War of the Worlds: Infestation

While reading and enjoying Caliber’s Oz comics a few days ago, an ad for another comic series from Caliber caught my eye. This new comic book appeared to be inspired by the H.G. Wells novel, The War of the Worlds. I was especially captivated by the cover, shown here, which depicted Martian tripods in the Mississippi, near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. A quick online search revealed this to be War of the Worlds: Infestation written by Randy Zimmerman, with art by Horus Odenthal. Given that Tucson’s Wild Wild West Con is fast approaching, and that War of the Worlds is one of my favorite Victorian-era science fiction novels, I thought this comic might be just the thing to help me get into the mindset for the event.

Looking up the comic online, I discovered the Infestation comic is intended to be something of a sequel to the original version of The War of the Worlds. The Martians returned for a second invasion in 1997. The comic opens five years after that in 2003. At this point, the Martians have made great strides toward world conquest. The action is set primarily in Kansas City, Missouri and a small Kansas town called Haven, which is between Hutchison and Witchita. Given that my daughter lives in Kansas City and my wife’s aunt lives in Hutchison, I felt like this was an interesting setting and I was further intrigued to check out the comic, even though it eschewed the Victorian setting of the original.

War of the Worlds: Infestation only lasted for five issues and the issues are all collected in a single graphic novel, which is available both in print and digitally. Because the story starts very much in media res, we don’t get much background about the new invasion. Presumably the Martians found a way to fight off Earth bacteria and have slowly and steadily begun to march across the world. Most of the Martians use the familiar tripod war machines. A nice, original idea is that the Martians can combine damaged war machines to make a even larger, more formidable six-legged varieties. The comic shows a good familiarity with the novel. Not only do the Martians drive their tripod machines and fire heat rays, but they lay down thick, deadly clouds of gas, go through conquered cities and harvest humans for food, and all the while, the strange red Martian weed is growing.

The comic opens with a woman driving from Kansas City to Haven. Quite sick, she drives through a patch of the red weed, but is able to continue on until she reaches Haven, where she passes out at an outlying watch station. The woman in charge of the watch station goes into town to get help. Unfortunately, the van the woman drove picked up spores from the red weed and it begins to devour the watch station and threaten the watch station manager’s daughter. Fortunately, the watch station manager returns and is able to rescue her daughter. Along the way, the station manager realizes the van may hold some clues about how to stop the new Martian invasion. Meanwhile, we also see the story of some resistance fighters who are trying to hold the line in Kansas City after the Martian machines destroyed St. Louis, as depicted on the graphic novel’s cover.

Overall, the comic told an enjoyable story and had some good characters and thrilling action. I appreciated a cast that featured women and people of color in several prominent roles. I did feel the comic could have done with a little stronger script editing. There were some confusing lines and moments I think were meant to be humorous that felt either weird or just fell flat for me. Like Caliber’s Oz series, all the art is black and white, which again suits the grim tone. Horus did a great job visualizing the Martian machines and even imagines a truly surreal Martian structure in Kansas City. I felt like the digital edition of the graphic novel purchased through Amazon was a fair value and provided an enjoyable read, which reminded me of several compelling aspects of the original Wells novel.

If you enjoy my posts, please take a moment to learn about my novels at http://www.davidleesummers.com or consider supporting me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers so that I can maintain an ad-free experience here at the Web Journal and get a behind-the-scenes look at my creative process.

Caliber Oz

Last year, while reading L. Frank Baum’s Oz novels, I occasionally searched the internet for more information about the novels, Baum, and other adaptations. I came across an interesting looking comic book series and made a mental note to come back to it. The Oz series was published by Caliber Publishing starting in 1994. Written by Stuart Kerr and Ralph Griffith, with art by Bill Bryan it ran for 21 issues. In addition to the 21-issue ongoing series, there was a one-shot book called “Freedom Fighters” and a few mini-series. I recently purchased a bundle of the Caliber Oz comics and took a look.

A sample of the covers from Caliber’s Oz series

Set some 90 years after Dorothy Gale’s famous sojourn to Oz, comic book dealer and collector Kevin Ross, his best friend Peter Stevens, and his girlfriend Mary Warren open a book they find in a box of comics purchased at a yard sale. A whirlwind comes out of the box and transports the three to Oz. However, this Oz is occupied by the Nome King and proves darker and grimmer than the Oz we know from the novels. Soon after they arrive, Peter, Kevin and Mary are set upon by a band of warrior Munchkins. Peter and Kevin are driven into the Deadly Poppy Field and the Munchkins pursue Mary. Fortunately, Peter and Kevin are rescued by their dog Max and Jack Pumkinhead comes to Mary’s rescue.

Mary goes on to join the Oz Freedom Fighters, who include the Hungry Tiger, General Jinjur, the Wogglebug, the Sawhorse and other familiar Oz denizens. Meanwhile, Kevin and Peter battle the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion who have all been ensorcelled by the witch Mombi. The interior art for Caliber’s Oz is all in black and white which suits this comic’s darker tone. It appears that characters can die in this version of Oz, though some characters are also quite old. A brief explanation is given later in the series that seems as consistent with the Oz novels as the rules Baum himself followed in his novels.

One difference between the comics and the novels is that the writers set this Oz in a separate reality from our own and often refer to Earth as a separate place. The novels seem to imply that Oz is a hidden land on Earth, though in Baum’s own comic series, he did seem to imply that Oz existed somewhere other than the Earth, so I can buy into this. Overall, I do like the idea of a story where contemporary people go to Oz and find out what’s happened and I like that they find a land that’s recognizably the one from the novels.

As with other favorite Oz adaptations, I like how this series utilizes characters from all of Baum’s novels to fill out the world. Overall, the characters seem true to Baum’s version, even if they are darker versions of the original. Despite the comic having a darker tone and featuring several battle scenes, it steers clear of graphic violence or sexual content. I was also glad to see that it remembered to throw in some humor to break the tension from time to time.

Most issues of Caliber’s Oz comics are available in digital form on Comixology or direct from Caliber Publishing.

If you enjoy my posts, please take a moment to learn about my novels at http://www.davidleesummers.com or consider supporting me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers so that I can maintain an ad-free experience here at the Web Journal and get a behind-the-scenes look at my creative process.