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'Injection Volume One' Review

A Touch of Strangeness for the 21st Century

Injection is Warren Ellis' love letter to England, or perhaps Britain in the geographical rather than political sense, is the first thing that springs to mind when I think of Injection. Taking place in the here and now, the series is based on an almost deadly whim and a fundamental mistake. A team of unique individuals came together to create something that would ensure humanity would never stagnate, their creation would drive change, and ensure strangeness remained in the world. The problem is that it worked too well, and the fallout of their success has far-reaching repercussions. 

This, then, is the situation the reader is confronted with as the chief protagonist, Professor Kilbride, is interviewed in an Asylum to make sure she's fit for field work. Ellis, for it is he, is telling us that the stakes of the situation are already important and that they have serious consequences. Kilbride, we learn, was the head of a mysterious quintet, the Cultural Cross Contamination Unit (CCCU), who were initially brought together by the Lowlands University, the Ministry of Time and Measurement, and FPI in order to do something (seriously, having put the group together, there seem to be no clue as to what it's for, initially).

What's interesting about the group is that the male characters seem to directly correlate to the three big British fictional characters from the genre, Merlin, Sherlock Holmes, and James Bond. The women are less obvious and I'm still working out who they are. Kilbride's speciality is dealing with strange phenomena, while Brigid Roth, the last character, is an Irish computer wizard.

Having set the ball rolling with Kilbride, Ellis continues his love letter by introducing us to Robin, who fills the Merlin role. He's the Cunning Man and we find him walking the Ridgeway, an ancient road that he travels to reconnect himself to the country. During this walk, he's approached by a civil servant from the Ministry of Time and Measurement, who wants to recruit him to something called the Breaker's Yard, here Ellis is setting up the bones of the book and establishing the world he's playing in.

Kilbride's case proves to be an infestation of Spriggans who have possessed a pair of men after a stone found at an archaeological dig was "tested with sound."

After this, the narrative expands to focus on the other characters. Brigid Roth is called in to investigate a mysterious death linked to a computer genius, while the Vivek Headland and Simeon Winters, Sherlock Holmes and James Bond analogues respectively, are shown either performing their work or being called in to consult on the situation Kilbride is in. Ellis takes the opportunity to pull them in more deeply by introducing a laptop that a group of people who were apparently working for the Injection were using.

As the story builds, characters connect with each other in a number of ways and the mysteries deepen. Again, this is a form of story-building, setting up volume two from the very beginning (and for some reason obsessing over sandwiches). This brings tensions and old memories to the surface, showing us some of the CCCU's more troublesome pieces of history. It also gives us the origin of the tattoo that all the protagonists have and explains, more or less, what the Injection is and tells the information that the five combined science with magic.

The volume ends with Robin seeking the advice of Wayland the Smith and learning that he has to take control of his world, which seems entirely opposite because of what the Injection is—a system out of control that twists reality into new shapes. 

The tone of the book is more flippant and fun loving than Trees, also by Ellis, but there is a similar feeling underscoring a lot of the first volume. It feels as if the author is reaching out to try and find the Matter of Britain and what the country is now. Perhaps it's a little strange that instead of conventional history, he reaches towards magic, science, and some of the odder parts of British folklore (even down to the idea of protecting yourself from the Fair Folk by turning your coat inside out).

Declan Shalvey's art is well-drawn and coloured beautifully. It never reaches technicolour standards but it's wonderful to look at and in places rather sinister.

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'Injection Volume One' Review
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