I have mentioned before that I take issue with the idea of building an issue around a twist, because you are essentially putting all your money on the twist, and if it doesn’t work out, you do not have anything to fall back upon. Fell #7 was not totally built upon a twist, but enough of it was so that, when the twist is revealed, and it is a really stupid twist, it really hurts the book as a whole.
First off (this is a huge spoiler), let me again reiterate – the twist was really stupid. I mean, I cannot believe how dumb this twist is, as Warren Ellis is clearly an intelligent writer, so to see him come up with a plot idea like this is highly shocking to me. The twist of the comic is that Detective Fell is basically bragging to a suspect about how they have the suspect caught dead to rights. However, Fell ends up, in his bragging, giving the suspect just the angle he needs to escape from the clutches of the law. Sounds like a cool idea, right? It is a cool idea.
The only problem is that the error Fell makes is not even remotely reasonable for a police officer of any intelligence to make. This is not a matter of Fell making a minor slip-up that the perp’s lawyer picks up on, this is just an absurdly dumb revelation. Fell tells them that the suspect inhaled a powerful hallucinogenic right before he commits his horrible murder. Fell even explains that the hallucinogenic remains in the system, affecting the person, for days after the fact.
How could he possibly NOT know that they would just make an argument (a very reasonable one) that the perp was not responsible for his actions while under the influence of the hallucinogenic? So when Fell is shown taken by surprise, it really doesn’t work for me at all, because I cannot accept that Fell would be surprised at the stupidity of his reveal. Furthermore, I cannot accept that Fell would do something THAT stupid.
An accidental slip-up? Sure, that’d be a good idea for a story, and it would make the derision Fell gets from the prosecutor at the end of the issue resonate a lot more, because you could see the prosecutor’s point (that Fell was so caught up in painstakingly describing how screwed the perp was, that he inadvertently gave the perp a way out). Here, the fact that the prosecutor is needed to point out anything at ALL is silly, because the stupidity of Fell’s action is just soooo blatant. So when we see Fell beat himself up over it, it rings false, because this is not an example of a character flaw leading to a murderer getting away – it is of something that is not even close to being reasonable. In fact, when I hit that point in the story where Fell describes the hallucinogen, all I thought was, “Why the heck is Fell acting like this is GOOD for his case? This is clearly bad news for him.”
And when the entire issue is built around the fact that Fell’s “slip-up” leads to the murderer getting away with murder, well, then that leads to an ultimately, in my mind, unfulfilling issue.
The structure of the issue was very strong by Ellis, though. If only Fell’s mistake was remotely reasonable, it would be good. But that’s the risk you run when you build an issue around one story trick.
Amazing artwork by Ben Templesmith, though. He is routinely excellent on this title.
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