Heavy Metal magazine, War of the Worlds, Goliath: Outpost (Heavy Metal, July 2011)
This is the 2nd story of several published by Heavy Metal (the first being Cargo in the January 2011 issue)
in anticipation of a new animated movie called War of the Worlds, Goliath. While Cargo largely focused on
one character, this is an ensemble piece, set in a remote arctic base under attack by Martians.
Make no mistake; there are things to like here. The art by Popia is pleasing to the eye and the
gory fight scenes certainly have a raw visceral power. If I were to make a comparison, if the original
War of the Worlds was the film Alien, this would be its sequel Aliens. It's basically a massive
gung ho battle, with a group of rag tag marines trapped in a claustrophobic space (there's a bit of The
Thing mixed in here) going toe to toe with the Martians. Judged entirely as an "action movie" type
story it ticks all the required (what few there are) boxes of the genre. There's surely potential
to be had from the idea of bigging up The War of the Worlds in this manner, but rather than bringing
two different genres together in a careful melding of ideas into something new and exciting, this
feels like they were raced toward each other at break neck speed and rammed together. In other
words, it's a bit of a wreck.
Now, if you've looked at what I write, you'll know that I'm pretty keen on the idea of stretching
the original novel in new directions. It's a story ripe for re-imagination and collecting and
cataloguing anything related to The War of the Worlds is a passion of mine. But there are certain
things I would prefer were left well alone. Hence I'm really not happy for writer Chi-Ren Choong to
have transformed the aloof and enigmatic Martians into wise cracking smart arses. I literally cringed
to read dialogue like, "You know how it is with eating humans. Half an hour later you're hungry again." What!
The other big problem is that nothing really significant happens in the story. For sure there's some
attempt to inject token characterisation into the marines, so all have their little back story/sob
story that got them dumped in the snowy wastes, but we've seen this sort of thing so many times now
that the novelty has worn off and little in the way of sympathy is generated.
So as the Martians penetrate the base in exoskeleton tripod devices (nice designs but haven't we seen
that in Independence Day?) we're treated to various gory decapitations and dismemberments. As mentioned
previously, Popia turns in some stylishly grisly scenes and certainly seems to know his anatomy, but
it's a by the numbers story of attrition. The problem is, as the marines are bumped off one by one,
I just couldn't bring myself to care, there's just not enough time in the short story to develop
feelings for these characters. Perhaps 16 year olds will find all the gore and profanity amusing,
but nothing about this story felt compelling or deep enough to draw me in. In fact the language (and
not just the incredible level of crass profanity) seemed horribly out of place. I'm sure that behind
closed doors your average Victorian could and did swear like a trooper, but the dialogue here feels
far too modern for the 1914 setting. There is of course a propensity at the moment for making period
pieces with modern slang and cadence, but it's getting old, and my fear is that this is the approach
taken by the movie.
Support this website
If you found this website interesting and useful, please
consider supporting it by making a purchase from Amazon. You don't have to do it
now, but if you bookmark this page, then shop with Amazon below, I'll receive
a small commission on each sale.