In Review: Shipwreck #3

One part Lewis Carroll, another Rod Serling, and the rest a walking nightmare. Recommended.

The cover: Dr. Shipwright sits upon a massive cairn as it slowly crumbles, disturbing the carnivore that’s accompanied him. In the distance he can see another of the rock piles and it is just as perilously constructed as the one he’s on. This cover teases the first eight pages of this issue, as the structure serves several possible purposes. This image was created by Phil Hester, the interior artist, and Mark Englert, the interior inker. The lack of strong colors are a big clue about what’s to be revealed within this issue and elsewhere. Overall grade: A 

The story: Continuing his wandering, Dr. Shipwright makes his way through a desolate land, the wind whipping his cloak around him. He comes upon a cairn, a pile of rocks, that’s about nine feet tall. As he looks up at the top of the ruble he sees a tremendous numbers of birds circling far above the pile’s apex. When he looks back at the rocks a man has appeared. The man is wearing a yellow jacket with reflective tape on it, clashing greatly with his slacks and tie. He asks, “How is your forward escape working out, Dr. Shipwright?” Straining to remember, the protagonist says, “…Inspector.” The man congratulates the doctor and then goes on to state how the cairn is a crime, obstructing things, being in the center of the road. A discussion of what the rocks are commences and ends with something shocking within it. With its contents revealed another clue to Shipwright’s past is revealed in the longest flashback yet in this series’ run, explaining much of what’s going on, answering some questions and sparking several new ones. Warren Ellis is writing a puzzle within a puzzle of a science fiction tale. Where it’s going, I have no clue. Nor do I know where it’s been, though I’m feeling a little more confident after this issue. What I do know is Shipwright is looking for something. I don’t know if he’s even closer, but that doesn’t seem to be the point. Can the protagonist know peace? This setting is a continual mind trip where he doesn’t know who he’ll meet, though each character seems to be leading him somewhere. Will this location ease the pain he carries or will it result in his destruction? Again, I have no clue. But I am fervently awaiting the next issue. Overall grade: A

The art: The first three pages of this issue contain no dialogue, making artist Phil Hester and inker Eric Gapstur not only tell the story but create the tone and boy do they! The first page shows a dark road with Shipwright walking toward the reader. A huge splay of dust follows him in this wasteland. The violence of the wind is shown on the second page with his cloak writhing about him. The shock on his face at the end of the page seems to be a result of the sudden disappearance of the breeze, but it’s not. The cairn that he comes across is massive, creating as much awe as the appearance of the Black Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I love the slow look he gives the rocks and the reveal of the huge flock of birds above it. One can hear the stillness on the page from this artwork. Yet, with the turn of a page everything changes with the Inspector’s introduction. His clothes make him instantly alien to Shipwright, as does his attitude. Even though I knew some of what a cairn represents, I was wholly unprepared for the shock of Page 6: it’s ghastly. The final two panels on 7 are wonderfully cinematic. The close up on 8 was a gut punch, which only grew worse with what’s shown on 9. The reveal on 10 was good; enough technology to make the situation believable, but enough in the dark to make it seem just beyond a reader’s understanding. Pages 12 – 16 have a very different setting for the good doctor. There’s enough about it to be utterly familiar to anyone, though it has such an uncomfortable feeling to it, such as with the final panel on 14, as to make one concerned for the protagonist. Hester’s art makes every panel interesting and suggestive. Overall grade: A

The colors: I love the colors on this book. The first seven pages have a very dark color scheme, but that reinforces the darkness in Shipwright’s mind and the dark road he travels. It’s as if all light is absent. However, the Inspector injects a bit of color in these pages with his yellow, almost comical, coat. The first flashback has a blue hue, giving the setting an electrical pulse, which represents what is shown on 10. The mustard color used for the location that Shipwright enters gives the proceedings an ill feeling, magnified by that final panel on 14. The final three paged flashback is colored like an old serial in black and white, though it’s more like different shades of ultra pale violet, creating an otherworldly feel, matching what’s being discussed. Mark Englert increases the wonder and uneasiness of the art. Overall grade: A

The letters: The story’s title, dialogue, and the tease for next issue are crafted by Marshall Dillon. The dialogue for this book is wonderful. It’s a tiny font that uses lower case letters as well as the more traditional capital letters. The use of lower case makes every word seem small, yet important because it draws the reader closer to the book. The reader becomes a part of this story because of the work from Dillon. Overall grade: A

The final line: One part Lewis Carroll, another Rod Serling, and the rest a walking nightmare. The journey of a man marooned…somewhere…will entertain and haunt with its questions. If you like mystery, science fiction, or a hero on a quest, this is for you. Recommended. I can’t read this quickly enough. Overall grade: A 

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
    2 Comments on this post.
  • Jonny
    20 January 2017 at 9:49 am -

    Great review, I hope you continue with reviewing shipwreck as its such a good comic and I enjoyed your commentary! I love how the colours seem to have a papery texture that’s been creased and folded, it looks almost as if it’s photographs of paper. Creates a very strange sense of suspension of belief.

    • Patrick Hayes
      21 January 2017 at 7:45 pm -

      I agree with your comments on the colors: definitely increases the dream-like/nightmarish quality of the events.