Ignition City – half a western Flash Gordon from Ellis

Published On March 8, 2010 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Ignition City

by Warren Ellis and Gianluca Pagliarani

Avatar Press


After choosing Warren Ellis as my favourite author for the 5th anniversary post of the FPI blog I can’t help but feel very let down by him after completing Ignition City. It’s a classic example of the sort of writing he’s sometimes capable of, especially with Avatar, who frankly know they’re sitting on a goldmine with anything he writes for them.

Ignition City obviously started out as a fun little idea in Ellis’ mind to combine his oft mentioned ideas that the human race has lessened itself by it’s isolationist, short term thinking when it turns it’s gaze away from the stars with the notion of doing a “what if Flash Gordon was a pissed off, washed up ex-space pilot for whom it all went very wrong?” type of story.

And that’s Ignition City – Flash Gordon gone to seed and the world a worse place because we don’t go to the stars – all done frontier, Western style. With lasers instead of guns. I liked issue 1 and I have to say I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t make the Flash Gordon references at the time – Lightning Bowman? Really? And then there’s the t-shirt with the lightening bolt across it. Plus we have analogs for Ming, Dale and Zarkov and much more in there as well. Was I asleep when I read the first issue?

Ignition City2

(Mary Raven gets the bad news about her father and sets off to the wilds of Ignition City. From Ignition City Volume 1. By Ellis and Pagliarani, published Avatar)

So the basic story is that the daughter of a noted space ace finds herself washed up at an early age, space programs are closing down all over and she’s going to be cut off from the stars, a dream she always shared with her big space hero father since she was a babe in daddy’s arms. Daddy meanwhile, has been up to no good in Ignition City – last big space port and operating on some kind of frontier mentality, with the dive bars and corrupt marshalls of the old west. Hell, there’s even old fashioned style gunfights occasionally, except those guns don’t pump lead, they fire lasers.

When Daddy ends up dead it’s up to the daughter to head into Ignition City and get his body back. Except she’s just the sort of girl who’ll get herself involved and start extracting revenge for her father’s death and discovering that he may not have been the man she thought he was. And when she does that she accidentally discovers the big, big secret of Ignition City. And then it’s the end.

Ignition City Science

(Zarkov Dr Vukovic comes to the rescue. Very Ellis. From Ignition City Volume 1. By Ellis and Pagliarani, published Avatar)

There’s good stuff in Ignition City, for any fan of Ellis’ style of writing, it’s snappy, full of great characters, loads of over the top dialogue and a fair bit of good old fashioned action. All done extremely well, but like so much of his recent work, there’s just not enough meat on the bones of his story to make it feel really satisfying. It’s really just half a story and from a writer that I love that’s just a big letdown. The art by Pagliarani is nice, very much in what has become the Avatar style, with a few panels that are great and a fair few that aren’t so great. But overall he does the flimsy story more than justice.

No news on whether there’s a second volume, but there’s always a good chance that there will be with Ellis and Avatar. Fingers crossed that there’s more to it next time than a host of interesting ideas and great moments.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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