Gravel, Teacher – Strange Killings: The Body Orchard

This series of Warren Ellis’s combat magician sees our hero in the wrong spot at the wrong time.  Again.  Seems Gravel just cannot keep out of trouble no matter where he goes.  Good thing he has a skill set he can fall back on at times where things do not always go as planned, especially when he just wants to mind his own business.  After completing a job and receiving a large amount of money for it, Gravel decides to go for a walk.  As he is passing by a gathering for a mayoral election he stops to listen for a bit.  Not soon after a set of mysterious trees grow right up behind the man and some masked, and armed, men assassinate the mayor-to-be.  The men notice Gravel and open fire which is their first mistake and a firefight ensues and once over, Gravel now stands to blame for the murder.  Of course, he is not going to stand for the frame-up and seeks revenge against the men who just happen to be his old SAS team.

Like the previous series, the pacing of the book is quick and relentless which makes for a light and easy read.  There is a lot of killing and Gravel uses quite a bit of magic, although it is nothing we have not already seen in the previous volumes.  The best thing about the book was the Orchard where a chunk of the book takes place.  The fact that it can be used in numerous ways, such as staging incursions to wherever you wish to go upon the earth, as well as growing all manner of weapons is quite the novel idea.  If something like that truly existed it would be a formidable instrument in anyone’s hands.  Gravel of course knows how to use it to its full advantage and proves to be more than a match for the former members of his team, learning them a thing or two in the process.  As the book progresses, the violence and the pace escalate until the eventual end, in which of course, Gravel comes out on top.

Mike Wolfer does a great job on the art again, with his pages much more dynamic than the previous volumes in the series.  Some of the facial expressions are a little stiff, but other than that, Wolfer keeps improving issue after issue.  At times, the art is almost more exciting than the story.  Ellis does a good job as always, but at times, especially during this series, it sometimes seems as if he is writing more for a film than for a comic as the action and the scenes are fit more for the big screen.  The tale is light on the dialogue and relies more on Wolfer to tell the story with his pictures than anything else.  Not a bad thing either as they make a perfect team on the book  Still a comic to recommend and the best in the series so far up to this point.

4 out of 5

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