One day, Warren Ellis thought to himself that comic books were, comparably, a pretty expensive hobby. Spend the same amount of money on a movie or book, and not only would you be entertained for a longer period of time, but you'd get a whole story arc, to boot.
Fell is a Police Procedural centering around a detective who transfers to the slum-like Snowtown, a so-called "feral city" - largely lacking an organized government providing such things as running water or child protection services, populated by drug dealers, murderers, psychopaths, man-eating packs of de-domesticated dogs and one crazy nun. There, he must deal with a Crapsack World of Black-and-Gray Morality.
Templesmith's murky and unsettling art lends a complementary mood to the Darker and Edgier comic. However, Detective Fell is not an Anti-Hero, nor does he fail to gain the reader's sympathy. The dark themes in the comic tend to be less epic and more subdued.
Fan reaction to Fell has been largely positive, not in the least due to an appreciation of Ellis' desire to keep prices down but still deliver a complete story with good art, and not resorting to cliffhangers or slow pacing to increase profits.
This comic book series provides examples of:
- Arc Words: Arc symbol, which is a protection symbol that is burned onto Richard Fell's neck in the first issue and seen scrawled on structures across Snowtown.
- Autopsy Snack Time: In one scene, the coroner of Snowtown eats his sandwich above a cadaver. One of the sandwich's tomatoes falls onto - no, strike that - into the cadaver. Fell threatens to shoot the coroner if he picks it back up and eats it anyway; this doesn't stop him.
- Crapsack World: Snowtown is an incredibly grim place. Somehow, Fell doesn't let that get to him.
- Dissonant Serenity: The suicide bomber, at least initially.I find the internet very exciting.
- Framing the Guilty Party: Issue #4 has a particularly notable case. Fell sees his first "floater" - an extremely obvious homicide that's spent ten days rotting in the water - and is forced to admit it's hopeless; all trace evidence is long gone, all distinguishing features have rotted away - there isn't even any I.D. All there is is the blunt trauma injury - the coroner narrows it down to "something round and hard like a length of pipe." Thus, when he's walking the docks and sees a mugging in progress, he throws the mugger a boat hook and dares him to kill him, so he can kill the mugger in self-defense. The victim agrees to say the mugger attacked him with the boat hook. Fell then delivers the page quote; he may not get that specific murderer, but he's going to catch every one he can.
- Improbable Weapon User: Detective Fell shot a man who was in the process of filling a grocery store's produce with sharp objects. "It was self defense. He was armed, after all, with Death Bananas."
- Klatchian Coffee: The "Death Coffee" from Mr. Yang the Food Pervert. "He melts a Hershey Bar into a pot of filter coffee, pours a 16oz and then drops a depth-charge of espresso on it. And maybe crystal meth. I don't know what feels worse: having one Death Coffee per day, or skipping it."
- Noodle Incident: How did Fell get himself sent to Snowtown?
- Also, Helen alludes to the fact that at her new post in Snowtown, no one knows about "that time with the axe", a story Fell seems to enjoy telling, but sadly we don't get to see it.
- Oddly Small Organization: For all the crime in Snow City, the police force has only four and a half detectives (the half is one detective without legs).
- Story Arc: Though each issue is self-contained, there are continuing elements, including the mystery of why Richard was transferred.
- Unsound Effect: Fell for some reason likes to say the words "retch" and "puke" when engaging in said activities.
- Vomiting Cop: Not from the crime scene itself, but from when the coroner, who's eating a tomato, accidentally drops it in the victim, then takes it out and eats it anyway.
- Wretched Hive: If you've read up to this point, do you need to ask?.