Thursday, January 15, 2004

Heaven's War - A Trade Paperback Review

Written by: Micha Harris
Penciled by: Michael Gaydos
Inked by: Michael Gaydos
Colored by: N/A
Lettered by: Nate Pride
Editor: Nathan Massengill
Publisher: Image Comics

The world is in the midst of a great war, the result of repercussions of a war some years before which was itself though to be the greatest battle of all time. A power-mad wizard of amoral attitude stands poised to move in and alter the course of the battle and indeed the world for his own gain. All that stands in his way is a small band of three, committed but seemingly incapable of stopping that which stands before them, as they vie for control of a magical artifact.

No, I’m not talking about Lord of the Rings. Though Tolkien is involved in this story, aside from a brief mention of “the new Hobbit” book. And like Bilbo Baggins starting with his own book, I find myself at a loss as where to begin summing up “Heaven’s War”. Still,the title itself seems as good a place to start as any.

In the midst of World War II, a group of professors and writers meet at Oxford to each lunch, share ideas and critique each others work. They are known as The Inklings and among them three members have a deep interest in the supernatural, despite their strict Christian upbringings and beliefs. These writers are Tolkien (whose works I don’t think I need list), C.S. Lewis (who is perhaps most famous for his “Narnia” books, although he was no mean satirist as well) and Charles Williams, who wrote metaphysical thrillers such as “War in Heaven”, which is paid tribute to in the title of this work.

Williams, the most obscure of these three, is the hero of the tale and the focus throughout most of the story. The story begins as he is summoned to visit Arthur Waite, who designed a tarot deck and wrote a number of books on the Freemasons. Waite warns Williams that Alister Crowley, a real-life magician and self-proclaimed “most evil man in the world”, is currently in route to retrieve a great secret hidden in the church of St. Magdalene in the French village of Rennes-le-Chateau. After surviving a magical assassination attempt, Williams tells of the story to his fellow Inklings, and the three go to France to stop Crowley.

This story is very involving, though it is unlikely that the average reader will know exactly what they are getting into with this book or of the broad history behind it. Aside from touching upon the lives of some very real and very complex men, the story also delves into some deep speculation regarding the very real mysteries of what happened to the Templar nights, the Mergovian dynasty, what the Holy Grail was and some deep metaphysical ideas regarding the very nature of how time functions. Luckily, Harris includes his own annotations at the stories end that give the briefest of all possible explanation while leaving the reader hungry for more information about the real people behind the characters of this story.

Gaydos’ art is sketchy, but not overly or annoyingly so. Every panel looks like it was taken right out of an artist’s sketchbook, but this does not make the book feel incomplete or unfinished. Indeed, it makes one feel as if you are watching the story through the very same ether as the angels and the demons who, in one flashback, fight the original war in Heaven.

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