Friday, March 14

Tales of Honor #1 (Image Comics-Top Cow, 2014)

Cover D by Patrick Tatopoulos
It's actually wrap-around.
Beginning a five-issue adaptation of On Basilisk Station, by David Weber.

Especially in this day and age, when comics projects are spoiled months in advance even of the product's solicitation in Previews and are old news by the time they actually see the light of day (the Internet is a wonderful thing … but not in this respect), having something as near to my heart as this is come onto my radar with only a few weeks' warning (see my post of 17 January [LINK]) is virtually inconceivable. Were I among those privileged to attend larger conventions, or even a more assiduous reader of the Weber'verse fora, doubtless I would have known longer, but as far as I can tell those not within those circles knew little or nothing about the entire multimedia enterprise overseen by Evergreen Studios to bring the tales of Honor Harrington to the wider world through comics, gaming, and film until the appearance of the January Previews and more specifically the issuance of the press release of 14 January [LINK]. My own post linked above describes my immediate enthusiasm for the prospect. Now, after an amazingly short period of anticipation, the first issue is here. How well does it hold up? Does it meet my expectations?

The answers to those questions are, in short, Very well, and Yes, for the most part. Here's a short discussion of the issue, which I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for an introduction to the Honorverse in particular or to a well-executed fairly “hard” military sci-fi comic – or just a darn fine comic book story – in general. As I write the second part of that – “a well-executed fairly 'hard' military sci-fi comic” – it occurs to me that the Dark Horse Star Wars comics franchise (albeit a bit more in the realm of "sci-fantasy") is about to be a thing of the past, and while I don't read much of it at all I know there are many who do, and perhaps an Image Comics Honorverse franchise could fill a void that I'm skeptical corporate Disney/Marvel will be able to.

Overall, in my opinion, both writer and artist do a fine job beginning a five-issue adaptation of the first-published Honor Harrington novel, On Basilisk Station, into the form of artistic narrative. Telling the story in the form of Honor's memories in the context of her time as a captive facing torture, show-trial, and execution as described in the seventh novel, In Enemy Hands (about half-way through the sequence of novels as they currently stand), writer Matt Hawkins is able to give subtly different perspectives on events and characters based on Honor's knowledge of the events to be told in those half-dozen novels. The characters all ring true, for the most part. The main thing I (and others) missed was her new (in the flashback) X.O.'s hostility toward Honor being given command. It's mentioned but not really shown. How they go from antagonism to friendship is an important part of McKeon's character development. For all the furor among devotees of the series on the Weber'verse boards (which have an entire section devoted to Evergreen's efforts [LINK]) I thought the visuals were just fine, again for the most part. Overall, the art is stunning, and the space-scenes beautiful, beginning with the map of human-settled space on the inside front cover and continuing with the depiction of the drive-fields warping space around the starships in motion and the defensive “sidewall” shields fending off attackers' fire. I thought the uniforms worked just fine in this medium, as did the ship designs. Would I have preferred something a bit closer to the books' descriptions of the ships? – Yes. But these are close enough, and provide a good balance between prose canon and making something visually indicative that “This is a space-ship.” There is a certain nondescript “sameness” in the characters' appearances that I would like to see refined, some individuality developed – but I can almost understand not doing so at this point since the presumed aim is that these comics pave the way for movies starring actors who are far from being cast. I figure that's not really a consideration, though, since I'm sure many other visual elements will change from this early stage of development. Of course, there is one area of design I do want to see change radically – and quickly. As seems nigh universal on the boards, my main quibble design-wise is Honor's treecat Nimitz, who looks far too reptilian, draconian, even making me think more of Kitty Pryde's Lockheed (for you old-time X-Men fans) than anything remotely resembling (and therefore expected to be likened to) a Terran “cat.” Evergreen seriously needs to rethink their approach in that one instance. Otherwise, I was quite pleased by Jung-Geun Yoon's visualization (with unspecified “art assists” by Linda Sejic) of a world I have “seen” only in my head for most of two decades. In fact, on second thought, the “nondescriptness” in the characters means I don't think there's much chance of their appearance here overlaying the visualizations I've had in my head as I read the novels. Finally, I'd like to call notice to the lettering. It is not your standard bland font that seems to be the norm in comics today, which are long past the old-style hand-lettering that was the standard for decades. And yet Troy Peteri (I presume – he's credited as “letterer”) has designed a font that emulates the character that hand-lettering imparted. It fits very well the voice of the story, presented as first-person ruminations on the career that has brought Honor to her current state.

The book opens with a page by David Weber himself as “Creator of the Honorverse,” and closes with a “Science Class” section including a text page by writer Matt Hawkins, several pages of early designs for various characters and things depicted in the comic itself, and an inside back-cover text excerpt from On Basilisk Station describing “How Ships Work in the Honorverse” (here illustrated with a schematic).  Weber and Hawkins provide eagerly awaited (well, by me at least – and I suspect I'm not alone) information about the overall plans, Weber giving a bit of a broader perspective and Hawkins being more specific to the comics and where they anticipate going: “The first five issues of this series will tell the core story of On Basilisk Station, and then we'll move on to The Honor of the Queen with the next five. We'll continue to slowly leak out the story from In Enemy Hands until we get to it, and can do an arc specifically on that as well.

I'm excited! For Honor!

Cheers! – and Thanks for reading!

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