The Comic Queen

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Monday, January 10, 2005

Quit City Review

Story by Warren Ellis; Arwork by Laurenn McCubbin
Aparrat line from Avatar Press, Inc., $3.50

Quit City is the second book in the experimental Apparat line from Warren Ellis. The four series line is an answer to the question “What would have happened to comic books if the super-hero genre didn’t take over?” The first book, Frank Ironwine, answered the question in reference to crime pulps. Quit City examines it from the aviator hero point-of-view.

As Ellis writes in the afterword, aviators and pilots were heroes in the early 20th century. People followed the careers of real-life pilots Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. Aviator pulps and comics were also hugely popular. As flying became safe, commercial, and mainstream the view of the heroic aviator died.

Quit City pretends that the aviator hero survived and examines the life of a star pilot in the present day. That star is Emma Pierson and she has just quit her position on the elite flying team Aeropiratika to return to her hometown and old life. Besides being sick of the gig, Emma never really explains why she left or what she plans to do now. It is only clear that she wants to start over. First she visits friends and finally the book ends with a ghost from her past.

The story in Quit City is very good. It expertly blends the exciting life, fame, and romanticism of a popular 1940s pilot and the problems and language of the present day. The combination is seamless. This makes the story entirely believable. One even starts to wonder why this sort of story isn’t marketable today and is instead only possible in a quick one-issue examination. Ellis is fantastic at crafting casual conversation and it works here. Nothing seems phony or forced.

Also fantastic is McCubbin’s artwork. The story is character driven and McClubbin makes Emma pop out of the page. She is always the biggest thing in the panel, sometimes sticking out and overlapping into a nearby panel. The backgrounds are light and almost fade away to avoid confrontation with the characters. Each page is an achievement.

The only real fault with both Quit City and Frank Ironwine is that the reader is intentionally left wanting more. Normally this is how one should be left, but in this case there isn’t a second book to anticipate. By design, the Apparat line is made up of the first issues in imaginary series. Ellis is just too good at his experiment and answering his own question. His success with the books feels like punishment to the reader because that is all there is. Both books include some set-up for the non-existent issue two and the reader is left wondering what happens to the characters after the book concludes. While the issues are stand-alone, there definitely feels like there could and should be more.

So far the Apparat line is a successful experiment and it’s a shame that Quit City won’t be around. With 50% published, the line answers the question that Ellis posed. They did what they set out to do. They leave the reader wondering why so many genres drowned in the wake of the super-hero comic.

Bottom Line: A-


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