SVK: May Those Who Have Eyes, Read. / by Alex Jarvis

SVK is a limited edition release comic, a collaboration between esteemed writer Warren Ellis (who is likely my favorite author, but that’s for another post), artist  Matt "D'Israeli" Brooker, and the London design studio BERG. It had the good sense of becoming available to order on a day when I had the funds to purchase the relatively expensive book (18 pounds sterling for the comic plus shipping to America. I paid roughly $25 for it, but your mileage may vary) and while it was still available. It has currently sold out of its first run, with BERG presumably prepping a second.Before I get into the plot, let me explain why this book is so damned interesting. The book is not particularly large, running 34 pages with ads placed throughout. What is so interesting about this book is the concept of tying plot to production. SVK stands for “special viewing kit”, a device used in the story to read the minds of people around them, and the plot centers around someone trying to track down one of these devices for a shady client. Ordering the book comes with a “torch”, in reality a UV light. When the torch is shined on the page, it can reveal the thoughts of various characters throughout the book. It’s a simple idea with complicated ramifications (including an interesting sub-commentary about how the “thought bubble” has fallen out of favor, but I’ll save that for the discussion next week). SVK’s writing is a crisp version of Ellis’ usual fare. Ellis always does the minutiae of dialogue perfectly, and this comes out no better than in the thoughts of his characters. The pettiness, the narcissism, the grime and much that the average person sorts through their brainmeat in a given day - it’s all in there, available to the reader as well as the protagonist. I found myself wishing there was more meat to the plot, which is equal parts good and bad. On the one hand, it showed us a glimpse into a world that I found very compelling (albeit with some monologuing bad guys), but it was so short that I felt like wanting more. This likely won’t sit well with some of the budget-conscious readers of the site. If you are an Ellis fan, then from one to another, this is definitely not one to miss. It’s Ellis, true to form and then some.The art is very interesting. It’s black and white with a tone of blue, which was chosen for a reason I am unable to intuit (maybe because it shows up well under the torch?). “SVK”balances the simple direct scenes with the giant cluttered scenes, the latter of which tended to focus more heavily on the blue. In fact, in reading it again, I like how the blue is used to contain focus on the action. The larger scenes with more moving parts showed so much interesting detail, and the blue manages to contain it all, pulling you back to where you are supposed to be looking (the predominantly white areas). Very well done.  I was not aware of D'Israeli before this, but now I’d love to see more of his work, especially with Ellis.

There is a third player in this book as well: BERG. The design of this book is absolutely phenomenal. The ads, even the forward (by the amazing author, William Gibson) all use the Torch in great ways. I wouldn’t recommend focusing on them too much during the initial read through, save it for reads two and higher. The story is not really long to begin with, and segmenting it further with the (delightful) ads won’t help.  The book (and torch) are sturdy and made of quality materials. It’s an absolute joy to hold in your hand. I’d love it if the rest of the industry, specifically the weeklies, took this approach. My wallet wouldn’t.

The worst thing I can say about SVK is that I have no idea where to keep it. It’s definitely a notch above the weekly comic bins, but with its perfect binding (as opposed to the binding of a trade paperback), I am not sure it will stand out/survive by bookshelf, to say nothing of the included accessory. I’ve taken to keeping it in the sturdy cardboard envelope it arrived in, though the cover is beautiful enough to frame on its own. As mentioned, the price is going to turn some people away, but the book is unique enough (and avoids gimmick) to justify the price to some.

TL;DR: A one-of-a-kind book by a knockout creative team, SVK is an interesting experiment in comic storytelling. If you can afford one, and they’re available, I recommend picking it up.

SVK is written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Matt "D'Israeli" Brooker. It was published by BERG, a London design consultancy,  in a limited edition run. It is a self contained one-shot that comes with a UV light "Torch".  As of this writing, it is out of print. You can register your email to learn more, and eventually buy a copy, here