|Comics - War Torn #1|
Low on supplies and on the run, Moya enters a system with three planets, the tropical, agrarian Kylei, the heavily industrialized Garangee, and the uninhabited Tivira. Crichton and company soon discover that Kylei and Garangee are at war, each claiming Tivira as their own holy land, and the potential site of knowledge that Crichton needs to get home. Can the crew get what they need without igniting this potentially incendiary conflict?
by Dani Moure
Farscape: War Torn is the first of a two-part comic series from Wildstorm. Like any merchandise that is released that has a story of some sort involving the show's characters, it faces a tough problem – telling a decent story within the confines of an already established universe, without significantly altering the universe. So the authors are forced to pick a place in the show's timeframe that already exists, so they have a set of characters from that time with which they can tell a stand-alone story. War Torn does that pretty successfully. It's not the best thing ever, but it isn't half bad.
I'll start with my gripes on the comic before getting to what was good, which means beginning with the artwork. I must point out firstly (and thanks to forum member Daredevil for calling me up on this), I haven't read American comics for a long time (five-odd years). I read Japanese comics (manga), which are primarily made up of black and white line art. As such, when I talk about the artwork, it's not a comparison with any other artist's styles, nor any other comic's style, but I'm basing my comparison with the main crew on how they look in the comic to how they look on television. To be frank, I think the results are varied at best.
The artwork for the characters created in the comic is fine; obviously with no point of reference other than how they look in the comic, all that can be said is they're drawn well, and look nice. Their designs do fit in well with what we might expect of the show. The regular characters don't fare so well, unfortunately. D'Argo, Rygel, Pilot (what we see of him), and for the most part (bar a few detail lacking images) Zhaan look good to very good in the comic. They're drawn to what seems to be a realistic scale, are nicely coloured and fit in nicely.
On the other hand, Aeryn was way off the mark. A few bits of her art were very nice, but in most images of her, she seemed to resemble actress Claudia Christian (Susan Ivanova, Babylon 5) more than Farscape's Claudia Black. It may sound like nitpicking, but artwork is an important part of the comic book, and when Aeryn often looks disproportionate (her head often seems far too large) it can be distracting. John often looked OK, but his art was very inconsistent, sometimes looking very bad if drawn from certain angles.
But then came Chiana. Unfortunately, she got the short end of the stick. There are a couple of pictures of her that look spot on, but sadly there was just a couple. The rest range from bad to awful. Gigi Edgley is a beautiful woman and, while many of her characteristics such as the unique posture she gives Chiana were captured here, in many images she looked horrible. Sometimes she just looked really ugly, others her face was too fat, and others were just badly proportioned. The images of Chiana on pages 15 and 16 are good examples of what I mean, and one in particular on page 16 is awful.
The only other gripe I had with the art was that some backgrounds lacked detail in places. In fact, I was a little frustrated that, in places, some of the character art lacked a lot of detail too. Of course, doing the artwork for a comic in which many of the characters are based on real people is a daunting task, and I'm sure getting the look right must have been difficult. However, what I think caused my main gripe with the artwork was its inconsistencies. Sometimes the characters looked great, others they didn't. The truth with regards to the artwork is that your mileage will vary. Some will like it, some will just be pleased with what they got, others like myself will think it's inconsistent, others will hate it, and others won't fall into any categories. Hence I'd really suggest taking a look at the artwork in the comic before you buy (if artwork is the main reason why you buy a comic), as taking a look yourself is the only way to determine whether you will like it or not.
My other gripe was with some of the writing. Generally, the story is intelligently written, and for the most part, other than a few places where I felt Aeryn and D'Argo's dialogue should've been swapped, I liked it. What I was extremely unhappy about was John's pop culture references. No, they don't annoy me in the series, but that's because they're spaced out, and are usually fitting within the context of what's going on. In short, they're well placed. However, in War Torn, that's not the case. Instead, almost every other sentence spoken by John (and I don't think I'm exaggerating here) was a pop culture reference. As I say, I'm quite partial to them normally, but in War Torn they are just rammed down our throats, often in places where I just felt they were unnecessary. Needless to say, I like my dialogue intelligent, and I like the pop culture references every now and then. Unfortunately, it would seem a number of writers latch on to this one aspect of John's character and revolve all his dialogue around it. It's frustrating to read. Witness the writing in the first two pages:
[Caption] Somewhere in the Uncharted Territories...
John: "C'Mon! What do you mean we're almost out of food again? Man, where's a damn replicator when you need one?"
Rygel: "Am I the only one who has no idea what he's jabbering about?"
John: "Replicators! Alien Rutabaga Chefs! C'Mon Sparky, work with me."
D'Argo: "John, it has been more than a hundred solar days since our last encounter with a commerce planet."
John: "Okay, but why isn't there a local McDonalds out here? Hell, even an AM-PM mini mart'll do."
That wouldn't be the worst use of references if it ended there, but sadly it doesn't. It just continues at a rabid pace, where almost everything out of his mouth is some trite verbiage. But, removing this one irksome problem, the writing is actually pretty good, with most of the other characters acting and sounding how they probably would in the show.
I would have to say though, the best thing about the comic is the story. It's actually a really gripping, interesting and enjoyable romp, and it could feasibly have been an actual episode of the show. It's set sometime in late season one or early season two, with the crew consisting of Rygel, D'Argo, Aeryn, Chiana, Zhaan and John. The crew are once again out of food, with no commerce planets in sight. Moya enters a system with three planets, one tropical, one industrial and the third is uninhabited. Zhaan, suffering from the cold, along with John and Chiana go down to the tropical one, while the other three got to the industrial planet. While there, the two groups discover that the two planets are on the verge of signing a peace treaty, having been warring over the third planet for a long time. There are of course the usual groups on both planets who believe their leaders are wrong and are against the peace treaty, and once again the crew are caught up in the middle of a political conflict, which of course spells trouble (and violence). I found myself pretty gripped and captivated throughout, and would recommend the comic if only to read this side-story of sorts to the series.
In addition to the main story, there's a second, shorter story at the end entitled "The Fourth Horseman", which focuses on Chiana. As expected, it rehashes a number of the things we've learnt about the Nebari (since we know so little about them), and it's OK in and of itself. However it does seem much more like a piece of Chiana's backstory, and the only thing that makes us think different is the first page that talks about how she's away from Moya. Somewhat amusingly, it mentions Moya has been gone a cycle. I'm not sure if it was a misprint or just misuse of the word, but I find it hard to believe that if Chiana were off of Moya for a cycle (roughly equivalent to one Earth year), she would've given up on the idea of Moya coming back. But maybe that's just me. The artwork after the first couple of pages takes a huge drop in quality, and in some panels it becomes extremely difficult to see if Chiana is amongst her fellow Nebari, as they're all drawn the same with a lack of detail. Other than that, the story isn't bad, but it's obviously not got the space the first one has to build on things.
The first comic book, at least in my eyes, is a mixed result. While the artwork is very inconsistent, at times dropping to awful then jumping to great, the main story in War Torn is very good, and well worth a read. If you're buying the comic for the art, you may want to take a look first, if you're just in it for the ride, it's well worth a purchase.
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Item: Farscape: War Torn #1
Recommended Retail Price: $4.95 (US), $8.25 (CAN), around £3.75 (UK)
Editor: Neal J. Poznea
Letters: Robbie Robbins For IDW
Pages 1-40 (War Torn Chapter One: Rocks and Hard Places)
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Pencils: Robert Teranishi
Inks: Keith Aiken & Al Gordon
Colours: Jeremy Cox & Wildstorm FX
Pages 41-48 (The Fourth Horseman Featuring Chiana, Chapter One)
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Pencils: Carlos Mota
Inks: Keith Aiken
Colours: David Baron
Publisher: Wildstorm Comics
Length: 48 pages