Overview

War of the Worlds: Second Wave #1

Review

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War of the Worlds: Second Wave #1

Credits

  • Words: Michael Alan Nelson
  • Art: Ong Chee-Yang
  • Inks: Ong Chee-Yang
  • Colors: Matt Webb
  • Story Title: War of the Worlds: Second Wave, Part 1
  • Publisher: BOOM! Studios
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Mar 1, 2006

H.G. Wells’ Martians had the world at their fingertips (literally), until germs as common as the cold brought them down. We thought we were safe...until they came back for Round Two.

If one of the defining characteristics of a classic is the number of times it’s adapted by succeeding generations, then there are few classics like H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. There’s even a progressive rock musical based it. But while many have taken considered liberties with Wells’ tale, Boom! Studios’ War of the Worlds: Second Wave is quite audacious, in that it takes the end of the original as its beginning. On what would otherwise be a clear and sunny day, Miles and his wife Gina pull the curtains of their suburban home back to find that aliens have invaded. By his own admission, Miles is hardly an action hero, but he makes a feeble attempt to resist the invaders, and loses his wife in the process. When it’s all over and humanity is given a second chance, Miles feels nothing but the need for vengeance. He just may get his chance.

I must admit, after a first and second reading of War of the Worlds: Second Wave, I was unimpressed. Its first 18 pages seemed like little more than a rehash of a story that most who would read it already know too well. But something clicked for the better on the final reading before I began this review. True, this first issue may not go down as one of the best examples of how to kick off a series, but its appeal comes from the finesse with which writer Michael Alan Nelson establishes failure as a central theme and dramatic link between two stories that could hardly be more different. For all our technological progress, humanity fails on a grand stage when aliens with bigger and better tech come to take our planet away; while on a smaller stage, Miles experiences a very personal and tragic loss when he utterly fails to save his wife after all the safety and security of suburban life have been ripped away. Nelson sets this up deceptively but effectively, and times his main character’s development throughout this issue with just as much skill. Miles finally accepts his vengeful purpose in the aftermath of the first wave of the invasion. But we begin to see him as a fleshed-out character with whom we can identify just as the second attack begins, when the story we thought we knew turns into something altogether different. Genuine suspense and drama are the byproduct, and the very last page comes off with more power because of it, as if Fate has shown her true nature, saying to Miles and humanity both: "You’ve survived this because you were lucky. To get through what’s coming next, you’ll have to be good. Real good." I didn’t think much of him before, but I’m pulling for Miles now. Much has been taken away from him, but he may also have enough left to become the hero he never thought he could be.

Malaysian artist Ong Chee-Yang may only have a few credits on his resume, but he’s an up-and-coming artist who will demand more attention as he develops. At first glance, his straight-no-chaser realism, heavily influenced by the Kubert school of illustration, is a curious choice for a science-fiction story. But because War of the Worlds: Second Wave is such a personal story as well, his pencil work is a fitting match with Nelson’s script. His grasp of anatomy and proportion is solid, as are his detailing and panel constructions. And his splash pages pack an emotional wallop. There are a few weaknesses, however, such as a few shots in which the staging is stiff, a sense that the full expressiveness of the human face is a challenge at medium lengths, and the unfortunate mismatch with colorist Matt Webb, whose heavy doses of secondary yellows, reds, and oranges drain the linework of some of its power. But these are minor critiques, as Chee’s strengths overcome his weakness when he impresses the eye with a well-developed sense of visual storytelling and engages the reader with a wide range of interesting angles in his panels.

Find an extra three bucks and make some space for one more comic on your pull list this week. War of the Worlds: Second Wave could be one of the first surprise hits of 2006.

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