In the 1970s, Marvel came up with a fairly unique publicity stunt to shift some comics. They had just launched a comic based on the planet-saving antics of the ludicrously made-up rockers Kiss, and to promote it each of the band drew a vial of their own blood, adding it to the red ink that went into the comic’s print run. Fans flocked to buy the comic to get a tiny bit closer to their heroes. It was a great stunt, but at the end of it, all anyone who bought it really had was a really lousy comic, and quite possibly hepatitis.
SVK is the same sort of deal, but instead of a Peter Criss’ intimate fluids, what you wind up with is a UV torch and a sealed comic (I don’t think the torch gives you hepatatis, but I have been feeling tired lately). The idea is this: the central macguffin of the plot allows people to see things that wouldn’t otherwise be visible, and therefore the torch is your version of said macguffin, letting you seeing things that are printed in UV ink.
The trouble with this is that it’s pure marketing. If there was ever an idea that warranted telling the story in this way, it has been lost – the story itself is so slight, and grinds through such well-worn Warren Ellis tropes of surveilance and grizzled spies that it is the very definition of inessential.
Seeing characters’ thoughts is not a new thing – in fact, it’s something that has almost disappeared from comics of late, because it fosters lazy writing and looks corny. Tying it thematically to the physical element of the UV torch doesn’t elevate it – in fact it does next to nothing for the storytelling. There’s an air of satisfaction around this title, and while it is undoubtedly a very handsome object, with great art and design, it is almost worthless as a comic.
Warren Ellis has covered the topics SVK focuses on before, and better. If you want to read about paranoid total surveilance and the corrupting influence of power, read Transmetropolitan or The Authority. If you want to read about what happens to old spooks, read Red or Desolation Jones. Just don’t buy SVK, because all you’ll get is a lousy comic, a pointless torch, and hepatitis. Oh. Damn.