In comparison to the last two issues, which focused heavily on Vivek Headland’s activities, Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s “Injection” #8 feels more fragmented. For instance, it seems as though the Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit for FPI Cursus — the group that let loose the Injection — will reunite, but they’re not quite there yet. In the last few pages, Ellis indicates that Vivek’s newest case will intersect with the Injection itself, but the specifics for that are also still on the horizon. To link people together, Ellis puts different combinations of the existing cast together in different rooms, connecting them through phone calls and sex. While there are other things going on, “Injection” #8 has a notable and memorable amount of sex.
Shalvey presents a large number of naked bodies in an admirably matter-of-fact manner. The sex and post-coital interactions depicted feel neutral or even mechanical, but not visceral. His clean linework makes bodies attractive, and he avoids the easy roads of making sex either titillating or repulsive. Shalvey’s usual talents for fight and chase scenes go to waste, though, because “Injection” #8 is dominated by dialogue. His facial expressions for Vivek’s over-the-top sexual adventures are strong on humor, but Ellis leans too much on adolescent shock value in many of these panels and Bellaire’s coloring has more monotones than usual. While she sets the mood well, especially for Vivek’s bedroom and the panel featuring “Dongzilla,” the predominance of blue, gray and beige too often flattens Shalvey’s artwork.
The two pages of “Injection” #8 devoted to Vivek’s sexual education are also nominally devoted to Descartes’ Error, or the dualist separation of the mind from the body and — by extension — thinking from emotion. Ellis’ extended joke about Vivek’s sex life is inclusive due to the number and variety of his partners. It is less thoughtful in its treatment of the transgressive nature of some of the escapades. More to the point, it’s unsuccessful in subverting the stereotype of a Great Detective as a sexless man of reason; whether Ellis meant to subvert or to ironically reinforce the trope isn’t clear. Vivek’s detached, clinical manner remains intact within his erotic adventures and also in his recounting of them to the reader. Whatever data Vivek gets on “the systems of human relationships,” it’s not clear whether he’s experienced love or passionate desire himself. It’s the lack of passion and intimacy that so distinguishes the emotional life of Sherlock Holmes and his derivatives, not merely abstinence or the lack of physical desire. Ellis’ dialogue is still crisp and funny throughout, but he doesn’t add much to Vivek’s characterization in these pages.
Similarly, the scene in the Foundry contains some very enjoyable back-and-forth between Brigid and Simeon, with some choice jokes about “Doctor Who” and “James Bond.” However, the scene doesn’t advance the plot or characterization very much, either. In contrast, Robin’s family meeting doesn’t have the same degree of snap, but it does explain why Robin is so emo, and why he didn’t want to take any kind of job with Breaker’s Yard. The page that follows, with the captions in yellow, is the emotional peak of “Injection” #8, and Robin’s response is both a shock and a successful trick of metafiction.
On the last page, Shalvey experiments with watercolor-like marks in the background as a stylized shadow. The steady eye-level perspective and three silent panels create unease instead of melodrama for an unusually subdued cliffhanger.
In “Injection” #8, Ellis indulges himself in his desire to be provocative. Whether he overdoes it may be a matter of taste. Still, his outrageous wit often adds something to his story structures, which are familiar and have a traditional moral compass. In “Injection,” it’s clear that the smart people that created the problem are going to have to regroup to fight it. Despite an interest in the occult and a love of mythology, Ellis’ outlook — as expressed in “Injection” and other works like “Transmetropolitan” and “Moon Knight” — is usually grounded in the material world. The world in its gritty excesses and depravity is always a pain, but there are always enough sharp-witted anti-heroes to save it. The line between good and evil is clear. At his best, Ellis is hilarious and sharp but also tells truths about corruption, sacrifice and guilt. “Injection” #8 may be uneven, but the larger story is coming together.