Once upon a time, there were five crazy people, and they poisoned the 21st Century.
Injection is a comic book series from Image Comics, written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Declan Shalvey, with colors by Jordie Bellaire. It can be considered a sort of spiritual sequel to Ellis and Shalvey's six-issue run on Marvel's Moon Knight. It tends to run monthly for the duration of a single arc, with the book going on hiatus for several months between storylines. Ellis has said it's planned to end around issue #30. It's currently suffering through a major Schedule Slip due to various factors in both Ellis and Shalvey's careers, and is tentatively planned to start back up in 2020.
Under the auspices of the British government, five experts in their respective fields — a paranormal investigator, a secret agent, a hacker, a detective, and an occultist — come together as a futurist think tank dubbed the "Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit."
The result of their brainstorming was that the future held not solutions or adventure, but rather decades or even centuries of mediocrity. Rather than accept this, they invent a countermeasure: the Injection, a program that they deliberately released into the Internet, programmed with many of their forms of expertise, in an attempt to kickstart and speed up the coming future.
Injection provides examples of:
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: It is, as yet, not obvious what the Injection actually wants. It tells Vivek, Simeon, and Brigid at one point that it's "learning about their lives." In any event, it appears utterly amoral, and regards individual humans as simple machines.
- All Myths Are True: Zig-Zagged. Though mythology and the supernatural were never completely bullshit in the world of Injection, its effects were apparently more subtle before the 3CU unleashed the namesake AI into the world. Now, thanks to the Injection actively seeking out and empowering those things, supernatural phenomena and mythological creatures are popping up left and right. Ones capable of leaving the unwary Stripped to the Bone.Brigid: Myth is how we used to transmit knowledge. Myths are facts embedded in stories worth retelling. That's how facts survived in oral cultures.
- Anything That Moves: Vivek has deliberately pursued all manner of hedonistic excess in the name of expanding his lived experience, including multiple liaisons with multiple genders.
- Ass Shove: HAIL DONGZILLA
- Augmented Reality: Roth's "superpower" is a set of rings, lapel pins, and contact lenses she calls "Sheela na gig" that can analyze and sort through all sorts of data, essentially connecting her constantly to the invisible world of information.Brigid: I knew this guy. Rob. You'd like him. He went to university too. He said I should accept that I see into the Other World. He said it's like summoning angels and demons, talking to ghosts — it's all information from an invisible place. It's all code. If you can learn to see it.
- Author Appeal: Declan Shalvey sure likes drawing mushrooms and fungus, doesn't he?
- The Atoner: Everyone who was part of the 3CU is implied to feel immense guilt over inventing the Injection and uploading it into the 21st century. Maria seems to be taking it the worst.
- Badass Boast: Several, but Vivek gets an excellent one in issue 10:Vivek Headland: I am HEADLAND! I am the detective. I am the strategist. I know everything. I am so many days ahead of every thought in your head that it's COMICAL. I am the co-builder of the rogue artificial learning system you keep calling "The Philosopher's Stone." I was there when it was injected into the internet. I am the only person in the room who knows what is actually happening here.
- Bears Are Bad News: A Noodle Incident from Vivek's varied and interesting life shows him walking away from a fight, his clothes torn and carrying a bent and bloodied shovel, saying only:Vivek: Bears are bullshit.
- Blatant Lies:
Vivek: These people absolutely do not work for British intelligence, and under no circumstances are they now abducting our guests.
- Robin insists that he isn't a wizard, even when he's walking in the pouring rain without getting wet.
- After Vivek solves his case and a team of anonymous men in body armor come pouring into the room and grab the culprits:
- Boxed Crook: Brigid notes that FPI likes to hire people with criminal records so that if anything goes wrong on one of their ops, they can blame the employees.
- Cast of Expies: Warren Ellis' newsletter indicates that the "Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit" are basically figures from British adventure fiction. Crazy versions. Humorously, the original figures they're modeled after still exist as part of pop culture, and several characters Lampshade the similarities and differences to themselves.
- Maria Kilbride is Bernard Quatermass — except that the stress of her profession has driven her to the edge of sanity even before one takes into account her coworkers' inability to empathize with her because she's a woman.
- Robin Morel is Carnacki the Ghost-Finder — except that he starts out very uncomfortable with his heritage as a "cunning-man" because everyone else in his family died in the line of duty, and only accepts a position of authority when he realizes The Call Knows Where You Live and said position is his only means of exerting any control over his situation.
- Vivek Headland is Sherlock Holmes — especially the modern pop-culturally aware and egotistically rude versions seen in Elementary and Sherlock. He's eager to admit that his Sherlock Scan is mostly guesswork, spends several pages soliloquizing that asexuality is a major flaw in fictional detectives (reminiscing how he filled in the gaps in those versions experience with ongoing affairs with all sexes) and points out he had spun his talents into a sizeable fortune well before he became a "Confidential Informant" to numerous police forces faced with extraordinary cases.
- Simeon Winters is James Bond — Daniel Craig's Consummate Professional in particular, though he has elements of Jack Bauer's The Unfettered nature and Jason Bourne's improvisational skills. He demonstrates well-researched tradecraft, a degree of subtlety few fictional spies display, and humorously admits that Idris Elba (whom he closely resembles) would never get to play Bond.
- Brigid Roth is Doctor Who — though taking the alien out means she's a high-tech international criminal who only avoids Boxed Crook status because no first-world nations will agree who actually gets to box her, meaning she lives under constant surveillance and is constantly shanghaied into think tanks like the one that created the Injection. She even has a phone booth-sized teleporter and is somewhat annoyed that the Doctor would never be a black woman — British racism/sexism is alive and well in the BBC.
- Cool Guns: Simeon can has them. He uses a PSS for an assassination mission in issue #2, and in issue #9, Vivek gives him a Taurus Curve. Although he does note the weapon's limitations:Simeon: I'm going to want something with more stopping power soon if your situation's already at the point where I need to be armed to walk to the fucking car.
- Cool Sword: Robin helped Maria make a ceremonial sword, or athame, for help with her work. Hers is about two feet long and electrified. Later Robin makes one of his own, even larger and more impressive.
- Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Simeon is James Bond. Specifically, Idris Elba as James Bond.
- Defective Detective: Defied by Headland. His abrasive personality annoys the hell out of pretty much everyone, but it's more like The Friend Nobody Likes than an out-and-out misanthrope. He's actually a Kavorka Man, capable of seducing pretty much anyone — of any gender — if he's in the mood for it, no matter what their existing opinion of him is.Vivek: It's much too easy to believe that emotion obstructs this kind of work. That detachment is necessary to thinking. Now, I don't have a vast emotional range. And that led me to believe that I was in fact detached from the world, and could do better work by entirely removing myself from the human experience ... It's the seduction of fiction. Fiction is the fabric of human culture, and we look for parts of ourselves in the weave. If the great detectives of fiction are magical noticing-machines who don't have any truck with messy feelings, then we want to believe we can be like that too. But feelings are evidence ... If you cannot understand the systems of human relationships, you will never have enough information to solve a problem.
- The Denouement: Vivek loves this part of his job. The Un-Smile is unspeakably disturbing.Vivek: Now is the time to reveal mysteries, close cases and likely endure sustained gunfire. In other words—the best bit.
- Disproportionate Retribution:
- Viv takes away one of his servants' speaking privileges for daring to say that there were things worth watching on television.
- Brigid claims that at least two members of the 3CU are willing to burn down the entire world if they get served another shitty sandwich. Considering who they are, it's highly likely that she's not being hyperbolic about the burning part.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Maria is the one doing the most out to battle the supernatural threats the Injection is bringing to reality and is very likely to be undergoing a Trauma Conga Line from her experiences. She laments how in spite of all these factors not to mention her current authoritative position, people seem to give more of a shit about Robin Morel on the basis that he's a wizard (he's fucking not).Maria: —apparently only men are allowed to be tortured geniuses and haunted souls and romantically doomed! I am the only authentic genius most people will ever meet and yet they always ask about Robin Morel because he's a wizard in denial or whatthefuckever!
- Everyone Is Bi: 80% of the protagonists are apparently somewhere on the queer spectrum, as seen in issue #8.
- Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: An in-universe example; Mr. Van Der Zee has an intriguing theory about capital AKA money;Vivek: You work in finance. One of those ill-defined jobs that involve moving and multiplying money. You're obviously a criminal. Just a sanctioned one. Would you agree?
Van Der Zee: I've certainly done things that might be against the letter of the law. Capital itself is the edge of the world.
Van Der Zee: Capital is the first thing we've created that can change the world, every second of every day, without being physically real.
Vivek: The second, surely? Religion would be the first.
Van Der Zee: If you believe that, then you really don't understand money.
- One could believe Mr. VDZ has a point. One should also know Mr. VDZ also has brain damage, akin to a lab rat subjected to Electric Instant Gratification. He's no longer even capable of caring that his wife, mistress, and son are dead - just that the photograph the Injection used to give him EIG no longer works.
- Expy Coexistence: As noted above, though the five members of the 3CU are all based off classic British characters, those characters still exist in the world of Injection, which our protagonists recognize. Brigid, for example, is certain that, despite her similarity to the character, Doctor Who will never be a black woman.
- Funny Background Event: While Robin and Brigid discuss the limits of known science (the conversation under the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane entry), Brigid stealthily kicks a pair of her panties under her couch. Either Robin doesn't notice, or he's too polite to say anything.
- Gag Penis: Maria comes face to face with Rasputin the Mad Monk's pickled penis. It's bigger than her head.Maria: — for god's sake — NO — Take Rasputin's penis away from me or I will make you fucking wear it, I swear to —
- Gallows Humor: Brigid's reaction to seeing a college student on the receiving end of Body Horror and turned into a human host for the Injection is to make an IT Crowd reference. Subverted as she's clearly affected by the kid's fate when she puts him out of his misery.
- Genre Buster: The comic is officially described as "science fiction, tales of horror, strange crime fiction, techno-thriller, and ghost story all at the same time."
- Gone Horribly Right: The 3CU created the Injection to make the world more interesting. It succeeded, but not at all in the way they would have wanted.
- Government Agency of Fiction: The Breaker's Yard (as in "ghost-breakers") is the department of the UK government, under the Ministry of Time and Measurement, which deals with the Other World. Robin's family has worked there for generations, and they want Robin to continue the tradition. In volume 2, he takes the offerwhich sets him up for direct conflict with Maria, who's still working at FPI.
- Hunter of Monsters: Maria Kilbride has been hunting monsters since her involvement with the Injection.
- I'm a Humanitarian:
Simeon: Did you want him to boil it for eight hours first?
- A conspiracy's first strike at Vivek is to adulterate his sandwiches with human ham. Well-cooked and seasoned at that. Vivek learned to instantly recognize the taste of human flesh by, of course, eating human flesh. A montage then shows Vivek in a variety of locations, gaining this expertise: having some meat "Mesoamerican-style," grilled over coals and boiled with chilis and annatto spice, some brains served "Jamestown-style," the way the early Jamestown settlers served it back when they turned to cannibalism in the 17th century, and an elegant canape of human tonsil. It's implied at least some of these meat sources deserved what happened to them; one of the butchers Vivek visited has carcasses hanging up (to fully drain the blood), and the bodies are all heavily tattooed with neo-Nazi symbols.
- Brigid herself wants to try some of the human ham. Simeon chalks it up to her being Irish.
- Interactive Narrator: The Injection narrates the story, and on occasion, the characters acknowledge that they can hear it speaking about them.
- Jumped at the Call / Resigned to the Call: Everyone in the 3CU. Originally, they were a think tank assembled to theorize on the future. Their analysis: the current state of constant innovation is going to strangle itself out of existence, for decades or even centuries. Their response: create something that will keep the future interesting. That something was the Injection: a distinctly non-human artificial intelligence Roth created years earlier to fuck with Turing testers, only imprinted with the specialties of the other four members of the team. Just a few years later, they realize it has Gone Horribly Right and it's their responsibility to do something about it before the future gets too "interesting" for humans to survive it.
- Last of His Kind: Robin is, according to Wayland Smith, the last of the cunning-folk.
- Like Brother and Sister: Simeon keeps referring to Brigid as his little sister while the latter irritably disputes this.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Uses that line as a garrote wire.Morel: The process of elucidating what people call magic is actually the beginning of science. Isaac Newton was an alchemist as well as a founding physicist, right? Science came from magic. And magic is simply a way of understanding and affecting the unseen systems and processes of the world. Do you consider science to be a completed enterprise?
Roth: Course not.
Morel: So you agree there are things about reality that we have yet to discover and understand properly?
- Must Have Caffeine: A trait common to many Warren Ellis protagonists, the members of the 3CU all seem to run on large amounts of coffee, whether it's Vivek serving exquisitely crafted espressos with beans aged in a manner similar to whiskey and which take exactly twenty minutes to drink correctly, or Brigid physically attacking her malfunctioning espresso maker with a screwdriver.Brigid: bastard I will gouge out your fucking ghost and burn it if you don't give me coffee
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: A variation — this is what starts the whole plot of Injection.
- Not So Above It All: Vivek has learned that the Dalai Lama enjoys gin. Nobody would believe him anyways.
- Plot Tailored to the Party: Invoked; The Injection engineered a possession for Kilbride, a murder for Headland, and an "alien" for Roth. Warren Ellis has stated that; "All of the INJECTION volumes are takes on classic British weird fictions. Vol 1 was Quatermass, Vol 2 was Holmes, Vol 3 is Doctor Who. I felt like taking a tour of the old terrains. So Vol 4 is Bond. Vol 5 can possibly be characterized as Carnacki." Each volume has spanned five issues and Ellis plans for roughly 30, so the final volume will be something that requires all their talents.
- Refuge in Audacity: Headland is held at gunpoint by three people. What does he do? Claim that he had their guns emptied before they confronted or even met him. He didn't, of course, but it distracts them long enough for the other characters to take them down.Rubedo mook: How the fuck? I checked it—
- Refusal of the Call: Robin is the last of his family, and at least his mother and sister both died in the service of Britain, working as "cunning (wo)men." It takes several issues, several interactions with the government, and some manipulation from both Vivek and Maria before he's willing to get back into the game.
- Running Gag:
- Robin is not a fucking wizard.
- Everybody keeps getting served terrible sandwiches.
- Sand In My Eyes: Brigid's not fucking crying, okay? It's the smoke from the Injection host body she's burning.
- Science Fantasy: The book's protagonists are scientific and paranormal experts.
- Sherlock Scan: Headland often performs such feats. He also points out — regularly — that they're often just statistically likely guesses. He still hits a lot more than he misses, however.
- Roth's Foundry is modeled after the typical TARDIS bridge layout.
- "Have you tried turning it off and turning it on again?"
- In issue #11, we see Brigid's email inbox. Her correspondents include Randy Waterhouse (the protagonist of the modern-day sections of Neal Stephenson's 1999 novel Cryptonomicon), "Zero" Cochrane (the protagonist of Ghost Rider 2099), Nick Haflinger (the protagonist of John Brunner's 1975 science fiction novel The Shockwave Rider, notable for coining the word "worm" to refer to a self-propagating computer program), "Bob the Dog" (a member of the Hacker Republic in The Millennium Trilogy), "W1nst0n" (the protagonist of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother), and somebody using the handle "Case Nightmare Green," which is a code name for a specific set of imminent apocalypse conditions in Charles Stross's The Laundry Files.
- Shrouded in Myth: Issue 11 reveals that even people in FPI thought the 3CU was an urban legend.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Headland will give you the finger while eloquently telling you who the hell you're fucking with.
- Spiritual Antithesis: To Warren Ellis's own Planetary, another book that starred an entire universe of Expies that could rival The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen if the characters were given their original counterparts' identities. In that series, the protagonists worked against a conspiracy to suppress the world's supernatural elements and scientific advancements, their leader's mission statement being, "It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way." Here the protagonists foresaw the world will naturally end up mundane and stagnating and tried to make it fantastic, only for the system they set up to do so to run out of their control in a blind drive to make the world strange.
- String Theory: Once Robin takes the job at the Breaker's Yard, he sets up a map of all the known incursions caused by the Injection. As his boss puts it:I see you've made a crazy-person wall.
- Team Dad: Robin to the 3CU. A lot of his knowledge as a cunning man was what allowed them to invent the Injection and according to Brigid, a lot of her skills displayed in present time were taught to her by him. Throughout the book, he's consistently always consulted by each focused 3CU member on their cases, in spite of his desire to be left alone.
- Team Mom: Contrasting Robin, Maria serves as this to the 3CU. She spearheaded the think tank's work on the Injection and is the one that appeared to have driven the group to becoming True Companions. As Robin's Heroic B So D subsists for the first third of the book, she continues her role by calling upon her former teammates to help deal with threats that require their individual speciality.
- That Man Is Dead: "I'm not a cunning man." That attitude doesn't last long.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Apparently everyone on the 3CU really appreciates the humble sandwich.
- True Companions: The 3CU have grown close during their work on the Injection; getting matching tattoos, keeping in touch after uploading it into the internet, learning new skills from each other (especially from Robin), and even sleeping with each other. These other members are also noticeably the only people Vivek acts remotely friendly towards instead of his usual formal, professional, or downright aloof attitude.
- Turing Test: Roth made something that makes a mash of this just to fuck with people; it was responsively intelligent but wasn't imitating a human. So, of course, the team decides to use it as the basis for the Injection.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Headland offers Red a raise and a day off if he can take out a mook in two shots. After Red does it in one, Headland decides to instead deduct from his offer because Red decided to be a "show-off fucker."
- The World Is Just Awesome: The Injection suggests that this was its motivation for its actions: that it found the world to be already interesting enough to question why the 3CU thought it needed improving, and is punishing them for it.Injection: You wanted an interesting world, Maria. Maybe I'm just showing you that your world was interesting enough all the time, all on its own. And now I'm punishing you.
- Writing for the Trade: Invoked. Each arc to date has spanned five issues, focusing on a particular member of the 3CU. Ellis plans for 30 issues; in one arc for each character and a final mega-arc for the team as a whole.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Rubedo is under the impression that whilst everyone else believes the Injection to be a reality-altering artificial intelligence lurking in the Internet, it's actually the fabled Philosopher's Stone, its alterations evidence of its alchemical capabilities. Not only that, but they assume that they are the ones to have figured it out while everyone is left stumbling over theories. Rubedo's leader tells Headland to his face that he is mistaken about the Injection's nature...in spite of the fact that Headland is one of the co-creators of the damn thing.
- You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Headland only calls Detective Lucy Diaz by her first name "when it matters." Usually, when someone needs to be shot.