by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Sandwiches are important.
When do you know something in a given narrative is important? Is it someone in the story saying as much? Is it that that element keeps coming back? Or is it some subtler means of emphasis that can make even the first appearance of an idea feel meaningful? Ultimately, these methods aren’t mutually exclusive, but I do see them as existing on a kind of continuum of obviousness, with someone stating the importance of something as “impossible to miss,” and those subtler methods covering a wide range from “clear” to “ambiguous” (the scale theoretically continues into “unclear” and “impossible to detect,” though those will obviously be difficult to notice from a reader’s perspective). Then again, those elements can be used in ways beyond their perceived meaning. That is, a character could say something was important in order to mislead the audience, or, in the case of Injection 14, to draw our attention to what really matters.
To say that sandwiches have been a runner throughout this series is an understatement, but without any obvious thematic importance, I’m reluctant to see that as anything more than a kind of running joke. That is, based on repetition, we might ascribe some significance to sandwiches — a reading that is reinforced by Brigid’s assertion that “Sandwiches are important” early in this issue — but nothing in this series or this issue seems to support “sandwich” as a meaningful theme. Instead, I find Brigid’s statement is most important here in priming us for the actual thematic material:
Obviously, there are cues to the importance of this moment beyond the presence of sandwiches (everything from its placement at the end of a page to the fact that Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire do away with the gutters for this image, bleeding the image to the edge of the page, such that the other panels seem to take place within this one), but it’s the content of Brigid’s statement that does the heavy lifting. “Myths are facts embedded in stories worth retelling.” It’s an assertion of the value of truth in fiction, pointing at something beyond the thrills of a story about a magical, sentient computer program. Writer Warren Ellis is using this story to “transmit knowledge” — even if we don’t totally know what that knowledge will be. I’m a sucker for that kind of meta-commentary, so may be ascribing more importance to this moment than will necessarily pan out, but I’ll be damned if everything in this issue doesn’t confirm my reading.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
Yas, Drew. And also, I still dig the simple idea that in a large-ish cast of diverse characters, sandwiches seem to be the big thing the original Injection team have in common on a personal level. While this arc has really focuses on Brigid in a seemingly-unrelated side story down in Cornwall, it’s apropps that now the Injection returns and proves to be directly related to the Cold House, and the sandwich references come roaring back, accordingly.
P.s. Living in the UK, I live off of those deplorable sandwiches in a triangle cardboard container from Sainsbury’s. Too close to home, Drew.
Jesus, I ate so many of those fucking boxed sandwiches in the UK. I’d sometimes spring for the hoagie roll versions (though they were always the same fillings) just for the variety.
One thing this arc has really driven home for me is how effective Brigid is as a perspective character. Don’t get me wrong — she’s just as unrelatably god-like at her given skill set as the rest of the cast, but “computers” is just inherently more relatable than “spy,” “detective,” “wizard,” and “crazy” (oh, right, I’ve kind of forgotten what Maria’s deal is). Like, she’s obviously capable of doing things I can’t understand (and does them all the time), but I feel like I can get my head around the more basic things she’s doing better than I can with, say, Robin. Then again, her particular skill set (that is, seeing everything as computer code) seems to have given her access to everyone else’s abilities, which have all come in handy in this arc.
I don’t think the difference that makes Brigid more relatable is her speciality – super hacker is as relatable as detective, and when you add wearable technology, artificial intelligence and possibly being Doctor Who, that isn’t why she is relatable. In fact, after this arc, I think she is secretly the least ordinary character in the cast. I think what makes her relatable is that she plays the foil to the rest of the characters. Where the rest of the characters’ personalities are colder and more ‘inhuman’, Brigid is the exact opposite. She speaks her mind, swears profusely and feels more ordinary because she reacts the way we would. This makes her relatable, especially compared to the other characters who are specifically designed not to be
(Oh, and on Maria, I think the hard thing with her is that she has two different archetypes. Scientist and Manager. Where others have an easy comparison with Sherlock Holmes or James Bond, Maria is both Pepper Potts and (because a British reference would be suitable for Injection) Bernard Quartermass. Simultaneously both is weird in a book that usually uses singular archetypes. Add a little Lovecraft influence (Maria isn’t insane, but it is said in the very first issue that she is sent to a mental institution as a way to heal mentally between crises), and Maria ends up being much harder to pin down than anyone else. Where everyone else is deep, Maria is broad)
Also, my sandwich theory. Key themes in Injection are diversity of viewpoint, and of the infinite, interesting things hidden under the seemingly mundane. And so, sandwiches. Every time we see a sandwich, it is a different sort of sandwich. We get a tour of the many kinds of sandwiches (diversity, as reflected by the type of sandwiches) and see the deep complexity of sandwiches (from the Sainsbury cardboard boxes all the way to the artisinal creations of Vivek’s chef.
Injection is about how much deeper things are than what they appear. How better to show that than by taking a topic as simple as sandwiches and showing the infinite complexities of types of sandwiches?