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Book Review < Back

Heart of Empire

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Bryan Talbot
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Commentary

HEART OF EMPIRE is the sequel to The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, one of the most influential works of British comics as well as being one of the earliest adult graphic novels. Aesthetically, though, it is a direct descendant of Talbot's later The Tale of One Bad Rat - the evocative monochrome and incessant intense innovation of Arkwright replaced by the cool pure clarity of Rat, the vivid colours and the spare, bold lines. He selects minimally from his huge toolbox, time effects and crosscutting used in linear flow, everything placed in service of telling the story as clearly as possible while refusing to compromise mature complexity.

This is the story of Victoria, daughter of Luther Arkwright: Arkwright being a posthuman agent of a perfect world who is capable of travelling between parallel earths. Victoria's Earth and England is one which was dominated into the late 20th Century by the Cromwellian Puritan regime. It was Arkwright who helped destabilise that, along with Victoria's mother, who is now a crazed Queen whose head is wanted on a most deserving block by at least two different factions. What Victoria knows as a Golden Age is built on madness and atrocity. And she has her own secrets, too; as Arkwright's daughter, she is more than human...

While not as life-changing as Luther Arkwright, HEART OF EMPIRE is a rich work of science fiction, warmer and more human than its precursor, and it superbly creates what I didn't think was possible: a necessary aftermath to Arkwright.

-- Warren Ellis

 
Warren Ellis has written around thirty graphic novels, comics, prose fiction, journalism, videogames and screenplays. Sometimes he take photographs. He also creates and co-creates websites, including this one. He has awards and stuff, he's been in big magazines and newspapers, and he's been published in Nature, which he always mentions because it makes him laugh. He's on the web at warrenellis.com and diepunyhumans.com.

 


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