*Fell: Feral City — Recommended

Warren Ellis’ latest triumph is Fell: Feral City, tight little tales of freaks in a creepy city called Snowtown. It’s a new-style detective comic, one featuring short, satisfyingly dense stories with a distinctive look courtesy of Ben Templesmith.

Fell: Feral City cover
Fell: Feral City
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The use of a strict nine-panel grid packs plenty of plot into a small space. It also gives the comic the feel of one of the procedural TV shows, one where the events matter more than the staging or set design. The focus is on the people, Detective Fell, the victims, the predators. Templesmith’s figures are just this side of grotesque, matching their environment and laid out in dirty colors. The unexplained elements — the Snowtown tag of an S with an X through it, used as a totem to ward off evil; the nun in a Nixon mask — only add to the ominous atmosphere.

Richard Fell, a cop with a mysterious past, has just moved over the bridge to the worst city ever. Each chapter, he investigates a crime, doing his job, even when he’s off the clock. Many of these cases are inspired by real-life, dementedly weird news clippings the author has seen. The dialogue is concentrated emotion: desperation, fear, resignation.

His drug-taking boss lets him loose. His new neighbor is dead and his first case. His new friend, a listening bartender, brands him because she thinks it’ll protect him, marking him as part of the city. His cases include domestic murder, stranger murder, a vengeful suicide bomber, the interrogation of a disturbed killer, and a really disturbed child abusing parent. The book’s about the trade-offs that humans make to keep going in the face of an uncaring world that will do horrible things to its inhabitants.

These things should be unusual to us, odd and disconcerting, but we see and hear about so many of them every day that we can become numb, like Fell. He takes his own shortcuts just to feel like he’s making a difference. Fell’s analyses of situations and people are often right, but they feel like camouflage for his mysterious past. What drove him across the bridge to this living hell? His ego won’t let him say.

It’s concentrated Ellis, with everything he’s made his name on: the taciturn outsider who works to bring justice and only sometimes succeeds; the brilliant but broken woman who cares for him; the fascination with the extreme things humans do to themselves and others. This would make a surprisingly effective outreach book to the millions who watch CSI or similar series, because it demonstrates just what can be effectively done with comics.

Both Ellis and Templesmith have websites.


8 Responses to “*Fell: Feral City — Recommended”

  1. The First Slimline Collections: Fell and Casanova » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] the issues of the series to date. Casanova: Luxuria reprints 7 issues as a $24.99 hardcover, while Fell: Feral City put its 8 issues into both paperback ($14.99) and a limited hardcover [...]

  2. Blog@Newsarama » Welcome to Snowtown? Says:

    [...] Comics Worth Reading recommends Fell: Feral City   Posted by Kevin Melrose in Comic Books, Pop Culture, Creators, Fandom, Image, Art and [...]

  3. Paul Sizer Says:

    Once again, Ellis took a genre that I thought I had NO interest in andsucked me right in. This really is a great series, and I agree on your assessment that it succeeds so well because of the dense little stories, which are very self contained. With all the sprawl in comic writing, it’s nice to see little packets of story handled so well.

  4. THE CATATONIC EXPRESSIONIST Says:

    Wow, the review mentioned CSI. To even mention that show really… I know you didn’t mentioned directly that FELL is like CSI, but still.

    CSI is some cheesy redneck, hillbilly show. Why? Only Republicans watch that show while drinking Coors.

  5. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Sept. 19, 2007: This week’s Muhammed cartoon Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson on Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s Fell: Feral [...]

  6. Roscoe’s Personal Notes » Blog Archive » links for 2007-09-21 Says:

    [...] *Fell: Feral City — Recommended » Comics Worth Reading Warren Ellis’ latest triumph is Fell: Feral City, tight little tales of freaks in a creepy city called Snowtown. [I’ve been collecting Fell since the 1st issue. I recommend it highly, too. -R] (tags: opinion review Warren_Ellis Fell) [...]

  7. The Middleman » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] calls the creature a “hentai tentacle monster.” When they talk comics, they name-drop Fell and The Spirit. A plot point turns on something the Joker said. Wendy quotes Planet of the Apes, [...]

  8. Ellis and Templesmith’s Fell on Digital Sale » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] has just announced a three-day sale on Fell, the detective comic by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith that ran from 2005-2007. (Well, the final issue so far, #9, [...]

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