By | Sunday, March 09, 2008 Leave a Comment
I'm sure you've seen at least a couple stories in recent years in which new super teams were created using either historical figures and/or characters from the public domain. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Five Fists of Science are probably the most well-known in comic circles. Personally, I kind of enjoy these types of stories if for nothing else than the twists and interpretations of the originals. So I was pleased to track down a copy of the Necronauts trade paperback recently.

The book collects the story originally serialized in 2000 AD from around 2001. The team brought together for this story includes Harry Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H. P. Lovecraft, and Charles Fort. The story revolves around a collection of "Sleepers in the Void" who thrive on the souls of the recently deceased and, through Houdini's unintentional actions, are bent on taking over Earth. Not surprisingly, the good guys win in the end, but at the expense of Houdini's life (allegedly the real reason he died) and Lovecraft's sanity (which then led to his writing his Cthulhu mythos).

What is initially, and perhaps most significantly, striking about the book is Frazer Irving's art. He puts a lot of emphasis on light and shadow but, interestingly, he does so with a great deal of linework. The results frequently seem very stark and highly contrasting, but a second glance reveals the large amount of intricate linear approach he actually takes. It's somewhat similar to the horror work of Bernie Wrightson, but with less emphasis on edge lines.

What's also note-worthy about the art is that Irving maintains excellent likenesses of the four major characters throughout the story. They're all immediately recognizable as the historical figures from virtually every image of them in the book. A tough feat under most circumstances, and that Irving was able to capture their likenesses using this particular style is doubly impressive.

While the artwork alone is extremely well done, the story too is well crafted. The plot flows along very smoothly, and the dialogue works very well. Each character has his own voice and is uniquely tied to the story -- it would not be the same story if, for example, Lovercraft was replaced by H. G. Wells or Houdini by Howard Thurston. It's a very tight story, and holds together exceedingly well. I don't know how much editing was done in the collecting process, but it also reads very smoothly as a single story for having been originally written in a serialized format so it does not at all force the reader to stop and start with recaps or abrupt cliffhangers.

All in all, I was extremely pleased with the book. It easily falls in the same category as League and Fists both in terms of concept as well as quality. It's a shame this hasn't received more attention, as it's something I'd be eager to see more of.
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