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The War of the Worlds (Dark Horse, 2005)

The War of the Worlds (Dark Horse, 2005)

Does the world really need another War of the Worlds comic book adaptation? Well, if the quality is as high as this newest offering from the publishers Dark Horse then the answer has to be a definite yes. This is a handsome volume, contained beneath a bright red mock leather cover and boasting the most vividly coloured pencils I have ever seen applied to this classic tale.

Boding well, the first page lifts its text nearly verbatim from the opening monologue of the novel and indeed throughout its 64 pages, strives to be a reasonably faithful and reverent adaptation. Where it does vary from the original, it does so in a manner unlikely to raise the ire of purists. The character of the narrator as in the original novel remains central, though in keeping with other adaptations, his role is expanded to the detriment of his brother and his solo adventures in London. The narrator was never of course a character given to great or humanising dialogue, so writer Ian Edginton plays liberally with the text, and in a touching, (though rather obvious) tribute, gives him a name; George. Of course Wells and his narrator were always one and the same, but Edgington plays on this unspoken connection, mentioning that his George is busy practicing to ride a bike, just as H.G. Wells used a newly acquired bike to seek out locations and targets for his invaders. George is also unequivocally a writer, and is gently mocked by his astronomer friend Ogilvy for exhibiting a "touch of the Vernes" when he speculates on the possibility of life on Mars.

Trapped beneath the houseI confess that I have trouble completely connecting with the art of D'Israeli (as I have previously mentioned in my review of Scarlet Traces) but if his characters sometimes look a little too cartoonish for my tastes, he has a sense of scale and grandeur that knocks other artists efforts out of the ballpark. I don't think I have ever seen the Martian Cylinders portrayed in such intimidating size or scale, but such a perception is certainly to be welcomed. The Martians have had to bring everything including the kitchen sink with them to establish their beachhead, and it mocks common sense to suppose that the Cylinders are not built on a necessarily monumental scale. I also particularly like that the Cylinder lid is conceived on an equally grand magnitude. When this thing falls off, you can imagine it shaking the world. Martian Cylinder.Nor does D'Israeli scrimp on the horror of the situation. The scene in which the heat ray is first deployed is drawn in such a matter of fact way that the violence has a shock factor that betters the book. The ray simply scythes through the crowds like they are flies, and the absence of sound effects is a chilling touch. Nothing goes zap, nothing goes boom and no one screams. They are simply swept contemptuously from existence.

Such empathy with the source material really does H.G. Wells proud, as does all the art in this book. There is a vibrancy and energy here that makes the images leap off the page, though if I absolutely must be encouraged to find fault, then I can't say that the actual Martian Tripods rate very highly. They lack menace, but throughout the book, the devastation they spread is handled with great finesse and a fine sense of implied peril. Edginton crams in more incident from the book than I think any previous adaptation has ever achieved, and keeps things moving at a healthy pace, though you can't help but feel that an increased page count would have really given him and D'Israeli room to breathe. Not quite the definitive adaptation then, but awfully close.


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