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War of the Worlds: Second Wave (Boom, 2006)


War of the Worlds: Second Wave.

Second Wave is as you might expect from the title, about a second Martian invasion of Earth. The story is set in modern times and while I am sure it was not intentional, reads like something of a companion piece to the Steven Spielberg movie, so if you enjoyed that, it is likely you will also enjoy Second Wave.

As in Spielberg's movie, the hero of Second Wave is an average Joe. When first we meet Miles, he has no greater worry in life than figuring a way to fix the washing machine and avoid a call-out charge, but all that is about to change. At this point, the story evokes another movie, namely Independence Day, as Miles and his wife watch out of their kitchen window as the street suddenly goes berserk, with neighbours rushing to and fro in a panic. "The Martians have landed" cries a neighbour and runs for the hills, leaving Miles and his wife standing alone and perplexed, but only a for a moment. Next thing a blazing fire truck has tumbled from the sky and exploded on their lawn. Suddenly it is very clear that things are going terribly wrong.

By the end of the first issue, Miles has lost his wife and been caught up in a furious battle between troops and a Martian War Machine, but just as in the original novel, the Martians are laid low by germs. The first wave is thus wrapped up in the first issue, but in the final panel, a Second Wave is seen to be landing and as becomes clear in future issues, this one is much more successful.


War of the Worlds: Second Wave, interior issue 1.

I ought to say now that I have missed a couple of issues of this series, since the copyright on the name War of the Worlds is somewhat tangled here in the UK, and hence the comic cannot be officially imported. This review therefore rejoins the action with issue 4 and therefore any further comments should be read with this caveat in mind. By now Miles has shrugged off his mild and meek image and is leading a small band of survivors who are out in the countryside dodging Martians. The most noticeable thing about the series seems to be that the invaders are secondary to the main intent of the story, which is to show us what might happen to ordinary people in an extraordinary situation. Between issue 4 and 5, there are no significant scenes involving Martians. Instead our heroes discover that local law enforcement has adopted some novel and unpleasant methods of keeping the peace in post invasion America.

There is a lot to recommend in Second Wave. The art by the enigmatically named Chee (beautifully coloured in issue 1 and black and white thereafter) is quite arresting at times, though characters sometimes appear a little too posed and lifeless for my taste. I particularly enjoyed the lovely touch of a derelict War Machine from the first wave that has graffiti on it. The machines themselves have a somewhat Cockroach like look to them, and in another charming little touch are described by a young girl (investigating a derelict) as feeling like a Cat's tongue. We also learn that America has at least three competing Presidents and one state has seceded from the union. These little details by writer Michael Alan Nelson really make the story and will certainly keep me looking for more issues, but I'm less taken with the heavy human-interest approach. Any old disaster (flood, pestilence, zombies) can serve as the catalyst for this sort of story telling, and while there is a thread of mystery running through the story as to the intentions of the Martians, I think a War Of The Worlds comic really needs to deal first and foremost with the physical fight against the invaders and otherwise risks starting to read like Melrose Place: The War of the World Years. Second Wave wants to be careful it doesn't fall into that trap.

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See also in:

Comics

2003
Scarlet Traces

Scarlet Traces: The Great Game. Sequel to Scarlet Traces in which Earth launches an invasion of Mars.

2002
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. A bold reworking of the story and a masterclass in the power of Comic Book writing from Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill.

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