Written By: Mark Henely
If you asked most Marvel fans which new comic book they were looking forward to the most, Karnak #1 would not be on that list. Marvel is in the middle of a massive relaunch that will see X-23 become Wolverine, Miles Morales and Old Man Logan come to the Marvel universe, and Deadpool join the Uncanny Avengers. With all of those massive stories coming to pass, who was excited about a minor character from the Inhumans getting a solo book?
I was. Because that book was written by Warren Fucking Ellis.
Warren Ellis doesn’t write for Marvel and DC very often. In his Nerdist interview a few years back (Episode 303), he even suggested that he only wrote for those companies for the paycheck. But, you wouldn’t necessarily know that from reading his work on Secret Avengers and Moon Knight. Both books were phenomenal. He stopped by on both series, delivered six amazing issues, and went back to his own work. His work on Moon Knight was especially impressive because he presided over a complete re-working of Moon Knight’s look that took a character who was mocked for wearing an all white costume at night and turned him into a white suit wearing badass.
I was excited about Warren Ellis writing Karnak because I knew he would bring something strong to the table. And I was right. He takes a basic characteristic of Karnak and bases the entire comic around it. Karnak is a character that sees the flaw in everything. It’s what makes him a dangerous fighter. It allows him to dodge kicks and block punches. But, it also makes him incredibly difficult to deal with. He sees the flaw in all things and therefore, respects nothing. In practice he is one part angry teenager, pointing out the flaw in all systems because he can, and one part monk, confident that he knows exactly how the world works. At times, this makes the character very unlikeable. But, his unlikeability is not a flaw because the coarseness of character only betrays how talented Ellis is as a writer. Ellis is fully exploring the Karnak character through a highly conceptual lens and, as a writer, he doesn’t flinch when the character becomes a jerk. This comic is really a character study above all else.
Also, the action in this comic is badass. One of things that makes Warren Ellis comics especially fun to read is that he doesn’t rush action sequences. Every gunshot, every punch, every action set piece is given multiple pages and really allowed to breath. Last week, Marvel released Captain America: Sam Wilson #1, a comic that staged an entire fight between Captain America and Crossbones off panel in favor of showing more scenes of Sam Wilson talking to people on a plane. Karnak does not do that. Ellis knows this is an action comic and action should be shown.
As a reviewer, my job is (like Karnak) to find the flaw in all things, but I really am having a tough time finding the flaw in this comic. It’s really good. I can’t wait to read issue #2 and I hope it goes on for a long time. But, it probably won’t. Warren Ellis has shown that he isn’t interesting in staying on a comic book for a long period of time and readers might not turn out in droves for Karnak when they have the option to find out what Deadpool is like when he hangs out with the Avengers. So, if there is a flaw, it is in that this book will end before it’s time. It’s very creation as a Warren Ellis Marvel comic with an obscure character as it’s lead deems it so. It’s a great comic, written by a great writer, and that will not be enough to save it.
***Mark Henely is a stand up comedian, podcaster, and comic book fan. He went to Rutgers University where he officially studied English Literature and unofficially studied Marvel and DC Comics. Now he has a podcast where he reviews the first appearances of Comic Book characters. It is called “Introducing… The First Appearance Podcast” and you can check it out on iTunes and Stitcher.