It seems like everything I write these days begins with a disclaimer. This article will be no different. I’m not a literary critic. I’m not a comic book expert, nor can I pretend to even be familiar with the medium, aside from a few issues of The Maxx that I perused back when Image Comics first got in the game.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can continue to write this review in a bold and overconfident voice. Our War: Truth Untold Part 1 is the first part of a forthcoming series of comics written by Luke Henderson and illustrated by Michael Derrah, and published by Dirt Merchant Press. Set in a not-so-distant-future that could easily be presented as an alternate version of our own universe, Our War is the story of a widespread and total societal collapse precipitated by a growing unrest with economic disparity. The story focuses on a young revolutionary named Nestor, whose organization (the Left Hand Path, or “L.H.P”) was instrumental in the successful overthrow of the United States government. We first encounter Nestor on the streets of New York (“Newyork”), intervening in an effort to save a Texas transplant named Emma from the unsolicited attentions of the Golden Age Militia, a neo-facist group who have filled the void left by governmental law-and-order institutions.
One of Henderson’s skills as an author is taking a less-is-more approach, keeping dialogue (and Nestor’s occasional inner monologue) sparse and letting the audience craft their own view based on the context and almost non-stop action. When we do hear the dialogue, it’s tight and punchy, providing necessary backstory and allowing the reader to get an insight into the primary character’s personalities. Nestor’s grizzled friend Sheppard, for example, is an ass-kicker in true form, and this is made apparent after only a few frames. Henderson’s dialogue and backstory is colourful and gripping, and showcases an emotional range which is all the more powerful given that these characters are not given to grandstanding. However, this is a story of societal upheaval, in which two of the main characters are a rebel and a naive newcomer, so one can expect some standing on the soapbox. It never feels unnecessary, however, and Henderson gives the audience a lot of credit, not over-explaining things and keeping his prose crisp and Hemingway-esque.
image credit: derrah.ca
Artist Derrah has created a bleakly beautiful world, showing the juxtaposition between the people inhabiting these once glorious urban spaces, and the decaying ruins of the civilization they themselves had built. He has a brilliant eye for visual composition; characters having heated discussions in claustrophobic apartments are then shown running, ant-like, through the echoing spaces of the city. Derrah makes use of colour as Henderson does of dialogue, using a subdued palette that makes the occasional blood and violence all the more striking when it does occur. He also demonstrates remarkable restraint as an artist. It would be all too tempting to depict the universe this story takes place in with Todd McFarlane style exaggeration, or bold colour/black-and-white choices a lá Frank Miller. Derrah presents these characters and their world realistically, with deep focus and an eye for details both large and small, and the story is more immersive as a result.
I know I said that I was no expert when I began this review, but with Truth Untold Part 2 coming out next spring, I’m eagerly awaiting it as much as any fanatic. Follow the comic, the author and the illustrator on Twitter to get the latest news. Do what needs to be done, and get this comic.