Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Published by: Wildstorm/DC

I’m finding it hard to wrap my mind around the idea of Warren Ellis (newuniversal, Fell) writing an ill-adjusted misanthrope with the personality of a bastard. Yet here we have a new ongoing title from Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III. Desolation Jones has a premise fairly similar to that of the USA show, Burn Notice: Michael Jones, a former MI-6 operative, bottoms out and ends up trapped in L.A., where the authorities keep ex-intelligence community. He works as a private investigator to make ends meet. Where it differs is that he was a part of a project called the Desolation Test. For a year, he had the life tortured out of him, to the point where he was incapable of feeling, of being concerned.

Ellis explores corrupt societies through his subversive stories, though they don’t seem nearly so subversive when he’s given free reign as opposed to playing in someone else’s sandbox (say, like with Thunderbolts). Though the book has its brutal edge—Jones’ case involves the search for stolen Hitler porn—Jones isn’t the typical Ellis badass. Sure, he’s still a smart, sarcastic tough guy, but he’s a scrawny, scarred, can’t handle direct sunlight. Like many of his protagonists, Ellis imbues his cold, cynical exterior with an idealistic core.

“You know what you learn from that? Death is easy. Death is ordinary. It is not special. Your life is not special.” –Michael Jones

Many of Ellis’ characters tend to embrace their anger and bitterness. Nurturing those qualities as fuel to get up in the morning, a state of living desperation, a man whose life is falling apart – they are flawed but intriguing characters that are also inescapably human. We derive our self-worth from what we do, we’re of value because of how we behave or how much we have. Michael Jones seems to exist at the bottom of his life, with nothing left to lose. His is the ultimate end of self moment, the point of clarity that can often define us. We try to fix ourselves, essentially creating a self-salvation scheme as we try to re-create ourselves by trying to maintain control, to be the gods of our own lives, often neglecting the things that should truly be the most important things in our lives.

We should all have confessional moments, a moment of examination when we look inward and realize that we aren’t where we were meant to be, not doing what we were meant to do, not living how we were meant to live. Brennan Manning says it this way: “Sanctity lies in discovering my true self, moving toward it, and living out of it… While the impostor draws his identity from past achievements, and the adulation of others, the true self claims its identity in its belovedness. We give glory to God simply by being ourselves.

Desolation Jones isn’t quite Ellis playing in the typical Ellis sandbox. We still get plenty of the over-the-top scenarios, the peek into the underground subculture. J.H. Williams III brings his Promethea palette to the book giving a richness to its aesthetic. The only weakness to the book is the familiarity of it: we get investigations into the weird by an intelligent protagonist and his sexy assistant; all against the back drop of philosophical discussions and tech intrigue. Thing is, it’s still Warren Ellis doing what Warren Ellis does best. The dialogue snaps, making his screwed up sensibilities go down that much easier. And though it seems familiar, it’s always fun to watch him explore these characters.

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