Warren Ellis has proven himself as one of the most influential graphic novelist of the 20th and late 21st centuries. Global Frequency has been one of his most defining works. It is a visceral graphic novel that features a variety of short stories with only a couple recurring characters throughout. Warren Ellis is capable of making a variety of political and social comments in the form of a turn of the century, action sci-fi tale.
The chapter of particular interest to me is “Big Wheel”. The title page perfectly showcases the main themes of the chapter. The title page contains a slightly see through hand with a variety of mechanical images on the inside. It shows the tight relationship between our hands, and the technology that it is capable of building. The desert below the hand as well as extensive yellow coloring alludes to the most destructive technology created, the atomic bomb. All technology is built using our hands. Yellow is the prominent color for radiation warnings as well as being shown in the sandy, dirt landscape of the American west. One other highly intriguing image is that of the compass, which can be seen next to and surrounding the hand. According to the symbol for Freemasonry, “the compass, to circumscribe and keep us within bounds with all mankind” shows the relation that it has to humanity’s morals. The Big Wheel compound, another circle metaphor, has breached this boundary of morality by creating a living, breathing weapon.
One of the most visually striking scenes in the chapter was the reveal of the enhancile, or cyborg. The interplay between the various colors was able to enhance the impact that the reveal ultimately had. In the page leading up to the reveal, the dominant color in the panels was blue. The various light and dark shades of blue create this ominous feeling that something bad is going to occur. It also is able to red of the violence and gore to pop and stand out in each of the panels. The first shot is of him standing in a pool of his victims blood covered in shadow as Aleph rattles off all of his enhancements. The next shot is of his torso and is in the form of long vertical shots to force the reader to scan up then down slowly analyzing this monstrosity. The next shot is that of his eye staring back and the teeth bared in a symbol of universal aggression. The final reveal is a full page utilizing cold, blue steel meshed with the hot red flesh. The blood in the background splattered against the wall shows his extreme violence.
As the cyborg is being described, Aleph mentions each part of his human body that is being replaced with some sort of mechanical or cybernetic enhancement. This very much like the Ship of Theseus thought experiment which originates all the way to the first century. The thought experiment details how Theseus’ ship underwent various repairs until at one point, every part of the ship had been replaced with something new. The question asked during this thought experiment is at what point did that ship become something else or is it still actually Theseus’ ship? This can be extended to what Warren Ellis shows us in Global Frequency. If every part of the cyborg’s body is replaced with some sort of “enhancement” is he still human? I would posit that he is definitely not human, but at one point do we draw the line between human and cyborg?
In Manifesto for Cyborgs, “The main troubles with cyborgs, of course is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism.” I took this quote to mean that most technological advencements are due to humans desire for more advanced forms of destruction. The most advanced technology developed, the nuclear bomb, was developed during one of the most deadly wars that our planet has seen. During this chapter of Global Frequency, this cyborg has shown that man has ceased to operate the weapons and instead has become slaves to the weapons themselves. Even the cyborgs sexual response is programmed to reward him for every kill. Ultimately the main hinderance to a military is its human element. Its ability to feel or sympathize with the enemy runs contrary to what the military is organized for. This weapon is the most deadly in that it removes the human element. Captain Quinn is rewarded at a primal level for each kill he commits.
“The machine is not an it to be animated, worshipped and dominated. The machine is us, our processes, an aspect of our embodiment. We can be responsible for machines, they do not dominate or threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they.” It can be argued that Big Wheel has been irresponsible with its boundaries, and as a result, created something that is detrimental to society as a whole. These boundaries are also relatable to what the compass on the cover of the chapter serves to establish.