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The War of the Worlds: The Memphis Front (Arrow, 1998-99)


The War of the Worlds: The Memphis Front (Arrow, 1998). Click for larger image.

This is a difficult comic to review since it managed to complete only 2 of it's intended 5 issue run, which is a real shame, since on the basis of the 2 issues and 1 special (a re-issue of the first part with additional pages) that were released, this rates strongly as one of the better War of the Worlds comics. The Memphis Front is a prequel to the earlier equally good comic series, The Haven And The Hellweed, which had established a Martian Invasion in September of 1998. Within a year of their arrival the Martians are occupying large parts of the United States and most of the institutions of government and order have collapsed. Stepping into the breach are a motley collection of individuals who have formed resistance groups to fight the invasion. It's not an entirely futile act, as the Martians are not quite as invincible as H.G. Wells envisaged. These Martians can be hurt. A well-aimed shoulder launched missile can bring down a Tripod, so they don't have it all their own way. The war is however brutal and fought without mercy.

In a nod to the original novel (and not a little like Clint Eastwood's immortal gunfighter character), our hero is unnamed. A former solider and a veteran of a disastrous defence of St. Louis by the resistance, he is now on the road, looking to find some respite from the bloody conflict. In a very cinematic approach, the story slips back and forth between the nightmarish events in St. Louis and our hero's (ultimately futile) attempts to find a bit of peace and quiet in the as yet untouched Memphis. What he finds in Memphis is a city eerily at peace but under the sway of a charismatic individual who goes by the moniker of The Crump. He kind of reminds me of the character in Steven King's The Stand who restores order to Las Vegas, but he's not (at least on the basis of the two available issues) an evil monster, but rather a charming lunatic, who takes advice from a ghostly Elvis that only he can see. Rather oddly, the advice is often correct and seems to have some messianic ability to see the future. He knew in advance that our unnamed hero was on the way, and has plans for him to form and lead a defensive force for St. Louis. It's not a job our hero wants, but what The Crump wants, he generally gets.

Interior from War of the Worlds, The Memphis Front.The Memphis Front is written by Randy Zimmerman who also wrote The Haven And The Hellweed, but there is a new artist on board by the name of Richard Gulick. His contribution is a great improvement on the work of Horus on the first series, who was technically very adept at the fine detail of the machinery and backgrounds but was never able to get me to connect with his characters, who seemed wooden and lacking in emotion. Gulick favours a much more dynamic and fluid style and as such his art really leaps off the page. His covers are also excellent, though he has penchant for showing his characters with gaping open mouths and he seems to have a bit of a problem drawing teeth. It's a minor quibble, but it sometime serves to distract you. As a writer, Zimmerman really seems to have got to grips with the concept in this second series, delivering a fast paced and harrowing tale of war and attrition. He packs a great deal into these two issues, not just action scenes, but also the mystery of The Crump and the fractious relationships within the hard-pressed resistance.

I was very sad to realise I would never see a conclusion to this story, nor several other stands that are hinted at. Had Arrow Comics stayed in business, I feel this version of The War of the Worlds might have turned into a very long running and satisfying franchise, with dozens of stories to be told.

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See also in:

Comics

1996
The Haven and the Hellweed

The Haven and the Hellweed. A gritty vision of a modern day Earth under the heel of the Martians. A more realistic counterpoint to the Killraven series.

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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