Strange Killings is the first in a series of brief, ultra-violent encounters by Warren Ellis and Mike Wolfer starring the SAS's only 'combat magician' - the sinister Sergeant Major William Gravel. In this adventure, Gravel is flown back from doing something weird to a Third World dictator in order to settle a prison riot that has exploded horribly out of control.
The story is quick, shallow and explosively messy. William Gravel wanders around being destructive and vaguely (but not explicitly) magical. He alludes to things that are vaguely eldritch, but never actually does so much as produce a rabbit from a hat.
Similarly, the bad guy (unnamed killer magician) doesn't really have so much to say for himself. He's pretty evil, fairly annoying and a bit thick.
The problem is, it feels like Ellis is trying to merge the chaos of Grant Morrison with the violence of Garth Ennis, and, in doing so, loses all voice of his own. The occasional Morrisonion weirdness occurs - followed quickly by an Ennisian exchange with an authority figure - and then the curtain falls. Nowhere is Ellis being Ellis.
Wolfer's art fails to help the situation. Rather than giving Gravel a stylized universe to live in (or shoot up), Wolfer attempts to create something very realistic (if black and white). Again, the result is a watered-down Ennis. Although things are detailed enough to be a bit squicky, they're still not actually emotive enough for the reader to care.
The sequel, Stranger Kisses is much stronger. Ellis rediscovers his own voice and Wolfer's art is a strong complement to the storyline. Strange Killings, however, is only worth picking if you're an Ellis completist or have a pathetically keen appetite for thoughtless violence, poorly rendered.