Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

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The Ian Edginton and D'Israeli Collaborations.

In the last couple of years, Dark Horse Comics have released cheap hardcover reprints of two graphic novels that writer Ian Edginton and artist D'Israeli have collaborated upon.

The first of those was called Scarlet Traces, and it was set in a Britain that had endured the alien invasion of Wells' War of the Worlds. In the ten years since the attacks, the Empire has rebuilt itself on the back of alien technology, and vehicles scuttle across roads on eight legs while emitting green fumes, and tiny machines hunt pests to keep the spiraling, arcing city clean. It's a beautiful vision presented in D'Israeli's clean, angular art, and Edginton's story of conspiracies and murder paces out smoothly through it, with a fine ending that leaves you wanting more. (I heard that there is a Scarlet Traces 2 planned, but I'm not sure if that's true or not.) Despite the fact that it felt like the reprint had been given it's chance on the back of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neil's hugely successful League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 2, in which Wells' invading aliens also feature, the graphic novel is it's own beast, and quite well done. That is why when Kingdom of the Wicked was released by Dark Horse, in a similar cheap and orange hardcover (neither book cost me more than a twenty) I was right there.

Kingdom of the Wicked is a different thing creature to Scarlet Traces. It tells the story of successful children's author Christopher Grahame who, went stricken by blackouts, is drawn back into the fantasy world he created as a child and has forgotten about. Known as Castrovalva, Chris finds it torn up by warn, it's beauty now turned into a world of mud and blood and barbed wire, where once cute teddy bears have long sharp claws and crawl through Word War 2 styled trenches and die brutally. It might not sound like much, and indeed, it's not the most original of ideas when placed next to the scuttling machines of the post Martian invaded London, but Edginton has some nice original touches that overcome that. Sadly, telling you about them here would ruin the pleasure you'll have when you see the panels unfold, so it'll have to be sufficient to say that I enjoyed it. There is also a four page black and white comic in the back that was Edginton and D'Israeli's first collaboration, which is about God and plays that grow with human faces on it in complete silence. It's really quite charming, actually.

Kingdom of the Wicked is longer than Scarlet Traces but it could have stood being longer. The pacing of the first two chapters isn't as smooth as it could have been, and the main characters reintroduction to his fantasy world is a bit jarring, narrative wise, mostly because his reintroduction is the reader's introduction, and the two never completely mesh. This could also be due to the fact that Kingdom of the Wicked was originally published in 1996 and 97, whereas Scarlet Traces was first published in 2002. In terms of both writing and art, there is not so much a marked improvement, but rather that the two creators have simply become more assured with their abilities, and thus characterisation has become fuller and the art has more detailed. It's a natural growth, and it's a pleasure to see growth, rather than a stagnation.

My preference for the two books is fairly obvious, I reckon, but that shouldn't detract form either. I enjoyed both and I recommend both and if you click on the links you'll see why. Both books are skating below the usual radar of the Western Comic Industry, since neither collaborator is a huge name and neither book deals with superheroes, half naked women, or visions that'll be easily snapped up by film. All of that is a pro in my world.

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