Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds (Rebellion, 2012).

Funny things can happen in just a few weeks. 2000 AD had one of its periodic jumping-on issues, with the first episodes of new or returning series, back in September and for a short while, everybody was agog over a brand new offering, Brass Sun by Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard. The artist has only done a handful of things for the Galaxy's Greatest, while Edginton has written hundreds of episodes of several ongoing series and serials over the last decade. Readers and fans were buzzing contentedly over this new project, and then suddenly, with only a murmur of advance hype, there was this remarkable twist in a Judge Dredd story called "The Cold Deck" - about which, more here next month - and everybody plum forgot about poor old Brass Sun, which was lost in a tidal wave of excited chatter.

While "The Cold Deck" certainly deserves the attention - does it ever! - I'd like to come back to Brass Sun before it's completely forgotten, because it really was an incredibly interesting and promising story. It's among several recent 2000 AD series to feature a strong female lead, in this case an inquisitive and tough teen named Wren who lives with her grandfather outside a mean, medieval city. The world is dominated by an ugly religious order and her grandfather, a former bishop who went into hiding with one of those heretical "telescope" things and a bad case of "open mind," has left Wren with a diary and clues to learn more about their world before it is too late. Their solar system, he knows, is a gigantic, full-scale clockwork orrery. And it is winding down.

To be honest, the early parts of this first story didn't appeal to me as much as I had hoped. As wild and fantastic as that concept is, and as welcome as it is to see a young female lead in this often very male-dominated magazine, the religious order that runs the planet of Hind Leg is just so unpleasant that I didn't enjoy reading it for a few weeks. The villain came straight from the school of stereotypes, a humorless bore who just puts all nonbelievers to the stake like several thousand fictional antecedents. I didn't want to see Wren triumph against this guy, because it meant having to put up with this guy. So I was pleasantly and thunderously surprised when he didn't make it past the first five weeks alive. This story had many more places to go, and much to do.

Edginton is doing a very good job letting us get to know the new characters that emerged after the narrative moved away from Hind Leg. There will be many to keep track of before we're done, but Wren, who's completely outside her experience but so firm in her convictions that she's exploring everything with an eye toward putting everything in its place, is very much the series' lead. Everything from the costume design to the big, expansive double-page spreads of cities and planets looks fantastic in Culbard's capable hands. The concept, along with Wren's characterization, evoked what felt like a never-made film by Hayao Miyazaki, and so I was especially pleased when we started meeting strange machines that looked like something from that director's film Castle in the Sky.

Interestingly, and happily, Culbard is said to be alternating stories with another frequent Edginton collaborator, D'Israeli, so we might conceivably get stories more frequently than the typical modern 2000 AD model, with its constant aggravating year-plus gaps between them. D'Israeli is apparently meant to be working on the second story early next year, possibly for publication in the early summer, which would be great.

Brass Sun is not yet available in a collected edition. The first story, "The Wheel of Worlds," began with a double-length opener and ran for twelve episodes. Clicking the image above will take you to 2000 AD's online shop, where you may purchase the issue with the first installment. Happily recommended.

1 comment:

sauchieboy said...

One of the strongest stories, with the greatest potential, that the comic has ran in years. Good work, giving this beautiful story its due prominence, Grant.