The Adventures of Luther Arkwright
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The Adventures of Luther ArkwrightWhile there was a lot of interest around works by Alan Moore and Frank Miller back in the 80s, there were other creators around, producing work aimed at an increasingly adult audience. One such individual was Bryan Talbot, whose Adventures of Luther Arkwright was perhaps the first graphic novel to come out of Britain, and certainly the first specifically targeted at a mature readership.
The story is complex. It's set in a 'multiverse' of parallel universes, each of which have suffered differently at the hand of fate. This has changed each parallel slightly, changing the course of their individual histories in subtle ways. So on a basic level, there would be universes out there in which Hitler won the Second World War, alongside others where Hitler's parents would never have met.
Luther Arkwright is a kind of trans-dimensional agent who exists in only one parallel universe at a time and can cross between them at will. This is a handy ability to have when one of the most stable parallels detects that an ancient doomsday device, Firefrost, has been discovered and activated, and only Arkwright has the means to stop it.
Luther's character starts off as a James Bond-like womaniser, expert in both combat (physical and psychic) and lovemaking. The hunt for Firefrost takes Arkwright on a journey of his own though, and his character develops as the story moves along, leaving behind his philandering as he comes to understand the importance of his destiny.
The parallel in which most of the action takes place is one in which, following the English civil war, the monarchy was never restored. Oliver Cromwell's line continues to rule England with an iron fist, though the puritan religious fervour has a distinctly dark side to it. At the same time, a royalist uprising is gathering momentum and a second civil war looks likely.
The black and white artwork is brooding and detailed, especially Talbot's London, which has been skewed under a puritan regime while remaining instantly recognisable. If there's anything that's slightly annoying about the art it's probably Arkwright's hair, which has a 'just stepped out of the salon' curl to it - some of the fashion travesties of the 80s could evidently cross parallel universes.
It is often the way when comic creators take on both the writing and drawing of a book, but this is a great example of art and literature mixing effortlessly into one. There are few moments when Talbot's art is anything but a joy to behold while his plot and dialogue can stand proudly amongst science fiction work in any media. The one aspect we might frown upon is its accessibility. This is a dense work with a complicated plot that shouldn't be attempted by the beginner. Experienced readers will be thrilled though, and anyone who has seen and enjoyed Talbot's art in mainstream comics has a wonderful book waiting for them.
Dark Horse Comics
Originally published as
Luther Arkwright 1-9