Sunday, September 04, 2011

Review of The War of the Worlds graphic novel by Stone Arch books

This is a fast paced retelling of The War of the Worlds aimed squarely at the younger reader, though I’m not sure that entirely excuses the somewhat odd tinkering with the story by husband and wife team Davis Worth Miller and Katherine McLean Brevar. As a case in point, and quite unusually for this medium, they retain some of the story pertaining to the narrator’s brother, so the clash at sea between the Thunderchild and Martian Tripods survives onto the page, which would be great, if not for the rather strange decision to omit the sinking of the Thunderchild! What you say, the Thunderchild survives? But that’s just what happens, and indeed, the encounter is reframed into a rather one sided encounter, with the Martians well and truly seen off by the warship.

I’m not sure what Miller and Brevar were thinking here. There certainly seems to be a degree of sanitisation at work which might go so way toward explaining it. The blood drinking of the Martians is cropped from the story for instance, and the narrator (here renamed George) is not shown bashing the curate over the head with a meat cleaver, but equally people are shown bursting into flame as they are struck by the heat ray, so there doesn’t seem to be any great consistency there. A journalist character is also introduced who seems a little superfluous and is gone after a few pages (I think zapped but his fate is not entirely clear.)

Artist Jose Alfonso Ocampo Ruiz is based in Mexico, but his work has a pleasing Manga style look to it, imbuing his characters with very expressive faces and gestures and saturating the page with rich bold colours. Having read a lot of comic book versions of The War of the Worlds, I’m certainly impressed with his work, though there’s a real problem of scale with his Martian Cylinders. Given they are meant to pack in several Martians and their War Machines, they look far too small for the purpose. His Tripods are also not the best I have seen, lacking any great distinguishing features, but this aside, there’s little to fault with his work, and as previously mentioned, his figure work is very dynamic and positively leaps off the page.

It’s a shame the artist were not so restrained by the junior audience, as I suspect he could really take things up a gear on the story if given the chance, so in conclusion, it’s a frustrating little book that takes some curious liberties and in a fairly crowded field, does not alas particularly stand out.