The idea of Karnak, the Inhuman who senses the weak spots in all things, is a strange and crazy one that could attract some different storytelling tactics. Regardless, Warren Ellis, Gerardo Zaffino and Antonio Fuso’s “Karnak” #2 feels a little too in love with itself and more than a bit over the top.
The biggest problem with “Karnak” #2 is not the splitting of the artistic duties between Zaffino and Fuso, as one might have expected; it’s in Ellis’s script for the issue. Ellis gives the issue the impression that the story is strange for the sake of being strange, with flowery and self-important dialogue in the characters’ talk of zen gunnery and yearning for supernatural intercessors. As the two characters try to out-maneuver one another, readers will want to strangle them, and there’s no positive hook to make the reader want to see more. Ellis is known for coming up with crazy concepts, but this reads more like a parody of Ellis’ comics; it feels like a very deliberate attempt to just be strange without any interesting idea to back it up.
Zaffino’s art is impressive for the bulk of the issue, with deeply textured work and a handsome usage of shading and crosshatching. The images of Karnak smashing his way through the villain’s lair — and pages 2-8 are nothing but that, with no dialogue to distract the reader — are really impressive, with an masterful sense of motion thanks to the way fragments spray across the panel.
The last four pages are drawn by Fuso, and — while his art isn’t bad — it doesn’t match Zaffino’s at all. The end result is a very jarring transition, one that makes the book suffer almost instantly. Maybe if Fuso had more pages, some of the elements he seems to have a bit of trouble with — like Karnak’s facial markings — would have come across a bit better. However, the final panel feels somewhat nonsensical, and it’s hard to tell if Fuso missed conveying something in Ellis’s script, or if Ellis simply wrote a non-ending for the comic.
“Karnak” #2 would have felt disappointing if it had shipped months ago as originally scheduled, and the long wait definitely hasn’t helped matters. This is a series that feels a little too full of itself. With such a crazy concept, this seemed like a title worth checking out, but ultimately the only attraction is Zaffino’s art. It looks great, but right now, there’s nothing to back it up.