Despite his unwelcome ‘promotion’, the newest member of the Major Seven is in a mood more to consider the past than his current predicament. The latest instalment of Warren Ellis and Mike Wolfer’s Gravel ongoing is a strangely reflective piece, as the main character looks back to a time when the military ethic would have been more suited to his resolutely dispassionate view of the world.
Musing on his previous occupation leads Gravel to select which member of his new cotemporaries would be most likely to offer him advice over the mystery he’s been tasked with solving, but the temptation to simplify his new situation soon proves irresistible. Despite containing all the violence you’d expect from the title, the emphasis is very much on the middle section of the story, as a curiously respectful Gravel allows to Black Admiral to impart his tale, and muse on the nature of the life he chose. For all the title character’s emphasis on his Britishness, his nationality comes across far more strongly in his lament for the once-great shipyards of Bristol than the Gulf War flashback to his days of relatively conventional military service. The tone of disappointment and anticlimax resonates with Gravel’s lack of satisfaction with the nature of the Major Seven- the mixture of philosophers he’s encountering are obviously beginning to grate with his harshly practical nature. As usual, it’s the man himself’s iron core of purpose that solidifies to book, providing an unmissible focus for the story to centre on.
Co-writer Wolfer acquits himself admirably with an unenviable task, having to combine the realistic tone demanded by the story’s use of navel history with the Pirates of the Caribbean moment that the reader subconsciously expects throughout. His stylistic trait of leaving parts of detail absence from a scene adds much to the mood, and makes Gravel an unreadable silhouette as he takes stock of the situation. While some might criticise the issue for the minimal amount of plot that unfolds, ‘Reconnoitre’ lingers in the memory, providing a conversation and lament that lingers in the memory long after flashier comics have faded.