Cemetery Beach sits at an odd place in Warren Ellis’s recent output. An exceedingly prolific writer, Ellis has consistently popped out cerebral, mythological, and fast-paced stories with the likes of Wild Storm, Injection, and Trees (also with Jason Howard). These stories take their time and withhold action until it bursts out in bloody cacophony. I mention this because Cemetery Beach continues to be an all-out slugfest that’s oddly dissatisfying.
Mike Blackburn continues to run and gun with the roguish help of the aptly named Grace Moody. Unfortunately, they’ve been doing this for every issue with all too brief moments of characterization. Ellis is one of the best writers of dialogue in the medium, so it’s a shame that this series is so focused on same-same action.
I don’t want to fully be the guy who complains one thing is not as good as the other. I’m down for a combat-oriented series. But even visceral thrills are muffled by repetitive action. How many different ways can you stage two people flying and fighting lots of other ships and soldiers? Well, not as many as you’d think, because I’m pretty sure Ellis and Howard have covered everything at this point.
Thankfully, we get more precious moments of worldbuilding. We’re privy to a massive map of the colony, which has delightful areas like “Scabland,” as well as the deranged people of Drum, who tried to revolt years ago and are punished with less food from on high. This motivates them to go after Blackburn and Moody to get more rations. That’s really clever, and I wish there were more nuggets like that.
Another positive is a glimpse at the President and his stooge, The Chief of The Boat (their grammar, not mine). There’s a definite Emperor/Darth Vader vibe going on, especially since Chief is sent out to personally hunt down our pragmatic protagonists.
Howard keeps proving why he was such a great choice for this book. His gritty linework brings the harsh world to grimy, rustic life. Practically every surface looks scuffed and cruelly metallic or concrete. This is a world just waiting for high-speed chases to knock it down. I may not love the mind-numbing action, but it is well laid out and composed on Howard’s part.