Today, Ryan D. and Drew are discussing Injection 7, originally released February 10th, 2016.
Ryan D: The iconic novel Moby-Dick is peculiar in two specific ways. Firstly, for such an important example of turn-of-the-century literature which spawned many films based off of it and sits as a part of our literary lexicon, a surprising amount of people have not read it, which I attribute to its length (927 pages in the first edition, 635 in the US release) and the abundance of dry non-narrative chapters dedicated to things like an exhaustive cataloging of ships. Secondly, and more relevant to this review, is the idea that though the presence of the eponymous white whale is felt constantly, it does not actually appear until the last three chapters. I would hazard that the influence of this affects much of our modern media, happily adopted by horror films, especially; we never get a full view of the shark in Jaws until the climax, and the same can be said about the organism from Alien. This same feeling of looming danger and presence pervades Injection 7, and this feeling of tension makes this arc wonderful to read.
Even if you aren’t feeling this encroaching dread like I am — despite the omnipresence of the Injection as seen in the inclusion of the forearm tattoos and logo plastered on computer screens, the past few issues featuring Vivek Headland in a starring role as the private detective offer very fun insight on a very brilliant mind. Warren Ellis and artist Declan Shavley conspire to give this very particular man, possessing a very comprehensive skill set, a sense of life born out of lucid dialogue paired with posture and tempo. Maybe the stand-out example from this issue would be this curious instance of forensics:
Vivek’s facial expressions here are absolutely priceless. Even for a man who has seen close to everything, his initial objective fascination gives way to very tasteful disgust. Ellis also wisely uses Red, the former mercenary turned man-servant and muscle, as a stand-in for the audience, making for an appropriate receptacle for the off-loading of exposition.
But the real scary part is that the Injection possesses all of Headland’s powers of inductive and deductive reasoning, as well! And who or what else could be constructing this puzzle for Vivek to solve, knowing that the allure of a mystery involving a “rather good” ham cut from well-seasoned human bicep would be too good for “a detective and sandwich enthusiast” of Headland’s caliber to pass up? For every genius discovery and wheel-within-wheels which Vivek sets in motion, my reader’s gut lays tensed for the punch that will come if/when we find out that the past two issues merely played the part of a snipe hunt for CCCU’s most comprehensive resource — Vivek — to keep his attention diverted. Did anyone else feel uneasy about the trust which Headland placed in his tech-disrupting Faraday bag? This comic basically has me yelling “Don’t go into the basement!” during every scene.
My other favorite moment from this issue takes place during a phone call between Vivek and Maria Kilbride:
Maria’s characterization as a damaged person who bears the burden of leading the CCCU, which in turn created the Injection, and has been the woman on the front-line of countless violent encounters with the supernatural has shone throughout this series, with this being no exception. Shavley also continues his ability to focus the audience on important character moments by fading out or painting what were initially detailed backgrounds with simple uniform color drops — expertly chosen by colorist Jordie Bellaire. Maria’s warm, brick-red coloring also contrasted quite beautifully with the cool, analytical tans serving as the scrim for most of Vivek’s scenes.
Drew! We have been talking for roughly seven issues about how much we enjoy Ellis taking his time with his reveals in Injection. Do you feel the slow burn, and do you foresee an impending and suitable payoff in the near future? And are you enjoying how the other pieces in play, namely Robin, Simeon, and Brigid, are being treated in the mean time?
Drew: I am. In fact, I think the fact that they feel a bit like cogs in Vivek’s machine is very intentional. On a character level, it certainly scans. While Vivek may reject a comparison to Holmes, there’s no denying that he’s every bit as insufferable a know-it-all. Indeed, everyone around him seems resigned to him doing whatever the fuck he wants. Red is mostly bemused by Vivek’s talking at him, but the way the rest of the cast reacts reveals just how used to it everyone is. Take Robin’s miserable resignation to Vivek’s wishes.
He’s not just frustrated — he knows this conversation is going to end with him doing exactly the thing he doesn’t want to do. He’s powerless to stop Vivek’s will. Suddenly, his introduction of resolutely rejecting the very job in question is a study in his relationship with Vivek: on his own, Robin is perfectly capable of standing his ground and doing what he wants; with Vivek, all he can do is roll over and accept Vivek’s will. Sim and Brigid have the same reaction — there’s no shock or outrage when Vivek reveals he’s already booked their tickets to New York, just a neutered acceptance that their ascent was a foregone conclusion.
What’s key for me in all of this is that I’m not sure it is Vivek’s will we’re dealing with. Ryan is right to point out that the Injection has every bit of Vivek’s cunning — Vivek reminds us of such as he collects the laptop — which has me wondering how much of Vivek’s actions are actually playing out the Injection’s designs. Logic puzzles often presume the actors in the puzzle are “completely rational and intelligent,” allowing their deductions to be prescribed by the parameters of the puzzle. That is, a completely logical being can anticipate the behavior of another completely logical being, which makes Vivek the perfect tool for the Injection to use to its own ends. Moreover, Vivek’s stubbornness makes him a powerful ally — if the Injection can make Vivek’s goals align with its own, it can trust he’ll achieve those goals.
That is, I think the Injection might be pulling a “the villain wanted to be captured” a la The Dark Knight or Skyfall. A Faraday bag should be effective at stopping the Injection from getting out via electromagnetic waves, but I’m less convinced of its capability in stopping magic. Even if magical phenomenon in this world have scientific explanation, it might not all be electromagnetic — Maria’s expanation for her last episode chalks it up to “sonic neurological interruption,” something a thin Faraday bag isn’t necessarily going to protect a body from.
But that’s getting a little conjecture-y. Whom- or whatever Vivek’s actions here are ultimately serving is a question for a future issue — for now, it’s enough to know that Vivek is an unstoppable force in the lives of his former CCCU teammates. Actually, a closer look at Shalvey’s art is quite revealing of the power dynamics. Note in the excerpt above of Robin how Shalvey crams him over to the left side of the panel. Indeed, Robin isn’t in the center of any of his panels, as if he’s not in control even when he’s the subject of the image. Shalvey does something similar with Sim and Brigid:
Both characters are shoved to one side of the panel or another, and only come to the center as they talk to Vivek. Vivek, for his part, doesn’t always command the center of the panel, but the composition generally emphasizes him even when he’s off to the side, which perspective lines either converging on him or generally pointing in his direction. Tellingly, Maria is always in the center of her panels in this issue, revealing that her influence might just be stronger than Vivek’s (a reading that may or may not be supported by the narration that is conspicuously absent here). We’ll have to game that out over the next few issues, but Shalvey is certainly laying the groundwork for some interesting dynamics.
As I said, we don’t need to settle the wisdom of bringing the team back together to be excited about it. Even if it doesn’t accelerate the pace, per se, it will alter the structure of the series, such that we’re not constantly skipping between four or five locations every issue or two. I’ve enjoyed the single-issue episodes and short scenes we’ve gotten with everyone so far, but putting a critical mass of the cast in the same room should open up the story significantly. Plus, I kind of like seeing Vivek annoy the other characters. I can’t wait.
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?