Gravel, Issue 0, by Warren Ellis, Mike Wolfer and Raulo Caceres.

Admittedly this is the first time I’ve read Warren Ellis since I read volume zero of Transmetropolitan in a comic book store a few years ago. I wasn’t particularly entralled back then but I am just probably in a bad mood now because I haven’t been able to find volume one in a store in four years of looking (and no, I don’t want to buy it on the internet).

Sergeant-Major Bill Gravel is an SAS operative come magic detective: a fairly likeable concept to begin with. This first issue starts with Bill carrying out a covert operation somewhere in deepest darkest Afghanistan. The artwork is reminiscent of the bastard-child of Hellboy and Beavis and Butt-head, with stark shadows mixed with scratchy, fine-line ink caricatures. This way Raulo Caceres gives the story a suitably gritty, dark and bloody feel. This is only partially echoed in the script, though. The dialogue felt forced for most of the book as it tries to be overly clever and “in your face” at the same time. This really left me feeling distinct disappointment at the end of the book which was woefully short as well.

As a prologue issue, it gave me enough to want to try reading the next installment but at the same time so much more could have been done with it. Reading Garth Ennis’ praise on the back I was wondering if we had read the same comic. I’d give the next issue a shot but it ain’t no Preacher, that’s for sure.

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