You ask-- I deliver! Ellis Week soldiers on with a look at a fine neo-noir series that's currently MIA. (Archive.)
333. Desolation Jones
Warren Ellis and friends' Desolation Jones was probably my favorite series when it was being published. In fact, it's the comic that made me an Ellis fan. Yes, I'm a recent convert.
The titular Jones is Michael Jones, a former spy who underwent a terrible and bizarre experiment known as the Desolation Test, in which he was subjected to all the horrors mankind could perpetrate-- kinda like what Alex deLarge undergoes in Clockwork Orange. The only one to actually survive the test, Jones is basically a ruined man, a shadow of his former self-- pale, sickly, scarred, and pissed off. It turned him into a supposedly heartless bastard with a tendency to hallucinate. Dumped off in LA (apparently where all spies are put out to pasture), he's now working as a private eye. It's here that we pick up. So, yeah, it's kinda like that cool new show Burn Notice, only it's not safe for work.
Jones operates in a world of broken people, men and women whose lives were ruined by the system they existed in. We meet other ex-spies-- Jones' boss, who has become a carnivorous freak; his associate Robina, who drives him around and builds things that explode; and Emily Crowe, who now gives off pheromones so repulsive that no one can stand to be near her-- except for Jones himself, who is now incapable of being repulsed. In addition to that, Jones encounters other victims of the system, from porn stars to madmen. Some of these characters have heartbreaking backgrounds-- Ellis knows how to tug at the strings. His scripting sold me on page one and never let go. Jones' world is bleak as hell-- things went so sour at the end of the first arc that our own Greg Burgas got mightily pissed-- but the small, brief stirrings of humanity we witness within Jones' character gives that glimmer of hope for the future.
The first arc acted as a spin on Raymond Chandler's Big Sleep with Jones in the role of Philip Marlowe. An old dude in a wheelchair, some unruly femme fatales, and a macguffin-- homemade Hitler porn, in this instance-- lead Jones throughout LA, and Ellis provides an interesting look at the city-- it's a transient place populated by outsiders. Cool stuff.Â The second arc revolves around the work of Philip K. Dick.
Desolation Jones also takes an interesting perspective on violence. It does not glorify it, and the colors drop into stark blacks, whites, and reds when the violence comes in. Jones doles out an awful lot of punishment and death in the course of his investigations, as life seems to no longer hold any meaning to him. Don't screw with him; he'll mess you up. Take a look at these scenes for further evidence:
(And yeah, the "Frank" he's kicking the crap out of did look, if I remember correctly, a lot like Frank Miller-- commentary on machismo and violence, anyone?)
I've gone on and on before about how much I loved JH Williams' gorgeous illustrations, Todd Klein's magnificent old-timey lettering, and Jose Villarrubia's excellent, moody colors-- so I'll spare you from any redundancies and point you to the columns written on those folks. I'm not trying to underscore their importance to the work, however-- I love 'em! Danijel Zezelj took on the art duties for arc two, and he was quite different from Williams-- inky, abstract,Â and jagged. He took the visuals into a different arena, but it was a good one. I sure miss Mr. Klein's lettering, though.
Hard to keep up with the Joneses if they're not around. Desolation Jones disappeared from the schedules after #8, but Ellis has alluded to a monthly return in 2008. I hope so-- it's a fine comic, and I look forward to seeing where Ellis takes it.
ForÂ more neat Jones stuff, check out this commentary by Ellis on the first issue.Â