Published on October 26th, 2015 | by Noel Thorne


Karnak #1 Review

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Karnak is Warren Ellis’ 2015 Marvel book and for fans of the writer that’s all you need to know to rush out and grab yourself a copy (we all read his Moon Knight last year, right?) despite most of us thinking, “Kar-who?”. That said, this first issue is just ok by Ellis’ standards, neither terrific or terrible.

Under Marvel’s latest relaunch, All-New, All-Different Marvel (neither adjective is accurate), the X-Men titles have been significantly reduced while their Inhumans titles have been increased. Karnak is among the latter – there’s an Inhumans movie on the way, darn it, and readers must love the Marvel Studios X-Men substitute! (There’s an X-Men movie on the way too but Marvel don’t own the film rights to those characters so screw Fox.)

Who is Karnak? He was an advisor in New Attilan but he’s now Magister of the Tower of Wisdom (sort of like head teacher/philosopher in a weird stoic school/temple). Called up by Phil Coulson from SHIELD on “the infernal device” (an ‘80s brick-like mobile phone!), Karnak must save a boy who has undergone terrigenesis and been kidnapped by an offshoot of Advanced Idea Mechanics.


Karnak’s a good fit for Ellis. He’s a grumpy, moody, grim, sardonic git and so’s Karnak. Like Ellis’ Moon Knight, Karnak has returned from the dead, is deadly in hand-to-hand combat and has an air of mysticism about him. Also, Karnak’s dialogue has a similar world-view to those expressed in his Image series Trees, “Humans are no more important than objects and both are meaningless”. Yup, definitely sounds like Ellis!

Politics means SHIELD has to reach out to an Inhuman like Karnak to retrieve the hostage who has become an Inhuman himself recently. I did like the detail that the boy didn’t get any powers or change at all; the only thing that happened when he emerged from the cocoon was that his allergies cleared up!

The action is pretty good but felt forced. There’s a SHIELD agent in the interrogation room that instantly blows his cover when Karnak accuses him – why? It’s decent action though and shows us how lethal Karnak can be. That final scene is a nice touch too, ending in the middle of the type of scene that usually opens an issue or takes place around the 2/3rds mark.

All that said, Karnak doesn’t really offer anything new from Ellis. He’s become known for writing comics with a miserable bastard as a main character and has written the covert retrieval mission story many times for Marvel. Karnak’s an intriguing character and enjoyable to read about but everything else in the issue is underwhelming.


Gerardo Zaffino’s art is at its best when depicting Karnak in his natural surroundings at the Tower of Wisdom. The pages look otherworldly and strange and really grab the reader’s attention. Once we’re past this though the panels look drab and dreary: gloomy office rooms, nondescript corridors, and generic warehouses fill the pages making for unexciting visuals. Dan Brown’s colours are very muted though that might be to suit the character’s extremely lo-fi attitude and I love the stylish David Aja cover.

Karnak #1 is a perfectly decent comic that introduces a cool, old character to a new Marvel universe and audience within a mildly interesting, though well-worn, story template. Warren Ellis tends to work better within a larger framework so, while this might not be a must-read monthly, Karnak will probably be worth picking up in a collected edition once the series wraps.


Publisher: Marvel

Writer: Warren Ellis

Artist: Gerardo Zaffino

Colourist: Dan Brown

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