May 27, 2014

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Brass Sun 1

Written by Ian Edginton
Illustrated by INJ Culbard
Published by 2000AD/Rebellion

In a world that's quite literally part of a giant machine, the sun that sits at the heart of it all is dying. Linked physically and culturally to the heart of the system, doomed men grasp for power and kill all who might look for a solution outside their control. When Wren, granddaughter of a fallen cleric, is tasked with saving her world, she finds it a daunting task in this mini-series from the long-running and well-respected British anthology series, 2000AD.

First appearing in 2000AD itself, this storyline immediately grabbed the attention of the serial's readers, and it's easy to see why. From the opening pages, where we begin with a tight shot of many, many gears, colored yellow to reflect their celestial origin (see below), it's clear that this is going to be a science fiction story that blends elements from fantasy, history, and contemporary into a whole that quickly draws the reader into the action. We quickly sense that something is wrong, that power has corrupted, and that if things don't change, all is lost.

Just marvel at the amazing design of this panel.
That's a familiar theme, but it works well here, because Wren is such a compelling character. Edginton doesn't spend a lot of time making us care about her--it happens naturally. We can tell her great love for her grandfather, who holds a secret he'll take to his grave, and it plays out in the narrative without belaboring the point. We see that she's resolute and willing to take risks, without some long-winded speech about it. Wren's actions show that if anyone can save these people as their sun winds down, it will be her.

Sometimes I feel like plots where all is lost and only one person (or a plucky few) can save the day are boring, but I really enjoyed Brass Sun's opening. Instead of making the situation completely improbable, the creative team makes it plausible, thanks to little touches like linking the grandfather to the establishment, which goes a long way to explaining how he's able to manage some of the underground work we see here. There's nothing wrong with high stakes and long odds, provided you set it up the right way. Brass Sun does, and it makes it a quest I want to stick with.

The other thing that I liked about Brass Sun is its clever integration of history and contemporary events. The idea of a corrupt, tottering authority with religious ties trying to hold science back knits this one together with both the attacks on poor Galileo and the collision course with disaster Earth is on currently. When Wren's grandfather notes the problem--folks with power don't like to give it up, even to save their own lives--it resonates loud and clear to our own world and time. We sit and watch the seas rise, the storms rage, and nothing is done because the folks making billions might only make millions if they had to give up their polluting power plants, decrease individual car use, and other life-saving measures that at the rate we are going, won't happen fast enough for it to matter.*

Artist Culbard really does an amazing job here building up the visuals for Brass Sun, starting with that opening sequence I praised earlier. After showing the universe in its connected complexity, we're lead into a world with looming architecture, robed figures, and soldiers who are mindless and cruel. The figure work is a bit on the stiff side, but Culbard makes up for it with backgrounds that are simply outstanding and facial expressions that vividly capture the dialogue that Edginton gives them. The confrontation between the grandfather and the religious leader radiates tension, while Wren's first moments alone show so much of her emotional state, even without doing any special visual tricks. There's a grace in the simplicity of the linework on the people that makes the intricate workings of the buildings and space views really pop. It's a great design choice, really, that suits Brass Sun well.

Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of clever plotting to give us a chance at hope, the way that Wren may be able to find a solution to her world's problem. What we do have is a great reprint of an innovative world who takes the idea of a scale model universe with all its tiny wires and gears and turns into a living, breathing thing on the printed page. If you, like me, missed this in its original run, make sure you take a look at this in your local comic book shop or on your favorite digital device tomorrow. I think Brass Sun will rise to the top of your favorites list quickly.

*Sorry, anyone reading this who is stupid enough to think climate change isn't real. You're an idiot, and thanks to you, we're all gonna die.