Injection is a comics series that traffics in jarring shifts of tone & style. It’s a title that I’ll admit to finding mostly confounding when I first read it, but one that’s constantly evolved into the gripping techno/horror mythology tome on ancient British history that we know today. Issue #13 is exemplary of the book’s fluid pacing, one that is wholly enjoyable for its characters sharp dialogue, dour atmosphere and engaging plot thread for the first two thirds of the issue, and wholly magnificent for its unreal conclusion.
Since the Injections trio started working together on Moon Knight #1, they’ve had a special sort of creative alchemy with one another that’s made for some of the sharpest, most ingenious and creative comics at the time of their release. Warren Ellis, a writer whose work inspired a generation of comics creators that immediately proceeded him, has found one of his most fruitful creative partnership’s with artist Declan Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire. There’s a shared symbiosis to the books dark world view and magical realism, pieces of what you’d see from any one of the individuals creators, but together they make a distinctive and haunting whole.
Ellis’s writing continues to build upon the titles original premise while working as an excellent primer for British mythology. The conversations he creates between characters is further engrossing in that regard, combined with his sharp and cutting dialogue. Shalvey accentuates this with his incredible detail and range in his character acting and expressionary work. He allows the book’s subjects to be understood on a fundamental level in the way they interact with the world around them. Subtle actions like a disaffected but inquisitive stare, the furrowing of a brow or a self satisfied and goofy grin all translate to a deeper understanding for the reader of the people and situations they’re intaking on the page. Shalvey has a unique design style that wavers in and out of sharp detail to give the setting a feeling of emergent realism that keeps the reader focused on the core of the story while building out it’s setting. Bellaire’s color palette is Injection’s dark undertone, similar to Dave Stewart’s Hellboy contributions for it’s contrast in darkness against muted and bright colors. It all makes for an engrossing discussion at an archaeological dig site about an ancient mythological portal to another world in rural England. There’s even a side conversation with one of the book’s additional cast members in a basement that add’s another layer of intrigue to the story as a whole. It’s all wholly enjoyable. Then we get this
The unreal becomes very real, the true nature of the horror they’ve just unearthed becomes palpable, and the carnage is unleashed. The world you thought you knew, the setting you thought you were in, it’s disrupted as the terrifying fabric of reality unfolds to relinquish carnage across the books pages. It’s deeply unsettling and chilling, while succeeding in the comic’s never ending capacity to shock readers in it’s tonal shifts that sprout from the books boundless imagination.
Surprising, charming, frightening; these are all apt descriptors for Injection as a whole in addition to this single issue. Ultimately, it’s the inherent complexity of the comics premise, and the facilitation of the larger narrative by its three masterful creators, that allows for Injection to be all those things both disparately, simultaneously and in succession at different points in the issue. It’s layer of ideas and creativity stack up upon on another to make for one of comics most singular and unique experiences. One of the thing’s that’s exciting about comics, is it being such a young art form, and one that was infantilized from internal industry politics for a long period of it’s history, is that the the boundaries of the medium can be continuously pushed outward. In terms of current ongoing series, nobody is doing that quite like Injection and truthfully, nobody has done so quite like Ellis, Shalvey and Bellaire since they started working together over three years ago. In that sense, Injection #13 is a continuum of their trajectory. But in those terms, this week’s installment was a peak within the valleys and a stark display of the higher level they’re operating on.