Deep Ice: I thought you’d surely burned (Ian Edginton and D’Israeli’s War of the Worlds, Part 2)

Previously on A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

I mean, the first half of War of the Worlds happened. You know the drill. There’s a very minor reordering of events so that the Curate can tell George about the Thunderchild incident. The curate is another kinda freaky character model, looking like he’s about one third Peter Lorre.

George has been incapacitated for days since the attack at Weybridge, and there’s a detail here which I’ve never seen in any other adaptation, though it’s implied in the book: after his near-scalding in the river, George’s face is badly burnt, and he’s pocked with blisters for the rest of the comic, even having what I think are visible scars in the epilogue.

The Curate’s breakdown isn’t as profound as in some versions, though he does go all gloom and doom, referencing Sodom and Gomorrah. Edginton retains that wonderful line where the narrator admonishes him as, “What good is religion if it collapses under calamity?”

Also kinda looks like Hyrule’s nerdiest Goron

It is from the Curate that George hears about the black smoke, before a sadly abbreviated version of the Thunderchild incident, told as just four or five red-tinted panels showing Thunderchild “smiting” one fighting machine before the “inevitable” outcome.

Ahem, it’s, “Standing firm between them,” thank you very much.

After being trapped in the collapsed house and witnessing the Martians feed, when the Curate decides he has to go “witness” to the Martians, George incapacitates him with a broken piece of lath rather than the flat of a knife, but the scene plays out otherwise the same as always. 

This is possibly the only adaptation I can think of that includes — and more, gives us a look at — the embankment machine, and even leaves in a note explaining that the machine is unpiloted.

One decision I find kinda odd is that they never actually say anything about the red weed. It’s there, as a kind of thick spaghetti ground cover, but the dialogue never brings it up.

Also, maybe just the tiniest bit phallic. George wanders through the depopulated town, lucking into finding some edible root vegetables in someone’s abandoned garden.  I really dig his self-satisfied look as he walks on with an armload of tubers.

I get a bit of a Don Quixote vibe from the windmill in the background.

The artilleryman is okay in this version. Not too distinctive. I don’t really get the sense that George is ever taken in by his “strange charisma” in this version, and is just going along with him out of desperation. Like, when the Artillerman tells the story of the people left behind in London partying in the streets the night before the Martians took the city, it occurs to George to question how he could know about it. Also, like George, the Artilleryman has gained a prominent scar, though given that his is from a cut, I wonder that it might have been from a human adversary over custody of that sword.

The Artilleryman tells George about the Martians developing a flying machine, but also adds in the idea that the Martians are building themselves an entire city, which I assume is to set something up for Scarlet Traces.

Nice visual homage to the Al Nozaki war machine, though in more of a Robinson Crusoe on Mars configuration.

One of the places where Edginton and D’Israeli get to expand on the original novel without changing anything is the way that they illustrate the Artilleryman’s thoughts. Like, there’s two panels illustrating the Artilleryman’s contempt toward what a modern telling would have him call “sheeple” in the form of a ersatz clone army.

“And then one particular cloning machine got badly out of sync with itself. Asked to produce six copies of a wonderfully talented and attractive girl called Lintilla for a Brantisvogon escort agency, whilst another machine was busy creating five hundred lonely business executives in order to keep the laws of supply and demand operating profitably, the machine went to work…” — The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


And this wonderful vision of the Artilleryman’s underground city, which is just about the most Victorian thing I’ve ever seen.

The underground city is really cool. It’s not just simple steampunk, but reminds me a lot of images of imagined super-highways-of-the-future from 1950s futurism, but with a more Victorian flavor that calls to mind, say, the Burlington Arcade.

But the jewel of this collection is the illustration of a fighting machine operated by, “Men who’ve learnt the way how!”

We’ve seen human-made tripods before, of course. But I guess it never really occurred to me that this would be what the Artilleryman was talking about, rather than humans simply stealing Martian Tripods.

Who’s a good doggie?

George slips out while the Artilleryman is asleep and makes his way into Dead London proper. There’s a few very evocative panels of the dead or dying, including a woman who, I assume, reminds George of his wife, prompting his suicidal charge at the Martians. But there’s also a number of panels that try to convey the scope of the human tragedy by just piling the streets with vaguely-sketched gray corpses, ash-covered victims of a smoke attack.

When the Martian tripod refuses to oblige George by killing him, he discovers the occupant dead, and as he runs off in his joy, he suddenly crests the edge of a crater — the geography gets a little sketchy here, since he’s presumably at a cylinder impact site in the middle of London, but we can’t actually see any London in the background — and finds the half-built Martian city.

He also gets to see the partially-built flying machine. I’m guessing the Martian city and flying machine are relevant to Scarlet Traces, since we dwell on it more than I think any other adaptation has.

Edginton has the narrator work out the Martians’ cause of death right on the spot, rather than it being presented as the best guess of scientists after the fact. It helps with the pacing some. I just love George’s goofy look of joy here. He becomes hysterical at the idea and eventually blacks out from it, awakening days later in the home of some locals who’ve taken him in. I think the family is meant to be Jewish — the man looks like he’s wearing payot and and kippah, but he’s drawn small and in dark panels so I’m not sure. I’m curious whether this family turns up in Scarlet Traces.

George takes the news of the destruction of Leatherhead oddly in stride. Upon hearing that “hardly anyone” escaped, he says only, “Ah, I see. Then I shall return home to Woking and whatever’s left there.” And indeed, he seems more sort of resigned than distraught when he returns home, pours himself a drink, and looks wistfully at a picture of his presumed-dead wife. You know, we’ve seen a few adaptations which use the protagonist’s desire to reunite with his family as the proximate motivation behind his actions. The Asylum had their George trek across Virginia to find his wife and son. Jeff Wayne’s version too has the Journalist driven by the hope of finding Carrie. But in the original novel, the narrator is almost bizarrely ambivalent about finding his wife. He spends a good chunk of the story heading for London for no clear reason, when he last saw his wife in Leatherhead and has no reason to think she’d left. I’ve got an adaptation coming up — if I can make it all the way through it — that actually makes something of that.

A young Sir Toppum Hat declares a salvaged Tripod “Very Useful”.

But George and his wife are indeed reunited and a few panels show humanity rebuilding. It says nothing specific about salvaging the Martian technology, though we do have a panel I think is meant to imply it. George mentions the possibility of man exploring space one day, though in the compressed storytelling format of the comic, this seems oddly placed, coming immediately after he speaks of his lingering emotional scars. And his scars aren’t only emotional. The final panels find George and Catherine paying a sombre visit to a tripod erected as a monument in a park. Though his burns have healed, George still bears severe scarring from them.

He also seems to have inherited his late weird-eyed neighbor’s hat.

The Dark Horse version of War of the Worlds is a very good graphical adaptation of the story. If you’re looking to just get the original novel in comic book form, it covers all the bases without really adding much of its own. But it does a good job of adapting the style and pacing of the narrative. Adapting literature to serial art isn’t necessarily a straightforward process, especially one like War of the Worlds where a lot of the drama comes in the form of long periods of fearful waiting. The art for anything Martian is fantastic. It’s otherworldly yet recognizable. And I just love the pumpkin thing the tripods have going on.

The other part I really like is the artilleryman’s musings. I’ve often said that it’s a big deal for me how the artilleryman is handled, and it’s interesting here that the narrative very straightforwardly makes the right choice of being very clear that the artillerman is kinda useless and wrong, but the matter seems largely irrelevant to the art. The art isn’t in tension with the narration here, but rather, the art is entirely focused on his dreams, while the narrative covers his abilities, and the gulf between them is left largely for the reader to discern. So we get these wonderful panels not just of the artilleryman’s brave new world, but also of these clone armies of praying priests and toiling salarymen to represent the artilleryman’s contempt for the masses.

Ordinary human characters are… Weird. In many cases, so weird that I assume it’s deliberate. The curate has this squished quality to him, and George’s neighbor looks like he was left out in the sun too long. George himself sports burn blisters for most of the story, which is a real nice touch. On the other hand, there’s so much variation in his character model that I’d have a hard time telling it was meant to be the same person if there were more than the one character who appears throughout the book. Maybe this is trying to show him becoming increasingly injured and broken by his ordeal, but it doesn’t work for me.

All the same, I really like the art. The thick lines keep the panels easy to understand even when they get crowded, and it somehow manages to seem very bright despite a palette heavy in browns and dark reds. And though there’s a minimalism to the range of colors used, the use of light and shadow really comes through well. I’d say it has a sort of cel shaded look, but I know that’s basically explaining it backwards.

I liked this, and I’m looking forward to Scarlet Traces to see how Edginton and D’Israeli use these techniques in more original material.

  • Dark Horse’s War of the Worlds is available from amazon.

One thought on “Deep Ice: I thought you’d surely burned (Ian Edginton and D’Israeli’s War of the Worlds, Part 2)

  1. Seed of Bismuth

    ” I’d have a hard time telling it was meant to be the same person if there were more than the one character who appears throughout the book”

    It’s a type of art-style think Rugrats or Thornberrys, it works for given everyone distinct animation ticks but in comic form not so much.

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