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Includes Issues: Original Graphic Novel
Issue Dates: July 2003
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This review is spoiler free! Skip To The Verdict? »

Why does Warren Ellis keep writing silly little one-shots and why do I keep reading them?

Sometimes he seems to be the equivalent of Kurt Vonnegut using Kilgore Trout to ghostwrite his short story ideas in brief references.

Only Ellis can find some hapless artist to flesh out a haphazardly written outline.

Today I picked up yet another one, Switchblade Honey, assuming that it was some new little poppet of storytelling born of Ellis having too many ideas and not enough time to properly flesh them out.

So low and behold, when I peeled that pesky shrink wrap off, I found that the copyright date was 2003.

Eons ago in comic parlance.

In the case of Switchblade, the grayscale art by Brandon McKinney is mediocre at best. Barely adequate.

It almost smacks of a senior project rather than a professionally published trade, but then anything with Warren Ellis on the cover is guaranteed publication these days (and a piece of my wallet it seems.)

Ellis lays it out in his typically drunken and irreverent fashion (and some might say terribly contrived—I mean he says, “Fucking England, Innit,” in the preface.)

The whole story is naught but a middle finger to the bland Star Trek worlds of the time, with captains that, in his words, impersonate “. . . Katherine Hepburn impersonating William Shatner.”

But Switchblade Honey also comes off as such, with the casting of a real life actor to fill a fictional role in his sci-fi story.

Yep, again. Anyone remember the main character in Ocean?

In this case it’s Ray Winstone, famed British actor, a notable tough-guy with a perpetual “fag” hanging from his profanity laden lips.

Let’s just do it all up in typical Ellis style by using an accepted format and then putting lots of BANG, SHOCK, FUCK, all bollocks, to make it edgy, shall we? With a bit of British not-so-charm added, eh? What?

So, no, I did not care for Switchblade Honey.

The art is bad and the story is piss-poor. It tries too hard, too many times, to be too few things, strangely enough.

Ellis wants to make of all his characters heroes, who not only bucked authority but did it for noble reasons.

He uses a vaguely pushed love interest intermittently but to no effect.

The aliens are badly imagined and the world is meaningless.

To top it all off, there’s the typical bit of 20th century obsession that future stories always have (a la those Star Trek shows Ellis professes to hate.)

The characters make references to Viet Nam as if they were relevant in the year 2231.

It overall reeks of bad story telling and poor writing.

Still and all, there’s a bit of cleavage, some explosions, lots of anti-establishment, anti-authority dialogue, and a few nice space ship shots (okay, they’re mediocre), so it’s not a total loss. But then, I’m a sci-fi nut, so maybe that’s a little skewed.

Long story short, if you find Switchblade Honey for fifty percent off, like I did, buy it for the five dollars if a) you are a die-hard sci-fi lit fan or b) you are a die-hard Warren Ellis fan.

Otherwise, save your money for Orbiter (previously reviewed by Ian), or one of his other at least mediocre one-shots.

Overall I’d give it a 2 out of 5. A tad under mediocre and nowhere near the best of Ellis’ writing.

Essential Continuity:
Self contained. No outside continuity.

Read first:
No required reading before this title.

Read next:
I almost hesitate to put it in with Orbiter or Ocean. It could be argued that they had no better writing, but much better artwork.

Ellis’ most well known work is Transmetropolitan, though he’s had successful runs on many titles. (Ian loves Nextwave, a total farce in the Marvel Universe.)

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13 Comments Post New »

  1. Ian wrote on at January 16, 2011 2:49 am:

    It does seem like every thought Ellis has gets published.

    He’s a great writer, but has a bit of a filter failure problem.

    I’m not sure if it will be a good or bad thing for him in the long run. History is often kinder to those artists who carefully curate their work and burn anything they don’t consider amazing.

    But I have a personal level of respect for him allowing us to peak into a completely open brain – to see all the shit as well as the gems. Of course, whether paper, time and money should be spent on every one of those ideas is another matter.


  2. Dirt55 wrote on at January 16, 2011 10:51 am:

    Thanks for the review! The premise sounds interesting and might have been something I considered picking up. Even if I do find it cheap there are so many other trades that are likely more worth my time. I may have to look into orbiter, thanks for rederencing it and thanks for saving us all some time and money.


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