Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Injection 2, originally released June 10th, 2015.
Ryan: The sophomore issue of proves the series of Injection to be one of shifts and contrasts. Before, we saw sweeping establishing panoramas, and now we see tight, personal framing. The locales change from an everyman’s pub to austere Manhattan penthouse and a Parisian embassy. Mysticism drenched number one; technology informs number two. The focus shifts from character and settings to a burst of intense action. This action shows that there is a surprising amount of moving parts to follow. Luckily for us, Warren Ellis and Declan Shavley imbue each of these wheels within wheels with interesting distinctiveness, and make all of these choices very intentionally.
Our last issue concluded with Maria Kilbride standing in the midst of an anomaly — an otherworldly room that defies logic. Picking up from there, we know that she dubs this space “The Other World”, that its existence troubles her greatly, and that incidents of their appearance have been increasing. Other than that, we still know precious little about all of this preternatural business — and I kind of like it that way. What Ellis gives us instead is the characterization we will need further down the line as events percolate and the stakes are raised. The author takes his time saturating each member of the team once known as “the Unit” from the Cultural Cross-Contamination Department with their own role and personality.
For example, in half of a page, we get some wonderful insight about Vivek Headland, Brigid Roth, and Simeon Winters, respectively:
From two panels, we learn the following: 1) The dapper Simeon is a spy — though he does not think of himself in such simple terms — from his involvement with the British Foreign Office, “the one that kills foreign people” (quoted from Comixology’s issue description, lol). 2) Brigid does not trust easily and does her due diligence when it comes to gathering intelligence. 3) Vivek’s scope of knowledge is even more all-consuming, and he is the kind of person who carries a bottle of water into an English pub while wearing gloves.
Ellis finds ways to keep these members entangled. When Kilbride needs help with the aforementioned eerie room, she turns to the Cunning Man, Dr. Robin Morel, another former member of the now defunct Unit, who now proves difficult to track down after he recently turned down an offer of employment from the government. Since Kilbride cannot raise him via cell, she reaches out to Simeon, who in turn contacts Vivek, who — thankfully — still keeps comprehensive tabs on all of his former teammates.
Though each Unit member has their moment in this issue, it is Simeon Winters who steals the show. After cluing the audience in on his intentions and methods with a flashback planning phase (featuring the same white-washed background colors as used in other scenes in the past, colorist Jordie Bellaire keeping the visual continuity between issues), Sim stages a one-man hit on soft targets in his own embassy in Paris. Though he initially utilizes some badass gadgets for the first stages of his plan such as an infra-red baffler, a silent “captive piston” gun modeled after the Russian PSS, and a modified free bolt stunner (reminiscent of killer Anton Chigurh’s weapon of choice in No Country for Old Men), an unknown entity forces Sim to engage in less sophisticated fashion:
This sequence is, objectively, awesome. Shavley chooses a series of low-angle shots to capture the dynamism the fight, the power and speed of the brute in the tank top who dominates the frames, and the sense of helplessness of Sim. You can really see Shavley having fun in this dialogue-free page, with the telephone wire breaking the border and crystals from the shattered chandelier littering other panels while Simeon tries a desperate, luchador-esque head-scissor take-down. You will be hard-pressed to find a better-choreographed fight scene in a comic book, which I earnestly did not expect from this title. Sim’s postbellum phone call outlines an extremely topical cover story: a Daesh cell murdered by an AQ (which must stand for al-Qaeda) splinter team. While the rest of this narrative may not touch upon these two topics again, their inclusion here fleshes out this universe as contemporary and living.
Drew! I have so many questions. Did the change in the pacing from the first issue to the second work for you? Are you as intrigued as I am about some of the larger themes being played with here, such as modernity vs. tradition? And, most importantly, did this issue feature enough sandwiches for your taste?
Drew: Oh man, that sandwich. Tony Zhou recently did a video exploring the storytelling value of chairs in film, but it can easily be extended to any part of production design, right down to the food characters eat. In short, what a character eats can tell us about who they are, what they value, and what kind of world they live in. So, what can we glean from this particular sandwich?
It’s high-end dining in a nutshell, running the gamut from delicious (“foraged mushroom bread”), to inedible (“lichen”), but mostly, it’s just frustratingly fussy (“a single drumhead Savoy cabbage leaf”). It’s clear this sandwich is insanely expensive, a detail only goosed by Vivek’s apparent disdain for it. He has paid (his personal chef?) top dollar, but he’s not even sure what he’s getting is food. He has money to spare, as if the ascot, gloves, and massive Manhattan loft didn’t give it away.
Of course, the humor of the sandwich-as-transition is that the sandwich Maria has in mind must be decidedly more modest. At the very least, it would contain ingredients she wouldn’t need to ask a colleague whether any of the ingredients were something “people eat for food now.” Perhaps more importantly, she asks for that sandwich as an afterthought, something she can eat in between all of the work she’s quickly set herself to. Vivek, on the other hand, is introduced patiently contemplating a sandwich already in front of him — he’s clearly not as rushed, though his conversation with Simeon suggests that he’s no less busy.
For all my talk about food, it might actually be the methods we see our characters using here that are the most telling: Maria barks orders, covering for whatever the narration assures us “she knows;” Vivek can casually calculate where any member of the team must be; Simeon is all about action and preparedness (though he can clearly improvise when necessary); Robin simply tries to evade and deflect; and Brigid is literally lighting the world on fire. Obviously, these characters are responding to decidedly different situations, but Ellis and Shalvey never miss the opportunity to offer meaningful insights into who these characters are.
Beyond the character development, though, I’m loving every one of Shalvey’s choices here. He’s always been a master of directing our eyes around the page, but this issue finds him in particularly rare form. Look at how effectively he draws attention from the upper right corner of the page down to the lower left here:
Each panel has one central thing we’re focusing on — Vivek’s figure, then his face, his finger, Simeon, the phone, and finally the earpiece — but Shalvey organizes them in a straight line, guiding us gently from that initial image (which left plenty of room at the center of the panel for all of the dialogue) down to that insert of Simeon’s phone, which sets us up for that one-two cause and effect punch (though we don’t totally understand what the effect is at that point). I’m particularly enamored of the way Shalvey matches the direction of our eyes with Vivek’s finger. Clever stuff.
But it’s when he puts two points of focus in a panel that Shalvey really flexes his storytelling skills, and none demonstrate that better than the fight scene.
Any sequence from that fight would work here (and I was without a doubt tempted to include more), but this page in particular demonstrates Shalvey’s skills at packing multiple beats into each image. Here, it’s all about the dynamic of giving us two focal points: one on the left and one on the right. Simeon looks for a weapon, finds a knife; Simeon considers the knife, the goon picks up the frying pan, the goon swings the frying pan, Simeon is startled. It would be easy to break each of those into separate panels, but keeping them together keeps us oriented in space and creates a sense of motion that would be lost in a series of single shots.
I may be reaching here, but I’d like to suggest that Shalvey’s ability to track multiple characters in a single image is actually what this series is all about. If issue one introduced us to Maria and Robin, this issue was all about Vivek and Simeon. I’m curious to see if that binary nature will be important going forward, or if things will change significantly now that we’ve met all of the primary players. Ultimately, I’m hooked in for this ride no matter where this creative team goes — it’s bound to be as well-crafted as it is fascinating.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?