This is undoubtedly the most extreme make-over of The War of the Worlds yet written, jettisoning
as it does almost every bit if lore laid down by H.G. Wells in favour of an extremely gory and
disturbing version of the invasion. In fact, about the only familiar reference point left, are
the Tripods, which I think it fair to say are some of the scariest and downright intimidating
versions ever seen in a comic. The story however will take some swallowing for H.G. Wells purists.
Set in the year 1913, we are introduced in the first few pages of issue one to farmers John and
Rebecca, residents of the Isle Of Skye in the Scottish Highlands. Their existence is difficult
and bleak, and there is also tragedy in their life, as we learn early in the story that Rebecca
lost a son she was carrying and is now unable to have further children. But Rebecca has even
greater troubles; down in the village, loose tongues are wagging. Rebecca has an ill deserved
reputation as a Witch, but one that is soon to seem justified. Up on the hill where their infant
son is buried, something is stirring, a metallic object that is sending questing tendrils from
out of the ground. Perhaps it is the grave that provides the connection, but the creatures that
are about to issue forth are to be linked inexorably to Rebecca, with deadly and long-term consequences.
By the end of the first issue John is dead, the village gripped in terror and Rebecca in the hands
of a War Machine. Not though a Martian machine, but a device sent by a subterranean race known in
this story as the Aarach. So far then you may be wondering exactly how this can be called The War
of the Worlds, but after a somewhat perplexing first issue the story launches into a more familiar
and furious conflict, as Aarach war machines emerge en-masse and set about launching a full-scale
attack on England. These scenes of the Aarach attack are quite simply superb and artist Brooks Hagan
does wonders throughout. His black and white illustrations can be described as neither crisp nor
polished, but behind the chaotic looking pencils lies a talent that knows less is often more and
who has a rare talent to get the most out of a few lines, where other artists might overwhelm with
fastidious detail. Issues 2 and 3 stand out in the collection of 6 as the best of the bunch, with a
story by Scott Finley that refuses to be conventional or easy on the mind. Even after several readings,
I am still not sure I have absorbed all the nuances on offer, and if at times events get a little
bit opaque, well, then I can forgive this considering the richness of the story.
Unfortunately, issues 4 to 6 take a bit of a lurch into less engrossing territory, shifting the story
years ahead to America and a plot by the hybrid offspring of Aarach and Human to subjugate the surface
world. The Aarach themselves had retreated below ground years before, leaving the Human race to lick its
wounds and recover. This is a far less successful strand of the story, and disappoints for not really
telling us anything about the Aarach or their motivations. You can't help then be left a little disappointed
that so much promise wilts on the vine. At one point we are told the Aarach went above ground to learn, but
what? Sometimes a lack of clarity can be the making of a story as provides gristle on the bone, but this is
just frustrating. However, considered as a whole, these six issues make for a fascinating spin-off from The War of the Worlds.
I do make the clear and important distinction that this is a spin off rather than an adaptation, since
it can only claim the loosest of connections to its source material, but I would certainly not let this
deter you from seeking out these rare issues. It may not be a story that you will be immediately comfortable
with, but those incredible battle scenes are vintage War of the Worlds and both writer and artist clearly had
an affinity for the original story. As such, I would rate this as one of the most interesting and challenging
War of the Worlds comic books yet created.
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