A HeartFELLt Review
by Robert Leichsenring
Hello again. I'm back and this time with a slightly different topic. Let’s call it "cheap shots."
I would like to introduce you to FELL, a crime book by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith with a $1.99 price tag on each issue. Interested? No? I don't care, you're still going to hear about it.
FELL is a project of my dearest Warren Ellis, and is a dense but cheap comic that can be enjoyed as single issues without a demanding overall metaplot. The series received Eisner nominations for Best New Series and Best Continuing Series, for those of you who actually care about this.
Detective Richard Fell is a good cop. Maybe too good. So his superiors send him from "over the bridge" to the fictional city of Snowtown. Snowtown is one nasty bitch of a town. The people have given up, crime is everywhere, and the police is understaffed and stuck with a boss who would make Arkham inmates feel a bit uncomfortable. Oh, and he only has three and a half detectives.
Detective Fell is thrown into this town and confronted with the worst human nature can offer. Murder, abuse, corruption, and worst of all, a city with no hope for tomorrow. A city with citizens who have no compassion for each other, no respect for others or themselves. To be honest, I think what we fear most in a human is not someone doing a bad thing because he is enraged or madly in love or just plain crazy. The people that just don't give a f$#k — that's really scary. People doing bad things because they do not care anymore. People that have lost their connection to humanity.
Richard Fell is a very unusual hero, not afraid of doing the dirty work and bending or breaking the law for something he believes is right. His only tools are a sharp mind (as sharp as it gets, actually), a Sherlock Holmes–like observational skill, a camera that he takes everywhere, and of course, a gun. I know that we have seen a lot of characters like this, but Fell feels different as there is a felt line that is not really defined but you know it's there. He might be breaking the law, but never to do harm (he seems to be the only one to ever get hurt, except for the dead guys). He goes out of his way quite some extent to help people, and you know he does it because he cares. That’s the simple truth about Richard Fell. He cares.
Every issue contains a standalone story which can be read on its own, but of course we have development with Richard Fell as it becomes clearer with each issue that he is going to stay for good and that he has no intention of leaving Snowtown's problems lying around on the street. We have Mayko, a bar owner, who is slowly closing in on Fell and the reason why he has been sent to Snowtown and why he cannot go back over the Bridge. Mayko is one of the few people in Snowtown still in her right mind, which you will learn means nothing in this city. If you search for a romantic side plot you have to go look somewhere else. FELL is a no-nonsense series without any warm fluffy feelings appearing in your guts (or anywhere else).
Okay let's talk about the art, shall we?
Ben Templesmith, man, I love this guy. You probably know him from 30 DAYS OF NIGHT or the DEAD SPACE comic. This man is blowing me away every time I open a book he penciled. His style is a natural fit for this crime story with bits of noir and elements of horror (if you tell me that you are not freaked out by the nun, I will call you a liar and tell your mother). TEMPLESMITH is using his very unique style to create an atmosphere of danger and threat combined with a feeling of helplessness. The only "real" characters seem to be Fell himself and Mayko. The usual sketchiness of Templesmith's drawings brings a lot of life and a certain vibe to Snowtown and fills it with dark corners, abandoned warehouses, and a nun with a Nixon mask. And don't be fooled by the first look. He can crank up the detail without you even noticing or changing his style. The man is awesome.
Ellis uses the 3 rows with 3 panels each and so is giving us, the customer, a good balance between art and plot and gives Templesmith a lot of space to indulge in his drawings and do what he does best. TEMPLESMITH is on top of his game in FELL and author and artist build a very intriguing comic book for the $1.99. Check out the extras in the back: letters, scripts and so on.
BUT!! (yes there is a but) Unfortunately, FELL is on hiatus since 2008 thanks to a crash of ELLIS' computer with all the finished scripts on it. There are 9 issues out right now and it has been announced that FELL will return, but no one knows when (kinda like DESOLATION JONES ... it ain't dead but it ain't breathing either).
So folks, if you like a good crime story, or Templesmith's art, get going and buy this, or borrow it from a friend or whatnot. Hopefully we will have new issues coming by 2012 to follow Detective Fell on his more than stony way through Snowtown. Don't forget to get your protective Snowtown tag or else you might not enjoy the ride.
Robert "Nemo" Leichsenring