It is May 2, 2006. I’m working on building a cat condo for Leah’s cat. Louis Reukeyser, host of Wall $treet Week (How I pray that some day when she gets too old to be cool, Ke$ha discovers a hidden talent for economics and takes over that show), dies. Puerto Rico is forced to close their Department of Education due to an ongoing budget crisis, but I’m sure they’ll turn it around. Silvio Berlusconi resigns as the Prime Minister of Italy, to spend more time with, I assume, sex workers. Surely, he will never be heard from again. Bjoern Hoen, Petter Tharaldsen, and Petter Rosenvinge are sentenced to seven, eight, and four years in prison for their roles in the 2004 theft of Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Madonna. The paintings will be recovered in August. This week also sees the Great American Boycott, also known as the “Day Without an Immigrant”, a protest by US immigrants against the broken and frequently racist immigration policies in the United States. I’m sure that’ll get sorted out soon too.
Well, this has been kind of a bummer. Let’s look to the world of entertainment… Doctor Who wins the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama this week. Saturday, it’ll air “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Steven Moffat tearjerker in which the Doctor romances Madame du Pompadour in 18th century France, but is unable to adopt her as a traveling companion because a faulty time window has him show up after her death. This past Saturday gave us “School Reuinion”, the return of Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. The episode would lead to Sladen being given her own spin-off, which would run for five seasons until… Well fuck. Every damn piece of news this week has ominous foreshadowing, and I haven’t even mentioned that this is the week 7th Heaven airs its series finale (Then goes on to get renewed anyway because we don’t yet know about Stephen Collins).
Madeline Albright is Jon Stewart’s guest tonight. Paul Reikoff is Stephen Colbert’s. We’re approaching the Police Procedural Event Horizon, with three CSIs, four Law & Orders, and the first of the NCISes. Power Rangers Mystic Force is off this week, returning next Monday with “The Gatekeeper, Part 1”, an episode in which the actual rangers themselves are tangential at best, a frequent weakness of this season, with its unusually large supporting cast. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse premiers this week, reuniting classic Disney characters in banal, toddler-friendly adventures as creepy, soulless CGI constructs, and forcing parents to learn something called the “Hot Dog Dance”. Mission Impossible III is out in theaters this week. Goodfellas comes on on HD-DVD.
Almost two thousand guitarists converge in Poland to simultaneously play Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe”, setting a Guiness world record. Pearl Jam releases the Avocado album. “Bad Day” is the top song on the Billboard charts.
I’m not overly literate when it comes to comics. I never really got past the fact that in terms of minutes-of-entertainment per unit cost, comics fall somewhere between hard drugs and sex workers. But I’m not disinterested. I’ve watched every episode of Atop the Fourth Wall, and studiously never bothered to read my copy of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics.
The upshot of all of this is that my knowledge and background into comics is sort of haphazard and lackadaisical. Which is how I ended up with a copy of the Dark Horse adaptation of War of the Worlds. Because, although this comic is just a very straightforward, very direct adaptation of the novel, it’s also something else: it’s a prequel to Edginton and D’Israeli’s 2002 series Scarlet Traces, about the imperialistic ambitions of an early 20th-century England, bolstered by reverse-engineered Martian technology. Edginton and D’Israeli’s War of the Worlds was published a few months before Scarlet Traces‘s direct sequel, The Great Game, with a fourth series, The Cold War being published a decade later. And I will probably get to those eventually, but it turns out that I’ve got a ton of these comics to get through, and I haven’t worked out what the minimum number of things I have to buy to get the whole thing.
Oh, and remember Pendragon? The folks who put out one of the
most painful adaptations I’ve tried to fight through? Well, right after this adaptation came out, they took a stab at insinuating that Dark Horse had ripped them off, putting up a poll on their website comparing art designs from their “movie” to the comic. This was eventually settled, with Pendragon posting an apology on their website for giving the impression that they thought Dark Horse had ripped them off just because they pretty much said exactly that.
So with the ringing endorsement of having been accused of looking too much like a shockingly cheap-looking film, how’s Dark Horse’s adaptation? S’okay. It sticks close to the novel, despite being deliberately positioned to lead into Scarlet Traces. If there are direct references to Scarlet Traces, they’re subtle and don’t really change anything from the book. But I think it makes an interesting contrast to the Saddleback version in how it translates the story to the less verbose style of sequential art. And I find the art style cool in a lot of places, and… interestingly weird in others. So let’s take a look…
I like the art style here. It’s kind of a medium between the oddly over-detailed look we saw in the Saddleback version and the old-timey simplified style of the retro-Superman story. There’s also something unusual about the use of color that I don’t have the vocabulary to describe. It’s a limited palette with a small number of colors and exaggerated contrasts, but it doesn’t have the same harsh flatness of most comic art. Something like a pop art chiaroscuro that has a bit of an art deco quality to it.
Whenever space is shown, even the night’s sky, it has this reddish nebula effect on it. It livens up panels which would otherwise have a lot of empty blackness. And if it sometimes seems a little excessive, at least it’s clear that D’Israeli has actually seen the night sky before, which gives him a leg up on both Pendragon and whoever did the covers for Howard Koch’s War of the Worlds II.
For some reason, George doesn’t have a consistent character model. Maybe this is to show how much he changes as things happen to him over the course of the story, but it comes off a lot like those Captain Power comics we did years ago where no one looked the same from panel to panel. I do really like how crazed he looks here, though. And I continue to dig the heavy use of very hard shadows. After the deaths of his googly-eyed neighbor and Ogilvy, George evacuates his wife to Leatherhead, but gets derailed while returning the borrowed horse, which is where he first sees a fighting machine:
These tripods are kinda wonderful. I keep imagining a motif from The Nightmare Before Christmas playing when they appear. The frowny-mouth windows give them so much character. These are also steampunk in style while still looking alien. There’s almost a hint of Verne about the way they look with the curly tentacles and big round gondolas. But mostly, they look like pumpkins, which is such an unexpected choice that I can’t help but love it.
To Be Continued…
- Dark Horse’s War of the Worlds is available from amazon.