Story by Tom Veitch
Art by Cam Kennedy
On Sale from 27th May 2015
Publisher: Titan Comics
208 pages | Full Colour | Previews Order Code: JAN151610 | £17.99
The Story: Lazarus Jones is a Vietnam War veteran who lost his legs in that war. Suffering both physically and mentally from his time at war and since, he is spiralling down and down into depression, wishing he had died.
After a visit to the Washington Vietnam War Memorial to check the names of his lost comrades he is involved in a car accident. Falling into a coma, he finds himself transported to the System of Abraxas in far off space to fight Lord Na, meeting his old comrades in the battle between Light and Darkness…
The Review: This is the sort of story that I find I can’t look away from and ties my stomach in a knot waiting for the next panel. Ever since Dorothy finds herself in the Land of Oz or John Carter falls onto the planet Mars I have been shouting ‘STAY THERE!!! DON’T COME HOME!!!’ Places so different and exotic that the protagonist shouldn’t even consider returning home. Yet it is home they search for, over and over again.
The Light and Darkness War uses these thoughts and spins them on you. They are used to counterpoint the horrors of war that are as relevant today as they were in the Atomic War fearing 1980s. We see the reality of PTSD on soldiers returning home. Lazarus himself is a bitter, tormented, short-tempered man. His spirit and heart are broken, his dignity taken from him. He dreams of his old friends, lost to him, to a place he wishes he had been taken.
After the car crash, Lazarus falls into a coma and once again sees a cosmic crossroad. This time he is given a choice. Return to war and be made physically whole again or return to his broken body and mind on a hospital trolley. He chooses the former and Lazarus, like his biblical counterpart, is brought back to life.
I read this book as it was coming out in 1988 and 1989. It was released in the afterglow of films like Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Hamburger Hill. It painted the same horrific images of war and the anti-war feeling that grew post Vietnam. It was a time of Reagan and the Cold War. The Berlin Wall was still standing and at school, kids were taught how to make a bomb shelter, Threads was showed on BBC1 and war was an ever-present reality.
What has changed? Syria is reported widely and harks back to the dirty street battles of pat conflicts. Light and Darkness has never been more relevant.
“This palace is infected with darkness…”
The book is also from a period of creativity that busted out from the comics scene. An experimental time that played with great fictional themes. Not least of all these is the concept of dreams. This comic plays with emotions through dreams and nightmares. Who amongst us hasn’t woken from a realistic dream to wish they were still there as it fades from our memory?
“Beyond all dreaming we are reality itself.”
Cam Kennedy has always been a favourite of mine personally but here he really flies into limitless imagination. The panels play between moments of cloudy and dreamlike sequences to the violent gore of battle. Both he and Veitch play with our concepts of reality. What is real? What is dream? What do we think about our state of consciousness and our grip on reality? And do we care? We begin to wonder if the dream state is as much reality as the cold hard facts of the world around us. It’s this Burroughs like mixing of real and unreal that make this book outstandingly interesting. It’s this that makes this comic one that you can examine and think about long after the reading experience has ended.
‘Dig the badass in the skull, he must be the king turd of this operation.’
This comic pulls, pushes and shocks you backwards and forwards through states of reality and dream with words and visuals. It has a world that transgresses finally into our own and remains as real as the hospital beds and freeways of the world of the 1980s. Veitch and Kennedy create a universe of Sky Ships, alien engine creatures, beautiful warrior princesses and sharp toothed demonic warlords that is, simply, extraordinary in every single panel. This is undoubtedly the reprint of the year. It is also a story that will break your heart.
As well as the original comic mini series this book also has extensive text pieces, concept art and details history of the project. Beautiful stuff indeed.
• Check out an official site dedicated to Light & Darkness War at http://lightanddarknesswar.com
• Tom Veitch can be found at http://lightmind.com
Many thanks for reading.
Antony Esmond is a comic reviewer and writer - his hips don't lie.