The Rats and The City

Today I’ve found an old comic book from a comic store, but this isn’t your usual superhero story or even a Judge Dredd story (but I was very close to getting a Judge Dredd comic today!). Rather than buying my usual favourite comic books by 2,000ad, my eye was attracted by another comic that was just barely visible in the stacks. What I found was none other than The City, by James Herbert.

At first glance I thought I’ve found an Alien comic with strange alien, like architecture similar to the space jockey ship interior. However when I pulled it out of the comic stack, I was shocked to see this was actually a post apocalyptic comic book story.

I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t flick through the book to see if I liked it before purchase. It was in a protective pocket and I didn’t want to open it case the shop owner got angry. Anyways, what made me but this over Judge Dredd Yearbook (I think it was 1994?) was the sheer enormity of the front cover with it’s beautiful illustration. The back synopsis whilst very short was also very tempting to take a read.

So I brought this comic book and began to follow the isolation of a travellers journey into the city.

My impressions on the book overall?

The story telling is very limited throughout with only a few texts in each page, describing the journey the Traveller goes on. It’s difficult understanding what the characters goals are as it’s not mentioned until halfway through the story. By then, once it’s revealed that the protagonist is trying to rescue his family in the city, the empathy for the horror that takes place only works for the shock value. Any character building and the relationships is none existent, making you feel like you’ve missed out on those connections.

However, this isn’t to say that this comic book isn’t worth reading (well visually looking since there’s hardly much reading involved) as the art is the books strongest aspect. Ian Miller’s artistic talent is outstanding in the way he illustrates the downfall of the city from the landscape to the people who inhabit it. The buildings are crumbling with contorted structure that look eerie, with a mix of abomination like faces like a nightmare brought to life.

The use of colours is also used to great effect in the way Ian uses a mix of greys, dark blues, blacks and other dull colours to create a morbid and degraded city scape. Contrasting with the blood red sky really impacts the visual presentation of an alien like world, far from what our worlds environment and city scape looks like.

The main protagonist is also designed and coloured in a way as not to be a heroic good guy, or a badass action hero, but a lone man in a tin suit of armour. His humanity is hidden behind the suit disguising his true emotions throughout the first half of the story. He is an alien to the city, for he is a rust orange tin man in contrast to the grey and dull world that he contrasts to. When we do eventually see his true identity in the flesh, even he looks as dead and defeated as the rest of the people that suffer from the post apocalyptic nightmare.

As for James Herbert’s story telling, whilst I’ve mentioned above that there’s a lack story telling, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. These days we get dumped exposition in movies and books that drivel on about too much information, and by the time that’s done you feel bored or just distracted. However, The City gives you hardly any exposition dumps, instead the city and the action tells the story that you can piece together the world you see.

The back synopsis combined with the story makes sense as to what the story is about. It’s not a revolutionary story telling by no means, and it does lack context as to how the apocalyptic war started. There a reason why there’s a lack of information, but I’ll elaborate on that later on.

Overall, I’d recommend giving this a try if your into the illustration story based comic books, the art is worth observing and see the effort that’s been done to illustrate this story’s world. The story can be a downside to the book, it’s not terrible to the point of unreadable, it’s good if your wanting a short story to read.

What I found out afterwards

After reading this comic book, I wanted to find out more about this comic book and its creators. So I did some research and was surprised at what I’ve found, and it made more sense now that I look back on The City.

The City is a loose continuation of James Herbert’s best selling book trilogy series that started with his first book written, The Rats. Now I haven’t read The Rats in full, nor the two sequels from the series, but from what I can gather it’s clear what James had crafted.

The City is the result of what takes place from the trilogy, it’s a visual aftermath of what happen after the apocalypse, the main threat was the Rats. It’s the first and only graphic novel for The Rats book series, and the last story in the franchise.

I’m keen to find the books and read them myself now that I’ve found out more about the fictional world that James had created. If I didn’t pick up The City today, I would never have known about this flawed but beautiful and dark graphic novel.

With that, I’m going to wrap up today’s post and call it a night. Thank you for reading this post, and if you know about James Herbert and Ian Millers works, or The Rats trilogy, share your thoughts below in the comment section.

Until next time!

-Bjorn

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