Tuesday, September 1, 2015


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 Helium (Rebellion, 2015).

One of the most interesting things that I've read recently is the latest story by Ian Edginton for 2000 AD. It's called Helium, and it launched in July with a twelve-part opening serial illustrated by D'Israeli.

Helium takes place in the future, when chemical warfare has rendered all low-lying lands poisoned by chemical warfare. Survivors built new civilizations on higher ground, above a toxic cloud that instantly kills. Three hundred years of peace and trade and progress later, and airships start disappearing. Something is active underneath that cloud, with its own technology.

Edginton does his usual job creating a unique and awesome lead heroine. Her name is Constable Hodge, and she's a no-nonsense officer who puts the safety of her community first, and, as the story unfolds, is revealed to have a pretty interesting rogue's gallery from prior arrests. She's accompanied by a very curious cyborg called Solace and there's a lot we still have to learn about him, and I can't wait. On the other hand, I was really disappointed that Edginton fell back on an old trope of having the heroine's warnings that something really needs to be investigated falling on the deaf ears of a council obsessed with orthodoxy and not wanting to cause panic. If I never read such a thing again, I'd be grateful, especially since the structure of this story would barely change if the government had said this was worth investigating.

I really enjoyed the first serial despite this, thanks in part to D'Israeli's amazing artwork. He's an artist who doesn't take shortcuts, and this time out, he gets to use a beautiful color palette. I love his designs for absolutely everything - the homes, the staircases, the cyborgs, the big floating ships, the tanks, and the lightweight aircraft. It's a gorgeous series and I can't wait for more of it.

That brings me to the other flaw. Unfortunately, as he often did in some of his other series, especially The Red Seas and Brass Sun, Edginton ends this first 12-parter on a cliffhanger, but these are never the best structured cliffhangers. Since, by 2000 AD's design, each individual episode ends on a shock or a revelation, I wish that he'd always move the story to a good place to leave it. There's clearly a lot more going on in Helium that we've not learned yet, and I'm very keen to know more, but building each published chunk of the saga as a story in its own right, to a defined conclusion to each part of the narrative, will make each chunk much more memorable. Especially since the vagaries of 2000 AD's publishing schedule means that it will probably be quite a few months before this cliffhanger is resolved. Dang it!


Jim Purcell said...

"Helium takes place in the future"

Are we sure about this? I'm pretty sure this takes place in the same poison gas world first seen in Ampney Crucis Investigates - The English Assassin (Progs 1750-1760), and if I recall correctly that world got wrecked as a result of unchecked chemical warfare during the first World War (as much of the ruined civilization below the gas cloud appears that time period, and technology doesn't appear to have progressed much beyond the designs of that time period). Its just as likely for Helium to take place in 2015 as any other time period really.

Good review, great strip. I hope it comes back soonish.

Unknown said...

Story summary on page two of each Prog says of Helium "The Far Future. It has been three hundred years since the great war. Even if it is WW1 it is referring to it is then at least 22218.