World Comic Book Review

3rd December 2023

Karnak #1 (review) – “Break a leg”

Karnak #1
Marvel Comics, December 2015
Writer: Warren Ellis

Review by DG Stewart, 3 December 2015

Acclaimed British comic book writer (and occasional novelist) Warren Ellis has a knack for writing droll curmudgeons. These characters are usually male (but not always), socially ill-adjusted, confrontational to the point of being violent, and clever. When Mr Ellis writes comic books featuring teams of characters, often multiple members of the cast exhibit these traits.

Mr Ellis is most commercially successful when he writes superhero comics. There is some irony to this as Mr Ellis has for many, many years expressed his dislike of the genre. A contemporary of Mr Ellis, comics writer Grant Morrison, has lamented the distaste Mr Ellis exhibits for the subject matter with the annotation that Mr Ellis is the paramount writer in that field. That is high praise from Mr Morrison, who is no slouch when it comes to raw creativity. But perhaps it is more accurate to say that Mr Ellis simply has a winning formula.

Mr Ellis is presently writing a new series called Karnak for Marvel Comics. This is an obscure character from a super-powered group called The Inhumans. This package of characters was created in 1965, and is slated to appear in a film in 2019. Marvel Comics have publicly stated that Mr Ellis was engaged to write the series given his track record in revitalising other Marvel Comics assets. It is a natural assumption that the work Mr Ellis does here is likely to shape the character in preparation for the motion picture. In that regard, Mr Ellis does two jobs: write the comic, and engage in pre-production character treatment specifically relating to the motion picture.

Mr Ellis has turned to his usual bag of tricks. First, he has removed the costume from the character (a good thing: the costume would not have been misplaced on a Seaworld-themed striptease performer). Mr Ellis has rarely called upon the archetypical costume conventions of the superhero genre: capes and masks are reserved for his parodies only.

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