"Injection" coalesces and crescendos in issue #5. The big ideas, multiple plotlines and accumulating mysteries get knitted together and opened up, with real payoff for the occasionally disjointed installments that preceded this one. Warren Ellis' hints and conjectures come to creepy clarity, and Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire get to fully enjoy the unique atmosphere they've given this book. Though it's felt a touch slow and indulgent as an ongoing, the first arc of "Injection" is going to make one hell of a trade and a fascinating series going forward.
Shalvey and Bellaire do a magnificent job with the series' mix of folklore and future-tech. From modern Dublin apartments to Ridgeway encounters with Wayland Smith, Shalvey has to draw two very distinct worlds while still giving the book consistency. As with many Ellis scripts, there are plenty of ideas germinating here, and they need a flexible, varied artistic landscape in order to succeed on the page. Shalvey and Bellaire provide that and more. Indeed, a large part of the appeal in Maria's confrontation with the spriggan is seeing Shalvey get to combine the two worlds of "Injection" in the same panel. He and Bellaire's visualization of the spriggan's parasitism looks like both organic infestation and industrial waste; it's a unique, unnerving spectacle that helps make this book stand out.
Color-wise, Bellaire pulls atmosphere from unexpected places. When Maria is in the tunnels with the spriggan, she looks just as haunted as the possessed victims and broken-down building. Shalvey's lines have already make the difference between her past and present selves clear, and Bellaire's coloring accentuates that. Maria appears more and more nightmarish the closer she comes to nightmarish things.
Bellaire also portrays modernity in interesting ways. When Brigid and Rob meet at Brigid's place, the entire apartment is washed in mustard-meets-sunny yellow, with tables and coat racks just barely sketched out. Rather than looking happy and warm or clean and clinical, the color almost makes the two characters look suspended in substrate, isolated and out-of-time. It both conveys the necessary plot point -- this is a scene from the past -- while heightening the sense that something is experimenting with these characters. These sorts of choices consistently surprise and enchant me.
I also don't want to spoil anything, but Fonografiks' text treatment for the narrative captions added so much to one of this issue's reveals. I did not see it coming.
Ellis' script for "Injection" is layered and complex, with so many ideas and themes coursing through every issue. In some of the past issues, it's felt like there are too many ideas and too little characterization, but it all gels in this issue. Maria comes face-to-face with the source of her guilt and, instead of getting to purge it in the conflict, she just has the pain of her culpability renewed. Meanwhile, Rob tries to reconcile his skills with his desires. In focusing heavily on only two members of his large cast, Ellis gets to dive deeper into their motivations. I'm looking forward to the other characters getting the same treatment in future issues.
"Injection" #5 also demonstrates the difficulty of reviewing serialized fiction. Seeing where the previous issues were leading, it's easy for me to appreciate what they accomplished in retrospect -- but the suspense and intrigue weren't always there month-to-month. I'm very glad I stuck it out, and I can't wait for the next arc; I'm sure other readers will feel the same.