Anna Mercury – big ideas & big hair in Ellis’ return to form.
by Warren Ellis & Facundo Percio
With Anna Mercury #1 I put forward the hope that this was going to be one of the good ones and wasn’t going to repeat Black Summer’s trick of a great first issue followed by a huge comedown from issue two onwards. Certainly there were enough good moments in that first issue to raise my hopes. And enough hints in the book that this wasn’t going to be as straightforward a tale as some of his Avatar work.
And thankfully, with issue 2, I can safely say that this is definitely shaping up to be something very good indeed. The setup throughout issue 1 has paid off nicely, with Anna revealed to be acting as some cross dimensional secret agent type racing around trying to save the planet from some form of all out destruction. This is the big show and tell issue, with Ellis setting out the peculiar science behind the world in the first few pages of this issue. In fact it’s all conveniently explained, complete with easy to follow diagrams to the prime minister of the day by the head of Anna’s department. it seems that Anna works for a department tasked with keeping everything in order. Because Anna’s earth sits in the middle of the constellation project:
“Nine half constructed worlds hanging in invisible orbit around Earth. All of which have human beings on them. None of whom are aware of the other worlds or the existence of Earth. This constitutes the greatest mystery, and the greatest secret of our time.”
And with that reveal, Ellis makes Anna Mercury far more interesting than anything he’s written for Avatar so far.
(Anna Mercury in her best Matrix style leap. Ellis is back on form and the art by Facundo Percio isn’t bad either.)
And everything above written for issue 2 certainly holds true for the remaining three issues included here in the Cutter. In fact, once issue 2 is over, with Anna trying to figure the best way to prevent a one city’s super-gun wiping out the other city on this particular half constructed partial earth, the rest of the book is a hyperactive rush to finish, lots of racing around, lots of shooting things, kinetic artwork flowing freely. There’s only one major bit of downtime in the second half of the book as Anna and her boss sit down to brief the new Prime Minister on the situation he’s just walked into. Just like the conversation between the Prime Minister and Anna’s boss in issue 2, this time is used by Ellis to allow all his exposition to be thrown at us at once, detaching it from the action sequences in a simple yet effective way:
“In 1943, The USS Eldridge – three hundred feet long and twelve hundred tons of electromagnetically active metal – appeared right in the middle of New Ataraxia. It was kind of hard to miss. And it sat there for at least twenty minutes. Ataraxian society was irrevocably warped. God turned up in his own sailing boat and changed everything.”
Yep, the USS Eldridge. So you can see the sort of thing Ellis is going for here; this world gets royally screwed up when the Philadelphia Experiment works too well and with nine of these partial earths to play around with one wonders what famous conspiracy theory or mythical tech experiment Ellis will use next time. (I haven’t picked up any of the second Anna Mercury series yet).
(Pretty much the entire series in one page thematically: Anna running, fighting and swearing. Her boss and the Prime Minister having a chat about everything that’s going on. It’s a cliched formula for getting your story out, but it works in Anna Mercury. Art by Facundo Percio)
In the end, Anna Mercury is just pure fun escapist sci-fi spy thriller, very Matrix like but without all of the cod philosophy. Ellis is having a blast writing every sci-fi cliche he can think of lately throughout the various books he’s doing but it seems to be on Anna Mercury where it all comes together and works best. Similarly, the artwork by Facundo Percio, although very much “Avatar house style” (and if you read more than 3 Avatar books you know exactly what I’m talking about) and even though he takes a little while to settle and does have a few stumbles along the way, is some of the best colour work that’s graced Ellis’ Avatar material yet.
It’s by far the best thing he’s writing right now, yet even here there’s still the feeling that he’s not really stretching himself. On one hand it’s a sickening realisation that he’s got so much more in the tank. On the other hand I find myself getting frustrated with Ellis’ inability to really push himself to make truly great comics. Anna Mercury is bloody good stuff, but even here, I think Ellis can give us better. But for now, Anna Mercury will certainly do.