Comics: SVK and Burn Notice: A New Day Expose Previously Hidden Truths

What is Seen (and Unseen), and A Burning Man

By , Columnist
Seen (and Unseen)

, the latest project from the collaborative duo of Warren Ellis and D’Israeli, was released earlier this week. It’s a done-in-one experimental graphic novella, and a modern detective tale that its author, Ellis, has described as “Franz Kafka’s Bourne Identity."

However, in a break with the long-accepted way of distributing comics, readers won’t find it on the shelves of their local comic shops or even book stores. Nor will they be able to download a copy anytime soon to their laptops, tablets or e-readers. Instead, they have to buy it directly from the publisher, the decidedly forward-thinking design consultancy firm, BERG.

But that’s not the most unusual aspect of this particular project. Rather, the truly unique thing about SVK probably resides in the fact that only part of the story is readily apparent to the naked eye. To get the whole story, readers must use a specially designed torch (that’s a flashlight, for all the non-Brits out there) which accompanies the book to reveal different elements printed in UV ink, elements which otherwise remain hidden in plain sight upon the page.

SVK.pngIn other words, the comic and special UV torch combine to create a Special Viewing Kit (or SVK, hence the title), a tool which reveals otherwise unavailable information, adding new layers of meaning to the proceedings.

This kind of innovative approach to storytelling is nothing new to its creators, as those familiar with the work of both Ellis—the graphic and prose novelist whose  past work includes the hit comics series Red, Planetary, and Transmetropolitan—and acclaimed artist D’Israeli (AKA Matt Brooker), whose portfolio includes Stickleback, 2000AD, and Lazarus Churchyard, would attest.

Still, even hard core fans obsessed with the output of these two iconoclasts will likely find themselves viewing this particular work with a new appreciation for the sheer inventiveness on display here. SVK explores various layers of meaning while simultaneously exploiting certain modes of storytelling unique to the comics medium, leading to a reading experience that is quite unlike anything else out there at present.

Burning Man

It seems that a spy trying to come in from the cold can generate a great deal of heat.

According to cable network USA, an original graphic novel based upon their popular Burn Notice television series garnered more than 100,000 page views just days after its Internet debut. Created in conjunction with DC Comics, Burn Notice: A New Day sheds new light on how these two different media can work together synergistically, even while exposing secrets and events that might otherwise have remained unknown to those who only watch the show.

The series, which was created by Matt Nix, takes its name from a directive, typically called a “burn notice,” that’s issued by an intelligence agency once they suspect that one of their agents has become a security liability. It effectively severs all ties between the agent and their agency, leaving them bereft of all access to both material assets and personnel support.

Once burnt, an agent is left without any personal or work history, access to money or an even official identity - they are, in essence, a man (or woman) without a name or country.

From its beginning, Burn Notice has focused on the continued struggle of ex-spy Michael Westen (played by Jeffrey Donovan) to survive after he unexpectedly receives a burn notice from his agency. A secondary plot thread, concerning his ongoing efforts to track down those responsible for his plight, has played a central role throughout the show’s run.

It’s that secondary plot which makes the web-based graphic novel so intriguing… and important. A New Day delves into the period between the end of the fourth season and the opening of the fifth, detailing Westen’s globe-spanning hunt for the 31 people behind his fall from grace, making it required reading for longtime watchers of the show.

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A veteran journalist who has covered the comics medium since 1998, Bill Baker is also the author of Icons: The DC Comics and WildStorm Art of Jim Lee and seven previous books featuring his extended interviews with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and other notable creators. You can learn more about Bill’s work…

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