SVK by Warren Ellis and D'Israeli

My parents were always supportive of my tendency to read just about everything, so I never really had the experience of reading comics by flashlight under the covers when I was meant to be asleep. I'm sure if I did have that memory, reading SVK would have invoked childhood associations with clandestine information.

SVK is the new Warren Ellis/D'Israeli/BERG joint: a comic that was sold only by mail order and printed with a special ultraviolet dye that you need the ultraviolet torch to read (it's a British book by British creators--the transAtlanticism makes sense). The gimmick is that thought balloons--long thought to be out of favor among Anglo-Saxon creators--are printed in ultraviolet (UV), so you (the reader) need the torch to read them.

As there is UV ink on almost every page of the book, it is generally worthwhile to basically read the whole book via the UV torch. This works best in a dark room, so that you are actually relying on the torch for all of your light--"a flashlight under the covers." Printed only in black and white, the only color is the UV, which works perfectly. The book is illustrated by D'Israeli, a master craftsman who cut his teeth on black and white pieces for 2000AD like Leviathan.

The story is fairly a fairly conventional piece made of generic spy elements, but the macguffin ties the torch into the story quite effectively--making it a good, old-fashioned piece of solid "explore one-idea well" science fiction. It was exactly what was required of a book like this and it's something that Ellis is good at writing. I'm certain he had some fun coming up with something interesting to do with UV ink--and it worked.

The only drawbacks to the book were minor. First, the torch is not very comfortable to hold for more than a few minutes at a time. Second, some of the UV ink wore off on adjoining pages or bled through, which softened the impact of the UV thought balloons.

If I had wanted to get a better UV torch, I would have (there's one in the Lost box set I could have dug out). I did not and sucked it up. And the ink bleed is something I noticed because I'm a creator and I pay attention to those elements of production more than most readers.

On the other hand, the essays, cover and advertisements all have UV easter eggs that make the book very fun; a complete product that is as much infotainment as it is outright bespoke comic book making.

I think the first print run sold out, but if it gets reprinted, you should buy a copy. It has an essay by William Gibson AND Paul Gravett. How can that be bad?

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