A new series from Warren Ellis is always something to look forward to, and fans of one of mainstream comics’ most controversial writers will not be disappointed with Desolation Jones.
Michael Jones is a washed up British secret agent, about as far away from the glamour of James Bond as you could possibly imagine. Having been the subject of a dodgy secret experiment and ending up an alcoholic, his usefulness as an agent has deteriorated to zero. So the secret service has retired him to Los Angeles, where most of the western world’s redundant agents are sent to live under a kind of city arrest, where they can’t cause too much trouble to anyone of any note.
Incarcerated of sorts and knowing little of life outside the intelligence business, there’s little left for Jones to do except take on private investigative work for the other ex-spooks and military types also stuck in LA. Of course, because everyone’s got military-grade secrets to hide, no-one is who they say they are. Jones’s own state of mind isn’t helped by the fact he’s more or less failed to recover from those experiments we mentioned earlier and has a tendency towards vivid hallucinations.
Ellis has created a superlative action thriller, more sophisticated and violent than anything we’ve seen in thriller comics for some time. Throwing elements of fetishism, porn, violence, conspiracy and science fiction into the usual thriller mix lifts this head, shoulders, knees and toes above the standard thrillers you’ll find on airport bookstore shelves or churning out of Hollywood. Ellis’s characters have hidden layers and depths, some of which aren’t completely revealed in this volume – we’re already itching to read more.
Williams’s art depicts Jones’s LA underworld perfectly, as capable of documenting substance-ravaged ex-spooks like Jones as he is of filling the panel with Jones’s strange and beautiful hallucinations. His style adapts to the story, whether it’s a blurry flashback, a change to monochrome to show how Jones’s focus shifts during a fight, or the bleached-out sunlight of middle of the day California, his work on this title is simply wonderful.
So what you’re left with here is two craftsmen at the top of their game: a stunning introduction to a new lead character; a truly intelligent plot; blistering dialogue; and art to die for. What more can you ask of a graphic novel?