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Killraven, (Marvel, 1973 to 2003), Part 2.


Killraven, Warrior of the Worlds: Last Dreams Broken. (Marvel, 1983) front cover. Click for larger image.

In 1983, there came a new opportunity to revisit the character and his world. P. Craig Russell was again the artist for this new adventure, number 7 in the Marvel Graphic Novel range. Killraven, Warrior of the Worlds irons out a lot of the problems that plagued the initial run in Amazing Adventures, not least that the hand of a single writer, Don McGregor, was now at the helm with a story that promised a structured beginning, middle and end. Incongruous elements, such as the monsters, are toned down a bit and the characters and situations more firmly planted on the ground. This time we find Killraven and his band of "freemen" insurgents arriving in Florida where they find a vast Martian spaceport under construction. The Martians have sinister plans for the spaceport, built on the site of the old NASA facility, so the arrival of a former member of the astronaut Corps is a fortuitous omen in their attempt to breech the defences. Proving in due course to be less than welcome, is the shocking appearance of Killraven's long lost elder brother.

Undoubtedly, this is a much tauter and far more satisfying adventure. In particular, the addition of the aged NASA astronaut, embittered both by the destruction of her beloved Cape and the way in which her talents were wasted by the administration, brings a welcome air of sophistication to the characterisations.


Killraven (Mavel, 2001) front cover. Click for larger image.

Better though it was than the original Amazing Adventures version, the graphic novel did not inspire a resurrection of the series that year, but you can't keep a good rebel down for long. In 2001, Joe Linsner crafted a fully painted one-shot edition for the Marvel Knights imprint of Marvel Comics. The comic is very much a labour of love by Linsner, who had fond memories of the original series and had long wanted to revive the character. He does so with some changes to the established history. Linsner, who one suspects may have been influenced by The War of the Worlds television series (which tried the same trick) suggests that the human race underwent a mass repression of the memory of the first invasion, and that the H G Wells novel was based on fact. It's as ungainly an idea here as it was on TV, and Killraven downing a Martian Tripod with nothing more than a throwing star (one of his weapons of choice) does little to inspire belief in the character. The story is however an interesting one and does a fair job of reintroducing Killraven to a modern audience by having him retell his story to a young girl he rescues from a suspended animation chamber. She was frozen during the 1960's and slept through the invasion and occupation, believing she would awaken to a better, kinder world. Naturally, the reality is far from her expectations. The painted art is particularly good but the story and dialogue seems somewhat stilted and lifeless, and so once again, the promise of Killraven was not realised to it's full potential.


Killraven #1 (Marvel, 2002), front cover. Click for larger image.

Which leaves us with one last chance to get it right. In 2003, a new 6 part limited issue series was created by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. Davis is a very good artist who cut his teeth in the British comic industry on celebrated titles such as Captain Britain and Marvelman, where he formed a partnership with the renowned writer Alan Moore. Capitalising on his success, Davis went on to draw and write many of the key characters in both the Marvel and DC stables. His script for the new Killraven series is perhaps the most considered of the versions that have come and gone over the years. The story finds Killraven and his band of rebels only a few months after their escape from the Martians and finding themselves unsure of their motives and purpose. Rescuing a young boy from a band of human collaborators, they find a bunker containing an old man who is able to tell them the story of the Martian invasion. It's a very good beginning, retelling the tale in grand style and is beautifully drawn by Mark Farmer, surely the best artist to have ever tackled the character and his world.

What follows is a nicely self-contained story told over the 6 issues. Killraven and his band of adventurers travel across the wrecked USA, encountering death and misery wherever they go. A particular strong issue is number 3, where they find a terrified community that at first glance appears to be free of Martian domination, but in fact are under the thumb of something worse, humans! The art and writing throughout is superb, but the whole enterprise still creaks under the weight of having to maintain elements of the previously established continuity, especially the costumes and character names. Killraven and his co-rebels are dressed throughout like leather fetishishists, and though Davis attempts to explain and make light of the fashions, this and ludicrously named characters like Mint Julip and Volcano Ash are a burden the story can do without. But Davis and Farmer almost hit a home run. This is definitely the closest anyone has got to pulling together the tangled threads of the backstory into something like a coherent whole and creating a believable and sustainable narrative. I would have liked to see more of this Killraven.

The character continues to make appearances, most recently in a 2008 issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, so it's clear that there's life in the old dog yet, and there have been rumours of a Hollywood movie. Will it happen? Only time will tell, but bear in mind that in the present climate of massive success for Superhero movies, the temptation to option everything that is not nailed down is overwhelming. With neither script written, director attached or stars interested, the chances must be relatively slim that this will ever see the light of day, but if I can contribute my two cents, if it were my script to write, I would focus the the movie on a tensely realistic story of resistance in the ruins of civilisation. A comic book reboot of Killraven in the same style would be no bad thing either.

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See also in:

Comics

1974
Now Age Illustrated: War of the Worlds

Now Age Illustrated: War of the Worlds. A very obscure comic book version with art by renowned artist Alex Nino.

1976
Marvel Classics: The War of the Worlds

Marvel Classic Comics: The War of the Worlds. The novel gets a more extreme and faithful comic book makeover from Marvel.

2005
Best Sellers Illustrated: The War of the Worlds

Best Sellers Illustrated. The Martians invade in the early years of the 21st century in this post 9-11 re-imagining of The War of the Worlds.

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