Welcome to Snowtown, a dirty, rotting festering hole filled with all sorts of crime, from the mundane to the terribly perverse. The police department has no real authority and everyone in town is either struggling to survive or already dead. Enter Richard Fell, the only detective brave (or stupid) enough to be asked for a transfer to America’s cesspit. The first (and only) Feral City volume collects a series of non-related stories that detail Snowtown’s unusual crime cases and bizarre inhabitants. During his off hours, Fell spends time with Mayko, a young woman named who runs a local bar. Fell proves himself to be an intelligent and resourceful man, display a high degree of book and street smarts as he attempts to mete out jawsuit in a lawless and evil world. As the only good cop in Snowtow, Fell must contend with cases so creepy and uncomfortable that I find it difficult to describe them here. This brings up an important point: this comic is absolutely not for children. Although free of sex and nudity, the nature of the cases presented here will churn your insides.
That isn’t to say Fell: Feral City is a work of shameless, gratuitous violence. Far from it. Warren Ellis pens an engrossing script that uncovers the vicious evils that people can do to one another and how one man decides to step in and protect the innocent. The crimes, though vile, satiate a morbid curiosity some exhibit when violent crimes are sensationalized by television shows like Law & Order and CSI. Richard Fell is just as interesting as the cases he works on and in many ways, he’d be the result if you combined Sherlock Holmes’ love of mysteries with Batman’s strong sense of justice. Fell puts himself in the role of Snowtown’s only protector (apart from three and a half detectives and a police chief who pops pills to fight off hallucinations) using his expert deduction skills to solve nasty crimes. That isn’t to say Fell is a perfect. In one chapter, he allows his hubris to get the better of him and becomes the instrument of his own downfall by allowing a killer to go free. Illustrator Ben Templesmith is in top form, his trademark style of surrealist artwork befitting the strange sights of Ellis’ dark world.
If there is one negative thing I can say about Feral City, it’s the complete lack of a second volume! For reasons, I’m sure, relate to the busy schedules of both writer and illustrator, no issues exist beyond what is collected in this publication. An absolute shame because I feel that there are so many more stories to tell. What did Richard Fell do that made him transfer to Snowtown? Who is the nun in a Richard Nixon mask and why did he steal that hobo’s money? Is there more to the symbols found around town than flippant superstition? Unless Ellis and Templesmith were to come back to it, we will never know. And that kills me.