The sentiment from comic’s professional’s that a single issue review is the incorrect format to judge a comic because it’s not taking into account the entire series is categorically wrong on multiple levels, chief among those being that if you are asking a consumer to but a single issue comic, that should be worth the price of purchase in and of itself. Still, there is a sliding scale to this argument that can be applied within the context of a creators past work. If a creator has done enough great work in their past, it behooves the consumer to give them the benefit of the doubt on some level as past success is generally a healthy indicator of future performance. Warren Ellis is chief among the list of creators whose work is difficult to judge in a stand alone context as it’s almost always contains multitudes. For every Moon Knight where the first issue hit’s a like a freight train, there is an Injection that can feel confounding on the first read but has now gotten to the point of being one of the best ongoing series. Shipwrecked with Phil Hester on art, Eric Gapstur on ink’s and Mark Englert on colors; certainly qualifies as the later, but the imagery is so interesting that it’s auspicious plotting of it’s first issue is almost negligible.
Hester, Gapstur & Englert open Shipwrecked with a gripping four panel page of a first person POV drowning in water, with every other panel representing the head bobbing up above the sea. It’s haunting and striking visual storytelling that immediately grabs the readers attention.
The remainder of the book has a similar visual style that establishes a somber tone with it’s jagged lines and muted color pallete. Hester and co continue to create visceral artwork throughout the books pages for a plot that’s deceptively slow burning until it isn’t
In that respect, Ellis’s writing on Shipwrecked is a study in contrast with much of the book’s plot happening in the dialogue and innuendo until the final third of the issue when things take an unexpected turn which upends a lot of the books expectations. As can be expected, Ellis’s dynamic, albeit at times confusing, dialogue is in top form here and carries the story by investing the reader into the protagonists confusion. Like Paper Girls, this is one of those comics where you don’t really know what’s going on at the conclusion of the issue, but enough happens to make it a comic worth continuing with.
This is very much in vein with Ellis’s aesthetic since he came back to ongoing monthly comics a few years ago and as with the rest of his creator owned work, he’s certainly found the right art team to realize the comics vision appropriately. As one of comics most reliable veteran creators with a whole host of projects having come out over the last couple years, I wouldn’t call Shipwrecked the best debut issue of a Warren Ellis series and I’m not sure if it’s essential, but it is deeply interesting and affecting; more then enough to justify the single issue’s existence in and of itself. Like Injection, to try and make a projected judgment on the entire series based on the contents of a it’s debut single issue is a fools errand, but Ellis and co make the single debut issue worthwhile all the same; as it should be.