Story by Warren Ellis
Pencils by Gianluca Pagliarani
Inks by Chris Dreier
Published by Avatar
“Britain is at war with Ruritania, whose strange metal planets darken out skies even as the shadows of its giant war machines loom across the channel. Doctor Richard Watcham, lately returned from the front, makes the familar journey back to Dilke Street, where lives his old friend–and London’s greatest amateur detective–Sax Raker. As his beloved city braces against a horrible confrontation, Sax Raker is himself about to embark on the strangest investigation of his career: The case of the man who wasn’t there…SCIENCE, LOVE, MYSTERY, AND A GLIMPSE INTO THE WORLD’S OWN AETHERIC MECHANICS”
Warren Ellis is often a mixed bag. He usually tries to write too much (If I had to pick a writer who I thought was on or was trying to attain Modafinil…) and occasionally you’ll get a Warren Ellis story that’s a little thin or has two pages of dialogue and 20 pages of “action” or at least that’s how I remember that one issue of the “Global Frequency”. However, when Ellis is on he’s one of the best comic book writers in the world (Alan Moore level as I once explained to Jorn Barger) and a very good and well versed science fiction writer as well.
“Aetheric Mechanics” is Warren Ellis when he’s on. When I looked at this at first I thought this was a take on the Steampunk genre, which it looks like and which he’s also done with “Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island“. But it turns out to be something completely interesting and science fictional. Spoilers ahead as they say.
Here’s some of the art:
The time is March 1907 but this time London has a flying platform. Or flying saucer I guess. The lead characters seem to be Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson but reimagined or renamed as Sax Raker and Doctor Richard Watcham and that’s actually tied to the plot.
The premise is just astonishing. Turns out that this world was reshaped by an accident at one of those European particle colliders and the case involving “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (feels like some kind of accidental temporal teleportation or…ghosts!…) Somehow there was some kind of temporal accident and everything in the future computer commingled with the current world of in some kind of high powered super computer, which means every fiction made real. That means that the accident remade this world with fictional characters like Holmes and Watson rewritten. I imagine there’s a real Alice, a real Batman, a real Fu Manchu, a real James Bond, a real Snooki etc…It would be easy to imagine this as a starting point for an entirely new fictional world, a keen variant on Moore’s “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. I should also say that Warren’s take on Holmes is outstanding. I don’t know enough about the Holmes lore to know if its on point but I do know that this Holmes facsimile is a one man CSI team. It’s really quite thrilling to behold. Warren has talked about the Bond franchise glowingly and after this I think he should get a crack at a script.
Bottom line: well paced and well written. And it asks an interesting question: If somebody from the future came by and said that you were a fictional character and he was going to restore the seemingly safer time stream by killing you and a woman you’re obsessed with would you let him? Great read. 4.7 out of 5 stars.