I’m thinking of starting a “Comic Deserving of Wider Recognition” award here at STR. If I did, Ross Wellington would be the first recipient of that award. This self-published book, the brain-child of Brian Ellis and Marc Van Handel, is the kind of genre-bending mashup that makes my heart race. Add to that the art and storytelling are top-notch, and there is no reason why this book should not be snatched up by a major publisher!
Ross Wellington is a down on lis luck PI. He has headed out West to San Francisco to escape some trouble he is leaving in Las Vegas. Unfortunately that means leaving the girl he cared about and everything that made the place home. Now he is dodging the landlord who wants her rent, tailing philandering wives, and trying to figure out how get enough money by the end of the day to spend the night in the bar. And, oh yeah, he’s an alien.
AS the title indicates, Ross Wellington was one of the alines who crash landed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. He escaped from the authorities and managed to pass himself off as “one of the locals”. It is never quite clear in the story if he is disguising himself/altering human’s perception so they see him as a human, or if everyone just naturally accepts the fact that he has bulging eyes, an over-sized cranium, and blood that glows green.
But you know what? That doen’t really matter.
In the story, everyone accepts him as one of their own. He is a living, breathing part of the environment. Since everyone accepts him, the reader does too. While there may be things from time to time that remind the reader that Ross is not human, there are, from time to time, things that indicate to the people in the story that he is not quite human as well. It keeps the reader in the same frame of mind as the rest of the participants in the story.
The story itself takes the idea of a P.I. mystery and turns it on its head. The initial case that Wellington accepts is nothing more than a MacGuffin. It really has no significance other than to get everyone moving. There is a fun little nod to this fact in a scene in the book involving a lamp-post and a couple of street signs. The book is a tangle of mafia politics, alien conspiracy theories, and late-forties post-war American ideals. That means that the reader has to slow down and actually pay attention. Characters from the past are brought to the forefront, while formerly important characters fade in to the background. the scenery and setting is just as important as the people (and alien) who move through it.
The action is intense and the mysteries are full of twists and turns that make your head spin. It is never clear as you turn the page if our hero is going to be punched, kissed, shot at, or make an important discovery that will ask as many questions as it answers.
Ellis’ art strikes the right tone for the book. It is dark and “real” enough to set the mood for a P.I. Noir story, while still having enough tongue planted in the cheek to recognize that the main character is a five foot tall alien in a fedora. The artistic balance works because it makes Ross the perpetual underdog. Visually he just doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the world. He is a little to short, a little too fat, and those eyes are just a little too big. You never know if he is going to make it out on top or not, and that is just how it should be for a P.I..
There have been four issues of Ross Wellington produced so far, totaling a whopping 140 pages of content. Best of all, they are all available to read for free on the Ross Wellington website. So read it. Enjoy it. And then tell a friend!