Back in October, Karnak #1 saw print. Since then, loyal followers of Warren Ellis, one of comics’ greatest contemporary writers, have been waiting with baited breath for the next installment of the comic. This week, comic shops were finally treated to the second installment of the series. Has Karnak lost it’s luster? Do you really care about a book that’s been gone for several months? It’s the most important question of our time– the one that’s going to define our generation: is Karnak still good? It’s time for The Marvel Rundown!
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Gerardo Zaffino and Antonio Fuso
Colors: Dan Brown Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles and Joe Caramagna
I’m not sure how clear the first issue of the series was, or if people really remember some of the new elements Warren Ellis has added to his character. He’s been away for a while now, and largely been excluded from other Inhumans titles because of Ellis’ plans for him, which means that readers may need to readjust to the new Karnak…again. So, as a recap: After being brought back from the dead, Karnak denied the call to New Attilan to become a Magister at the Tower of Wisdom. He had a group of others that followed him and a slightly different take on life– but hey, dying once or twice can do that to a person. Karnak‘s second issue picks up on Karnak in the middle of a mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. involving a mysterious organization that deemed Karnak the perfect candidate to take on their work. Unlike some of Ellis’ previous work, this series is not actually a bunch of done-in-ones with an overarching story, it seems to actually have an ongoing mystery.
In all of his comic books, Ellis shows again and again that he has the ability to properly pace an action-packed comic book. When the action of a scene can enhance the story being told, it’s a sign that the comic book creators are working well together and that it’s going to be a pretty freaking good comic. Karnak #2‘s first fight scene does that, adding new shades to its main character while providing a visually entertaining series of pages.
Similar to his previous Marvel series, Moon Knight, Ellis’ work in Karnak is a lesson in restraint. Panels aren’t bogged down with endless balloons, as Ellis knows when to pull back and let the visuals tell the story. All of Ellis’ script work would be nothing in the hands of a lesser artist, so there’s a reason why Marvel didn’t throw a couple of fill-in artists on the series to help get issues out the door faster. Gerardo Zaffino and Antonio Fuso manage to add gusto and vibrancy to every panel. Plus, anybody who picks up a copy of Karnak #2 is in-store for one hell of a cover. David Aja is praised so much online that it can start to sound like an echo chamber, but his use of negative space speaks for itself– nobody can do what he does. The simple flourishes of color, the dark, inked look and wonderful logos and color design all adds to the aesthetic of the comic.
A point of criticism– the visuals in Karnak #2 become slightly muddy towards the back half of the comic, resulting in a final action sequence that isn’t coherent enough to fully comprehend. In addition, there’s just one final moment here in the back half that doesn’t quite ring true. Ellis plots in slivers rather than chunks, so certain empathetic moments feel unearned because they arrive too soon. We just don’t know these characters well enough to completely feel for them. However, given how experimental this comic is, it was more than likely to fail at sticking the landing sometimes, and is all the more endearing for it.
The final sequence in the story utilizes a storytelling tactic made classic by Joss Whedon’s Buffy and Tom King’s Vision — a final bit irreverent factual information that really gets you thinking. Moments like that and much of the early sequences in the comic really make me think that Karnak is on the right track. Ellis and Zaffino have returned to boost the profile of Karnak, chronicle kickass action and explore Karnak’s brand new role in the Marvel Universe — it’s not to be missed.