Ever since Rebellion Developments bought 2000 AD in 2000 (when else?), it has stuck to its successful forumla of publishing trade paperback collections of the most successive serials. However, Brass Sun repackages a 2000 AD serial in the form of a US comic series, and stalwart script and art droids Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard lead the way in a gripping narrative that mashes up fantasy, steampunk and realistic fiction in the best traditions of Robert Heinlein and Ursula K. Le Guin.
It’s a smart move on the part of Rebellion to start their US serial adventure with Edginton and Culbard, who are established creators on both sides of the Atlantic. Ian Edginton has worked for Dark Horse, DC and Marvel, and is currently writing the ongoing fantasy series Hinterland at Vertigo.
Culbard gained notoriety in the US with his work adapting Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft’s horror tales for SelfMadeHero, before venturing out with his recently published self-written and drawn sci-fi graphic novel Celeste (for the same publisher). He also illustrated The New Deadwardians for Vertigo. So, their presence on the US comics scene has already planted them in the minds of readers as reliable creators of solid quality comics.
The Orrery is a vast clockwork solar system where planets whirl on vast metal arms and the sun of cogs is worshipped as a god. But the sun is dying, the planets are freezing one by one, and cults burn as heretics those who warn of the danger. To save her home, young Wren knows she must first escape it and find the key to restart the sun.
Brass Sun then reeks of promise. Even within the 30 pages of #1 a lot happens, and it’s a rather dense comic bursting with ideas and world-building.
As the first of a six-issue series, it does its job rather splendidly: there’s intrigue, with grandfather Cadwalladers’s plans for the religious zealots of the cog and the wheel of worlds; there’s mystery, in the form of the outer planets; there are secrets surrounding the maintenance of the wheel of worlds – a double danger, with fanatics holding hostage a whole planet mixed up with an encroaching ice age; and there’s an enthusiastic and cocky heroine in the shape of Wren, with echoes of the protagonist of Nausicäa of the Valley of the Wind.
And the book is nicely rounded out with a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more. If only all first issues could be like this.
Drawing in an open, clean and semi-cartoony style, Culbard utilises a slightly scratchier inking style, which gives this clean clock-like universe a marginally dirtier look, reflecting the darkness that lies beneath the surface. His storytelling is clear and easy to follow, and provides a solid grounding for Edginton’s ideas, making sure that the reading experience is smooth and allowing the reader to take it all in.
Brass Sun is an intelligent and fast-paced clockpunk sci-fi serial, with a first issue that sets up an alluring world filled with drama, puzzles and adventure, plus a heroine who references the best of Nausicäa and Ursula K. Le Guin’s dramatic protagonists.
Let’s hope Edginton and Culbard can keep up this level of quality in the remaining five issues. Highly recommended.
Ian Edginton (W), I.N.J. Culbard (A) • 2000 AD, $3.99, May, 2014