Friday, June 10, 2011

Heaven's War by Micah Harris & Michael Gaydos

This review was first published at my website, Gotthammer.com in 2004. Along with the interview with Micah Harris, it was one of the more popular hits on the site. I haven't had a home for it for quite some time, and Triple Bladed Sword is definitely the right place for it 


I was ecstatic when I first caught wind of Heaven's War, a graphic novel depicting the fictional adventures of the Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams in a fight against the plots of the infamous Aleister Crowley. It's one of the few times I've preordered a book, based on some preview pages over at artist Michael Gaydos' site. 

I'm a fan of all three of the primary Inklings' work, with a special place in my heart for Williams as he is the least known of the three. The best way to describe Williams' writing is as the precursor to urban fantasy, or perhaps horror, although his writing rarely crosses over into graphic violence or shock value. Appropriately it is Williams who is the protagonist of Heaven's War.
     
The book opens with a quote from T.S. Eliot, who once stated that if he ever had to spend a night in a haunted house, he would have asked Williams to stay with him. Writer Michah Harris obviously thought the same thing, and creates a Charles Williams who, rather than merely writing about people who have a foot in both the real world and the spirit world, actually does.     

The premise is nothing new, but the use of historical characters brings a nice twist and a very different flavor, due largely to the book's surreal approach. The book's villain is Aleister Crowley, a man who identified himself with the Great Beast 666 from the Book of Revelation and was a self-proclaimed drug and sex addict. The Inklings discover that Crowley has somehow found the gateway to Heaven itself and means to enter there. Their quest, while grounded in actual events from their lives, takes them on a fantastical journey.     
In what is probably a first for graphic novels, Heaven's War contains a series of annotations to the storyline in the back of the book. These annotations will serve as guideposts for those unfamiliar with the trivial facts about the Inklings, Crowley and other characters. Micah Harris is obviously a very intelligent and well-read writer, which serves Heaven's War very well. For fans of these writers, something more spectacular and senstational would have been crass. Harris' writing, while at times esoteric, honors the memory of these amazing creative powers. The annotations give a sense of verisimilitude, that this story could actually have taken place.    

Heaven's War is definitely worth a read, for a certain type of fantasy fan. If you're one of the millions caught up in Tolkien fever and are thinking this sort of graphic novel will include moments of John Ronald Ruel wielding a two handed mock-up of Narsil, stay away from this book. If you're a childhood fan of Lewis' Narnia chronicles and love a whimsical fantasy involving talking animals, stay far, far away from this book. If, however you have had the distinct pleasure of reading one of Charles Williams' fictional pieces and enjoyed it immensely, then you need to pick up Heaven's War.

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