Feelin’ Alive with Dead Pig Collector (Review)

Dead Pig Collector

There’s no denyin’ that some creators are only interested in treadin’ water.

Once a successful formula has been stumbled upon – whether it’s a character arc, chord progression, or secret ingredient – it’s relied upon indefinitely. To some minds, there’s simply nothing wrong with rehashin’ the same material over and over and over again. In fact, some creators suggest that to stray too far from the tried and true is to do a great disservice, that the fans’re expectin’ something that resembles the work with which they originally fell in love.

These sorts of creative types grow like weeds in the comic book community. Think of how many careers have been made on the backs of characters created in previous decades. Again, some culpability may rest in the readership, which devours comics more for its comfort-food properties than its potential for innovation. But at the root of this issue is that there’s no shortage of creators who only want to relive past glories.

Fortunately, there’s always Warren Ellis.

Warren Ellis has the reputation of being a mind-pilot who of self-navigates the course of his own career. In addition to penning some of the most aspirational pieces in the comics medium (Planetary is just one example) and presaging scientific innovation (Spider Jerusalem was rockin’ Google Glass back in `97), Ellis has always made a point to explore other media forms. Most notably, Ellis has followed paths that have led to essays, novels, and television projects.

With this week’s release of Dead Pig Collector, Warren Ellis has given zero fucks unrelated to forward-thinking.

So what’s the hubbub all about? Well, Dead Pig Collector is attention-grabbin’ in that it’s a long short story that’s available as a ninety-nine cent eBook single. While digital publication isn’t exactly a new idea, the decision of Warren Ellis — a writer of supreme respect in the comic book/science fiction circles — to release a short story for less than a buck is certainly intriguing. Does this mean the literary world is going to undergo a paradigm shift identical to that of the music industry, with direct-to-consumer publishing gobblin’ up a bigger piece of the pie? I’m not sure, but it’s a thought that Crazy Uncle Warren’s got me thinkin’ about!

But here’s the bottom line: I wouldn’t be smackin’ my dumb words into this word processor, conjurin’ up kooky ideas about the nature of creativity and the future of publication if Ellis’ short story was a dud. But the truth is that in a relatively limited space, Dead Pig Collector presents a multi-emotioned tale, alternately wrenching the gut and plucking the heartstrings. With such strong dynamics, I think that DPC is a great introduction to anyone lookin’ for their first sample of Warren Ellis.

The effectiveness of the story is found in the main character, Mister Sun, a contract killer of the most intriguing sort. When he’s not calculating the number of seconds each step of his murderous process takes, he’s waxing philosophic about the culture of Los Angeles (the setting of this particular yarn). Of course, even his laser-precisioned scheme is subject to the fate of mice and men, and Mister Sun finds himself in the best part of this story:  entertaining a guest while disposing of a body.

Without dilvugin’ any spoilers, I will say that fans are going to be clamoring for more of Mister Sun’s fatal affairs. If Warren Ellis does feel compelled to use him again, I think he’d make a great villain for the proposed TV adaptation of Gun Machine. But if nothing else comes of Sun, I think he’s made his mark on the Ellis legacy.

Why is that? Well, when all is said and done, Ellis plays with some unsettling notions, such as the magnetism of serial killers, society’s unspoken compact with those who do its dirty work, and the professional advantages of being heartless.

Luckily for us, Warren Ellis has not only a heart but a mind as well. And this is evident in Dead Pig Collector, another jewel in the bastardy crown of fiction resting atop Ellis’ head. Unless you hate great prose, forays into innovative new forms, and truly evocative fiction, cough up the ninety-nine cents and read Dead Pig Collector.