Thursday, March 04, 2010

World War One like you've never seen it before

My original plan was to spend some time in this entry talking about the critically acclaimed Mightnight Nation series by J. Michael Straczynski, which is deep with religious theme and really a fascinating read. I was going to follow it up by digging into a couple of other series he's done that will also be making an appearance in our exploration of the Top 10 Comic Stories Of All Time (henceforth know as The 10.) While I've been away (yes I admit that time is tighter that I expected and I'm not exactly hitting a one-a-day pace, so sue me!) I have been rereading some of my less traditional comic books to get my head around what stands out and which of them are worthy of consideration.  Last night's read has bumped Midnight Nation from the conversation piece for today.


Picture if you will the first World War, fought by mages, trolls and vampires with ordinary men as their staunch allies. If you thought war was a terrible, horrible thing in the real world, you can scarcely imagine the horrors that the fantasy world can unleash when nations clash.

For six issues we are thrown into the world of Fletcher Arrowsmith, a young man from the United States who runs away from home against his father's wishes (a brief scene in the first issue which really sets the tension for the entire story) and joins up with the Overseas Aero Corps, the fantasy realm's version of pilots; flying men engaged in the seemingly elegant combat of the skies

Two reasons you need to read this series.

1. Its a good FANTASY series. There aren't enough good fantasy series being done in comic books.  For some reason the natural synergy between the two worlds doesn't seem to translate as you might think that it should. Often efforts to launch and maintain fantasy comic books are met with lackluster sales numbers and early cancellations, depriving fans of the medium and the genre of the beauty often created when they do come together.  Can you imagine Alex Ross doing a Tolkien adaptation? Just seeing Pacheco do the art for the Battle of Helms Deep would be awe inspiring.  Original works would be even more inspired I think.  This is good, creative and original fantasy and it should be read and appreciated.

2. Its a good WAR series. Other bloggers have suggested that there is an inherent beauty in war that detracts from an author's (or director's) ability to truly strike you with the tragedy and horror of it.  I disagree.  True it is easy to become lost in the gorgeous artwork that Pacheco presents in this book, often in its most horrific moments, but there is a tone to this story that you have to be willfully ignoring in order to miss.Like any great war story, it even reflects that ultimately it doesn't matter who is right and who is wrong, because war feeds upon itself and grows until everyone believes they are fighting for the right reasons, and nobody is willing to back down.  That is the horror of war; that right and wrong become irrelevant. In war, few are the people who may take the moral high ground, and that is clearly and brutally depicted in this series, to the heartfelt pain of the protagonist. There are no delusions about the war put forth by this book, and that realism doesn't often surface in fantasy stories where right and wrong are so clearly imagined.  It makes this story resonate more deeply I think.
A long rumored sequel to this series has never come forth, but I can always hope. Arrowsmith deserves to be read, and will be discussed at length in consideration for The 10.

Maybe one day soon we will even see another fantasy epic unveiled in the medium, which ultimately would be a true victory for the greats that have come before (big props to Conan on that front!) I know as a reader of fantasy that I would love to see it.

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