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God of Comics: The Forever War #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 19, 2017

Forever War #3 (Titan Books)

The Forever War is one of those seminal science fiction books that everyone should read and I’m kinda glad it’s being turned into a comic – the more places this story is told, the better.

Written back in 1974, the story is about a marine sent into deep space to fight a war he doesn’t really understand against aliens he might never see. Most of the first few chapters deal with military culture and the idea of taking planets that are utterly inhospitable to human life. When our hero finally sees action things go wrong and when he’s served his term the military offers to extend his contract, but all he wants to do is go home.

The problem is a simple one: you can never go home again. Anyone who’s traveled knows that things change in your absence and that the place you left is never the place that you return to. This is further complicated by dwindling resources and evolving societal trends, so the world our hero comes back to is more alien to him than the aliens he was fighting. He eventually re-enlists, because while war is hell it is, at least, familiar.

It’s all the more interesting in that author Joe Haldeman is a Vietnam veteran, one of those war heroes that conservatives like in concept but rarely in practice. The story hits that line, with many classic space opera tropes turned on their heads: the war is a meaningless one, the inciting moment an accident that those with more greed than sense used to line their own pockets.

The book is one of those quietly influential stories, a Nebula-award winning tale that really should be taught in schools. As recently as March 2017, the book was referenced in the New York Times by writer Brian Castner, who said “The longest conflict in American history – from Afghanistan to Iraq, to high-value target missions throughout Africa and the Middle East – has been nicknamed the Forever War. Our country has created a self-selected and battle-hardened cohort of frequent fliers, one that is almost entirely separate from mainstream civilian culture, because service in the Forever War, as many of us call it, isn’t so much about going as returning.”

It should be noted that this comic has seen light before: Joe Haldeman did script out a comic that was illustrated by Marvano and published by NBM Publishing almost thirty years ago, but this is the first time we’ve gotten fresh prints of the tale in English since that time (there was a collected edition back in 2002, but it was only in French).

For those of us that are interested in the world we live in and the truth of what combat looks like and the difficulties of coming home, this is the cautionary tale we need. This story is an important one, a stark and honest report written by a veteran of a horrific war fought for reasons no one really understands except those that profited from it – the inciting incident of the greed-inspired wars that America is fighting today and reaping the consequences of.

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God of Comics: Penny Dreadful #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 5, 2017

Penny Dreadful #1 (Titan Books)

Please tell me you watched this series when it was on. It was three seasons of absolute and terrifying magic wrapped around Eva Green giving the sort of performance that should define a career.

Hunt this down. It’s worth it.

A brief recap: Malcolm Murray is the absent father of Mina Murray. She’s gone missing, his son is dead, and his wife wants nothing to do with him because he’s a terrible husband and father. He’s adopted Mina’s childhood best friend, a woman named Vanessa Ives who is also a witch and maybe knows where Mina has gone. They have a conflicted relationship and recruit some people to help them fight the Evil that has taken Mina, including an American Werewolf in London and Hipster Dr. Frankenstein. Also Dorian Gray sort of maybe is involved.

Terrifying things happen for three whole seasons and the story ended when Vanessa died. It was heartbreaking and necessary and there was no way for the show to continue afterward, but that didn’t mean that most of the stories were resolved: the werewolf has a new home and father and Malcolm has a new furry son, but Dorian is still out there, Frankenstein and his creatures are still out there, there’s monstrous things haunting London that need killing.

Here’s the story we get, the continuation into a dark world that is defined by the old penny dreadfuls of the Victorian era and is savvy enough to know them by name. Here’s the haunted aftermath of Vanessa’s death, the world after Dorian betrays those that loved him and murdered most of the women his undead lover liberated. Here’s the bitter and broken doctor, having conquered death and lost the will to live. Here’s the monster, having found his family and lost them all over again.

The thing about fighting back the darkness is that, if you’re good at it, the darkness notices you and never stops coming, never goes away, never leaves you in peace. It will kill you or shatter you or make you a part of it and it stretches off into forever, your presence just a glimmering star in the empty void that lies between them.

Penny Dreadful’s characters are only too aware of their fragility and mortality. They have been played with and mocked, destroyed and abandoned, scattered and put upon. They raged and fought against the dying of the light and they won the battle and lost everything they lived for. The comic continues their fight, shows them struggling to find things to live for, and that is intriguing enough to get us invested.

The question is whether or not writer Chris King and illustrator Jesús Hervás can keep our attention. Chris is the co-executive producer of the series and has plans to pick things up six months after the season finale. Jesús is the artist behind the rather excellent visuals on Sons of Anarchy, so that’s promising. We’ll see where this goes.

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