Thursday, January 12, 2006

In Defense of Fell

Because it's unofficially become Fell week here at 2 Guys Buying Comics, here's a response to Jake's dissection of Fell a couple days ago. After this, we can get down to something really cool I think you'll all enjoy next week.

OK, so Jake finally finished his thesis on why he doesn't like Fell and thinks it's overrated. Cool. I'm down with that.

To be fair, he makes several excellent points. He also makes some crappy ones, but we'll get to those in a bit.


Now, I confess a deep love for the detective genre, for done-in-one books, and an appreciation for Warren Ellis, his hack job on a certain armored hero notwithstanding. So that's where I'm coming from on this.

And let's remind ourselves that art is subjective, and as Jake pointed out, one man's trash is another man's treasure. I tend to think that the key to art is the ability to make you feel something, whether it be warm fuzzy bunnies or the fury with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. And on that level, I think Fell succeeds.

I could care less about Picasso, Mozart, and Dickens---I don't hate them, I just have complete apathy and think they're overrated. Does that mean, as Jake pointed out, that millions of people are necessarily wrong? No. It's just another reason why we differentiate between "art" and "science". One carries reproducible results in every case; the other is art.

I don't think this is Ellis trying too hard, I think it's him finally giving a damn about something he's written. I have no way of proving this.

Is it way overrated? Maybe. The danger of hyperbole is that you can't pick and choose when and where to spread it --- it's a sword, not a scalpel. Maybe I'm guilty of it too. But I still think it was the best series of last year, for reasons I won't repeat but you can find in the blog here.

"One of my biggest complaints about Ellis (and Grant Morrison and Garth Ennis for that matter) is that so often he confuses "outlandish" for "enthralling." A woman who doesn't listen to a stranger's questions and instead goes off on an unprompted soliloqy of her husband's beastial tendencies is not an interesting character, nor even a believable one."

Jake is right --- outlandish can be confused with enthralling, and as big a Morrison fan as I am, I have to admit that he's probably the chief perpetrator. However, consider the option here: Ellis was trying to give yet another example of the complete disinterest that Snowtown's population has in anything, including the police force. He could have had the secretary droning on about how her gas bill's overdue, or making a grocery list, but he went with something that was way more out there, because it's unexpected and somewhat amusing. Which would you rather he have done? Ditto for the boss.

And yes, the "3 1/2 detectives" line is getting overrated.

"As for the "murder mystery," I find it hard to consider this book very heavy on mystery when the first panel of the second page practically screams "IMPORTANT HINT HERE!""

Yeah, there's overt clue-dropping (less so in the issues that follow). But I don't think the crux of the book (especially a #1 issue) is about having a really clever mystery, otherwise Ellis wouldn't be basing these off of things that actually happened to real people. I think it's setting a mood and telling a story that makes you want to read the next one. I view Fell as a TV show; episodic, small cast, finite beginning and end. And I like that.

If the crime itself you find too outlandish, well, there's nothing I can argue about that. I don't, and I appreciated Ellis filling us in on the background information after the story.

I guess what I'm really getting down to is that the 12 or 13 pages that Ellis spends setting the mood and introducing the recurring characters is the heavy lifting that needs to be done in any #1 issue (or TV pilot) that's trying to do what this one does: change the game and make a viable ongoing book in a format that's different from anything out there now.

If I knew Fell was a limited series with a 6 or 12 issue max run, then yeah, I'd be a little torqued about the first issue being ALL atmosphere. But I have to look at it as it's intended; a done-in-one book that creates an incredible setting, interesting characters, and tells a good story in an ongoing series. The package as a whole just strikes me as really very, very good.

Jake hasn't read issues 2 and 3 yet, but he assures me he will. I can say this: if after reading all 3 issues if you still think that it's not one of the best books on the market, then we'll just agree to disagree.

But you'll still be wrong.


Blogger kelvingreen said...

I though #3 was better, but I'm really not seeing why the book is so highly praised. I mostly like Ellis, I really like what he's doing with the experiment, but I just don't like the book as much as I'm told I should.

9:36 AM  

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