Brass Sun Graphic Novel by Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard (graphic novel review).
‘The Brass Sun’ graphic novel collects several issues of the on-going series into a hardback format with good paper and high quality printing. I have reviewed the first few issues previously and don’t want to give away the plot of the later issues so this is an easy one.
The setting is certainly original. The Orrery is a huge clockwork solar system where planets rotate on gigantic metal arms and the sun of cogs is worshipped as a god. Unfortunately, the sun is dying, the planets are freezing one by one and cults on one world burn as heretics those who warn of the danger.
The story opens with Speaker Eusabius and Lord Arcimandrite worried about the increase in cases of heresy as the weather grows ever cooler on their world, Hind Leg. Winters are longer, summers shorter and the dissenters say that the power of the cog is diminishing and the wheel of worlds is slowing. Maybe burning heretics will warm things up.
Meanwhile, the astronomer Cadwallader has been carefully observing the heavens and knows the heretics are right. He has seen the lights go out on Back Of Beyond and Afterthought, two other worlds, as ice consumed them. He allows himself to be captured by the priests of the Orthodoxy so that his granddaughter Wren can escape with his journal which contains all he knows about the Wheel Of Worlds and the legend of the Blind Watchmaker. She also has a Quaycard and a mission. He hints that she may be able to save the world. First, she has to escape from Hind Leg and Speaker Eusebius.
As ever with these things, the inevitable model for the blinkered, stupid, oppressive religion is the Roman Catholic Church. With its hierarchy, robes, ceremonies and long history, it provides a template for fictional faiths to fit and can be safely caricatured without risk to one‘s life. In a way, the fictional copies are a kind of homage to its success, as well as a useful reminder of mistakes it has made.
Wren’s quest takes her from world to world and, along the way, she meets many weird and wonderful characters, the kind you get in 2000AD where the series was originally published. There is biting satire of the British aristocracy and a number of pleasing plot twists along the way. Wren and her companions learn much more about the origins of the Wheel Of Worlds but – be warned! – this book does not conclude the story. There is more to come. You will have to buy a second great big volume if you get hooked and maybe even a third.
The big question for me is: does this work deserve an expensive hardback format and high quality print and the answer for me is…no. It’s quite good. It’s alright. It’s not bad. The script by Ian Edginton is clever and if it had been drawn by a really great artist the big book approach might be justified. The trouble is that I’m not a fan of the flat artwork by I.N.J. Culbard. At its best, it has a certain charm. He’s good at architecture and backgrounds and his storytelling is fluent but the figures and faces are odd. It’s not classically correct in the manner of John Buscema or Neal Adams. As my favourite comic artist is the classically incorrect Jack Kirby, I can forgive that. Unfortunately, some panels look as if they were drawn by a six year-old and the art seems to get worse as the series progresses. Deadlines, perhaps, are a factor here.
If you are a fan of the art of I.N.J. Culbard then you will almost certainly like ‘Brass Sun’: The Wheel Of Worlds’ because the script is good. In fairness, there are a number of rave reviews out there and the series is well regarded. I’d say have a look before you fork out the cash to see if the pictures are pleasing to your eye. Tastes, after all, differ.
(pub: 2000 AD Graphic Novels. 208 page hardback graphic novel. Price: £22.50 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78108-269-0)
check out website: www.2000adonline.com