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by Micah Harris
Graphic novel: 120 pages
Illustrated by Michael Gaydos
Published by Image Comics, 2003
Amazon.com: Trade Paperback
Amazon.co.uk: Trade Paperback
Amazon.ca: Trade Paperback
Recommended by: Joshua Ellis
Heaven's War is a fictional story about the Inklings (JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and Charles Williams) and their accidental involvement in the war between Lucifer's army and the host of Heaven. Fans of supernatural fiction, adventure stories, and secret history will not be disappointed. Consider this list: Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams, along with A.W. Waite and Aleister Crowley; the Cathars, Knights Templar, and the Priory of Scion; secret societies and grand conspiracies; time travel, mystic visions, angels, demons, and co-inherence; mystery, danger, and philosophical speechifying. About the only thing Harris didn't manage to squeeze in was pirates.
Gushing enthusiasm for the story aside, I must admit I wasn't always thrilled with the art. Michael Gaydos' pencils were fine, but I'm not a huge fan of the stark, unshaded, black and white aesthetic. There was a nifty Dave McKean-looking cover, but the inside was a little flat. The writing itself was pretty good (though I can see some readers being annoyed by the metaphysical musing), if a little rushed at times. I do not know if Image put a cap on it for economic reasons, or if Harris only had 100 pages of story, but the book could have easily taken on another 20 pages without feeling ponderous.
Finally, there is the problem of too little and too much information. Anyone lacking at least a passing familiarity with the Inklings, Waite, and Crowley will be lost by much of what happens (or at least miss the significance of much which is left unexplained); this deficit, however, can be alleviated by a perusal of the 14 pages of annotations at the back. Given this, there were one or two places where Harris seemed to fumble with unnecessary exposition and background, resulting in occasionally stilted dialogue. But overall, I thought the story flowed well and was easy to follow. This is impressive given its numerous unexpected jumps in time and space.
The thing that impressed me most, though, is how the book captured the Inkling spirit of a deeply Christian work. It was fun to read Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams arguing back and forth about the nature of evil and some of the more mystical elements of their philosophy. It was also refreshing to encounter an author who treats the occult as something real but wrong without falling into Satanic Panic hysterics. Crowley's astrology and magick are shown as fruitless, despite his delusions to the contrary. The Cathar / Merovingian cult of Mary Magdalene is handled intelligently without ever falling into Dan Brown 'what if it IS true?' trap. And Satan's war with the host of Heaven is portrayed as a real, on-going struggle, but one in which Heaven's victory is assured.
It didn't surprise me to discover Harris is a preacher's kid and a confessing
Christian. He spoke at the Cornerstone 2004 Imaginarium; I would love to
have heard some some of those sessions. I also recently learned he has a
new series coming out, Strange Passages, a '30s-pulp style story about
a mystical detective. I wonder if he'll manage to squeeze in a pirate.
One can only hope. —Joshua Ellis (June 2006)
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