Before this graphic novel ‘Universe War One’ explodes with vibrant colour, there’s a three page grey prologue. The inhabitants of Titan are revolting and Lieutenant June Williamson is ordered to ‘clean up’ a sector. Euphemisms for murder will obviously remain popular with authoritarians in the future. Williamson refuses to follow orders because the only people to be ‘cleaned’ are women and children. Luckily, as it turns out, this includes the wife and child of a high ranking officer, so she is spared court martial. Later, she gets to form Purgatory Squadron, a band of talented misfits who were all in line for severe disciplinary action. The child she refused to kill is her second-in-command. The others are Balti, a reckless, disobedient hero; Mario, a coward; Milorad, a rapist and Kalish, a genius who beats the crap out of people who disagree with him. There’s also Amina, a rape victim who ‘emasculated’ her attacker with a blade. Tough crew.
Then a sphere three billion kilometres in diameter appears near Uranus, centred on the satellite Oberon. It fills a third of the sky when viewed from Earth and seems to have many of the properties of a black hole. Oberon is controlled by I.C.C. – the Industrial Companies of Colonisation – yet they deny any knowledge of the Wall, as it is known. Earth’s military – the United Earths Force – sends a fleet to investigate. It’s an interesting situation that gets more interesting as the plot twists and turns but I’m not going to give that away and ruin your pleasure.
Here are death, sex, cowardice, heroism, love, brutality, nobility, compassion, all the varied strengths and weaknesses of humanity. I suppose all good stories cover some of this ground but few cover so much. It’s an epic tale on the grand scale of ‘Ringworld’ or ‘Riverworld’. I’d compare it to ‘Lord Of The Rings’ but it’s more adult than that, harder and definitely Science Fiction rather than fantasy. At one point, when they’re dealing with a time travel paradox, a character says, ‘The fools! Had they not read any classic Science Fiction!‘ Clearly Denis Bajram has. It’s wonderful to have hard Science Fiction in graphic novel form.
The art is excellent but doesn’t take over. There are no filler splash pages or slow-mo sequences to occupy pages. The story comes first and there’s a lot of it to squeeze in. Bajram is clearly a writer of talent even without pictures, so both plot and dialogue are superbly handled. The French have had adult graphic novels for a long time now and may have the jump on the rest of the world when it comes to serious work and what a lot of work has gone into it!
Denis Bajram does both words and pictures for the 272 pages of story plus 6 covers from the original format. This hardback edition on good paper in glorious colour is worth every penny, euro, drachma, yen or dollar you might spend on it. Best of all, ‘Universal War Two’ is proceeding episodically in French right now and should hopefully be available in a similar format one day.
(pub: Titan Books/Comics. 288 pages hardback graphic novel. Price: £25.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78276-238-6)
check out website: www.titanbooks.com