Hey gang, and welcome to the first Pulp of 2020! Hopefully you’ve all had a chance to rest and relax over the Christmas/New Year break, and if you haven’t (shout out to the fam in retail and hospo!) I hope your break is fast approaching. I had the luxury of two full weeks off work, and I loved every second of it – plenty of time to work on my “to-read” pile!
This week, I’ve picked up a relatively new and utterly enthralling book by one of my favourite comic writers of all time – Cemetery Beach, written by Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Hellblazer and more recently Injection) and drawn by Jason Howard (Trees, The Astounding Wolf-Man). Set in an alternate future, Cemetery Beach is a sci-fi action romp that reminds me of Mad Max: Fury Road in all the right ways.
Mike Blackburn is a professional pathfinder. He’s a highly-trained military operative with nothing left to lose, and he’s been sent on the mission of a lifetime. Over a hundred years ago, a secretive, powerful group of industrialists and scientists found and operated a method to leave Earth, establishing a colony that they were able to secretly fund and resupply.
Now, Earth has rediscovered the colony, and Mike has been sent in to work out what the hell they’ve been up to all this time. The problem? They found him, and there’s no way the President is letting him return home and ruin their carefully established dictatorial “paradise”. Busting out of his prison cell, Mike recruits local political dissident and murderer Grace Moody to get him back to his transport, and back home – assuming they’re not gunned down first in the name of national security.
Cemetery Beach wears its Mad Max inspiration on its metaphorical sleeve. Ellis himself has talked about how Fury Road in particular influenced his storyline, and while the overall “chase movie” structure is a handy storytelling crutch, what interests me more is the world building and unique setting that came out of it. Of particular interest is the weird, haphazard technology and bizarre mutants that Mike and Grace encounter midway through their journey, as well as the history of the colony itself that was left more or less unexplored bar the basics. There are so many aspects to the Cemetery Beach world that are of interest that I would love to see expanded on, but as far as I know the series was designed to be a limited run.
It would be remiss of me to talk about Cemetery Beach and not make special mention of Jason Howard’s artwork. I was impressed with his work on Trees, and he continues to excel here. A lot of the pressure is on him to continue Ellis’ momentum; there are quite a few instances where dialogue is minimal at best, and Howard has to convey the urgency of Mike and Grace’s flight on his own.
While I’m obviously a big fan of Ellis’ work, I was still surprised by how much I got into Cemetery Beach, and how disappointed I was to learn that I’d already read all there was to offer. It’s a fantastic premise, and I highly recommend you check it out if you’re a fan of Fury Road. Now all I need to do is hold out for a sequel!
Written by Alastair McGibbon