February 21, 2010

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Ocean

Written by Warren Ellis
Illustrated by Chris Sprouse and Karl Story
Wildstorm

It doesn't take much convincing for me to try a Warren Ellis comic. He's really good at setting up a story, adding some convincing science fiction, and building from there with crusty characters guaranteed to say obnoxious things to one another.

Ocean hits all three of Ellis's trademarks in a mini-series from Wildstorm that has solid art from the Sprouse and Story team. Nathan Kane is the prototypical Ellis wise-ass with a cynical edge, working with the UN as the Jovian moon Europa is explored. Also there is a corporate bad guy in waiting, the DOORS Corporation.

When the frozen ocean holds the prospect of undreamed up weaponry (with ties to earth in a neat allusion to our propensity for violence), it's Kane versus a driven corporate man with nothing to lose. Can he keep these weapons out of the hands of evil or will there be proliferation on a scale undreamed of by an ever-militarized humanity?

This story reads very much like the plot of an action movie, and I don't mean that as an insult. Kane is a solid hero, working for the betterment of mankind. He's got brains, guts, and a dry wit that causes him to try and insult a human drone and threatens to shoot people over bad coffee. The stakes are incredibly high--Europa's hidden weapon makes a stolen nuke look like a slingshot--and the odds are impossibly long. The villain is cold and calculating (quite literally, in fact) but is given just enough reason and personality to make the reader care. Our support characters are quirky and likable. In one case, she's also incredibly horny, giving Ellis a way to express his trademark crude jokes. These are the kinds of people you want to root for, and you feel worried if they might die and happy if they make it.

Ellis has a lot of science jargon flying around, but it works for me. I don't particularly care how the science works, but if you do, Ellis will deliver in spades. The idea of a race so powerful it blew up a 10th (9th now, I guess) planet and ruined Mars permanently is a great concept. He also adds some neat space-friendly weapons and talks about why they're needed. I'm not really the type to geek out on such things, but if you are, there's plenty to entertain you. For me, I'm just happy to see bullets that can change shape on whim.

I don't know how many people read Ocean when it came out, but it's a fun book that doesn't require any prior knowledge, just a love of a good action story set in space. If you like action stories, science fiction, or Warren Ellis, you'll find Ocean to be a great read. This one is definitely recommended.