extensive looks at the lives of broken down former space heroes seems a little indulgent for a limited series. They are highly entertaining, but would work better spread out a little, perhaps. This is a minor complaint in an otherwise great issue.
Pagliarani’s style is less detailed here than on “Aetheric Mechanics,” but has a fantastic realistic touch that grounds the technology and characters. Everything here looks broken down and rotted, the sad remains of once-great characters and stories. He gives Ignition City a sense of history and depth. Seeing his work in color for the first time is also a treat.
Hopefully, this is just the first series of many for “Ignition City” as there is obviously a lot of potential material for future stories provided in this issue alone. After nearly three years, Ellis’ concept of “Where did the space heroes go to die?” has arrived and it’s a good read.