KARNAK: THE FLAW IN ALL THINGS
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Gerardo Zaffino (#1-2), Antonio Fuso (#2) & Roland Boschi (#3-6)
Colorist: Dan Brown
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles & Joe Caramagna (#2)
Cover Art: David Aja
Rating: 10/10 Flawless
I am Trevor and my blessing is that I do a review in all things… that are voted on each week from the lovely members on social media. This week was a special one as the books to be voted upon ended in a tie. The choice was on me and to what some would consider my flaw, I couldn’t resist revisiting KARNAK: THE FLAW IN ALL THINGS. A book I’ve become dangerously close to losing track of how many times I’ve read it now. This character got my curiosity on the Inhumans going and led me to pick up some of their books. Aside from losing a recorded podcast episode, where I gushed about this book, due to corruption, I couldn’t pass up the chance to read this book again when it popped back up in my pile and I’ll tell you why.
He Is Karnak
Have you heard of the Inhumans? The race of humans that were experimented on by the Kree (you know, the aliens from the Captain Marvel movie) to be used as weapons and then abandoned when they couldn’t control them. Aside from living in a floating city, they recently in the last few years took the forefront as almost replacements for the X-Men and mutants. The best way I always think about them is as similar to mutants, in that there are a rare number of the population on Earth that get crazy powers, just by different means compared to mutants who manifest theirs as teens. Inhumans get their powers after being exposed to the mist.
This is not Karnak. Karnak is one of the original members of the Inhumans introduced back in the day but where the rest of his family and team all had powers from the mist, Karnak did not. His family opted him out of the exposure after his brother turned into a fish person. Instead, Karnak grew up working as part of a group of people that helped those who have transformed acclimate to the new life ahead of them. But how does one without these cool powers contend with the rest you might ask? By working so hard that you develop the ability to see the flaw in everything. Systems, philosophies, structures, people, you name it. He can level a building with a punch in the right spot. He is a deadly weapon not to be underestimated.
The Fundamental Plot
Once upon a time, the mist that would give Inhumans their powers was done in a controlled environment, but now a giant cloud roams the planet and transforms anyone with the DNA inside them. This is where Karnak comes in as he gets contracted by the S.H.I.E.L.D.’s own Phillip J. Coulson to locate an abducted Inhuman boy and return him to his family (after some time at the Tower of Wisdom digging new latrines of course).
Karnak’s mission quickly becomes more than it seems as his abductors, going from being just some cult worshipping the kid as God to acts that question his very beliefs. From a priest wielding an invisible shotgun, a painter, humanoid eye crusties, to spider-people, this boy seems to be able to make anything happen (including giving himself his own private Chip & Dales entourage). Karnak not only has to deal with seeing the flaws in others and everything around him, but to complete his mission, he needs to look inward and find the flaws in himself.
The Tower of Ellis
Like the pyrite described by Karnak, the right minerals had to come along in this slurry for it to be flawless and devoid of empty space. One of those components comes from Warren Ellis’ writing. His writing for Karnak feels so perfect for the backstory, the philosophy he has, and the environment he comes from perfectly. His personality is borderline nihilism, with skepticism towards people’s existence and he shows both in his dialogue among others and his struggles internally. He will put Coulson on the back burner of a serious topic so that he can finish teaching his philosophy to a random waitress. Ellis also shows that extreme belief also wavers and even for someone who through all his talk and presentation, can still panic and question which I found very cool (I mean, you gotta have Karnak struggle somehow in this story).
Don’t let the stiff seriousness of Karnak fool you though, Ellis does a great job layering in a fair amount of humor among the story. Between Coulson’s interactions of having to put up with Karnak’s behavior, to the random agents that have to witness his “methods” of dealing with problems, it’s a good time all around. If a random agent in the book has to ask Karnak if he is Satan after witnessing horrifying awesomeness, you know you are in for a good time.
The Art In All Things
As perfect as the cube of pyrite is, so too is the art of this book. Gerardo Zaffino, Roland Boschi, and Antonio Fuso come together to bring the panels on these pages to life with action. Each fight sequence Karnak enters feels like the whole thing is playing out in motion before your eyes while still having this awesome gritty feel to it. For me, the transition from Zaffino and Fuso in the first two issues to Boschi finishing off the rest was almost flawless that I couldn’t tell the difference.
On top of fast-paced action and some very gory moments (I was surprised Marvel went with this when I first read it), these dudes nailed the appearances and expressions of the characters in this book. The demon-like monsters were brought to life on these pages gave me as much of a terrifying expression like the ones that witnessed Karnak blow a person up would give. The amount of jaw drops they have reacting to Karnak is fantastic and the terrifying smile they give him when he is excited or happy is super creepy. Also just the design of Karnak alone in this super cool. With his new character design in this series and the action scenes in this book, I almost imagined Karnak being played as Jason Statham.
The art of this book would be imperfect though if not for Dan Brown’s amazing coloring ability. His colors in this book weren’t bright, but dull and dark almost (aside from Karnak’s green coat). The amazing use of shadows and bloody detail Dan put into the more intense moments all played into this sense of dread and doubt that those Karnak went up against tried to make him feel. The biggest contribution I enjoyed from Dan Brown though was the use of style dots in this book. The way he dispersed them among the panels (especially in Karnak’s eyes up close) was always something that caught my attention and I found to be a really cool touch I can’t say I have seen in anything else I’ve read so far.
The Flaw In This Thing
Almost all things must have a flaw in the eyes of Karnak. Through my eyes, however, the flaw would have to be that Karnak is not a more utilized character in the Marvel Universe. KARNAK: THE FLAW IN ALL THINGS continues to this day to be one of my all-time favorite reads and recommendations from Marvel. It’s a combination of action-packed art and the perfect amount of use of dialogue makes it a quick and easy book to revisit while still being flawlessly enjoyable. Despite what many might think about the Inhumans, the flaw would be not checking this book out.