I know that the smart take on science fiction is that it's best read when you're thirteen and that after that ginning up the old sense of wonder is extremely difficult. But last night reading the graphic novel Ocean written by Warren Ellis and elegantly illustrated by Chris Sprouse I felt much as I did in my teens and twenties when I found a particularly inspiring sf novel.
Sometime in the future, the UN sends weapons inspector Nathan Kane to a space station above Jupiter, where an exploratory team has made an alarming and ominous discovery: beneath the icy exterior of the planet's ocean moon, Europa, are coffins containing members of a sleeping alien race and guns capable of destroying an entire planet. As Kane and the station crew investigate, they are threatened by the sinister representative of a powerful software conglomerate seeking to exploit the discovery for its own purposes. Writer Ellis is at his best with character-based sf in which an iconoclastic protagonist is injected into an intriguing, futuristic premise, as in the cult favorite Transmetropolitan. Ocean lacks Transmet's verve and attitude, even though Kane is a resourceful badass like Transmet's Spider Jerusalem (classier, however; think Samuel L. Jackson for the movie), but is still a solid, provocative yarn that, emphasizing concept and character rather than action and heroics, and greatly aided by Chris Sprouse's lucid art, comes off rather like an ambitious, big-budget sf film. Gordon Flagg
Booklist would probably give it three stars. I'd give it four. On virtually every page Ellis introduces an sf concept that grabs and holds the imagination. Not the usual boilerpate stuff but ingenious scientific, cultural and politcal turns that reflect angrily on our own era. The illustrator Chris Sprouse won the Will Eisner award. Tough to beat that and his turn here shows you why.