What can I say about Bryan Talbot‘s new graphic novel, The Legend of Luther Arkwright that might usefully add to the much deserved praise it has already had on release?
In one timeline, perhaps, I could be pointing out that not only does this story build on a huge, involved history, the first Luther Arkwright story initially serialised in 1978, and that this new story took some two years of solid work to complete…
In another, I thought it best to refer Bryan Talbot fans to the huge amount of work the creator has put into keeping track of all the multiple story points in his huge story, the background work charted in the current exhibition at London’s Cartoon Museum…
While in a third existence, I simply pick up the hefty 200+ story, published by Jonathan Cape and dived straight into reading the new adventure, and got blown away, once again, by the imaginary worlds of Luther Arkwright, just as I was when I read the first story in collection from Never Ltd (Serege Boissevain), many, many years ago.
Perhaps running scared of alienating possible new readers, promotions for The Legend of Luther Arkwright introduced by SF writer Adrian Tchaikovsky, declare this tale represents “a different kind of adult adventure” to the previous two Arkwright stories, while maintaining total continuity with the Arkwright mythos. Quite honestly, I’m not seeing that at all; this new story is pure Luther Arkwright adventure throughout, as it has always been, gritty, imaginative and thoroughly enjoyable, throughout.
As ever, Talbot uses the multiverse setting to savage modern politics and prick the mores of various cultures; but he has done that in previous Luther Arkwright stories. This time, though, perhaps he is even more cutting? Especially when Arkwright and company, for example, find themselves in a nightmare timeline where Britain has been corrupted by Brexit thinking and right wing ideology, throwing up a mirror on modern media.
For me, for all the scope of this story, set fifty years after Heart of Empire, The Legend of Luther Arkwright is not just about a battle with a deadly, apparently superior foe and the battle against it, across multiple historically divergent parallel worlds, both utopian and dystopian.
For all the drama, the jaw dropping twists and turns, the beauty of this new story comes from its quieter moments, those chances to pause for breath, for example as Luther regroups in a deserted mansion after nearly being killed; and the gentle asides, and observations, of mysterious characters looking back on events in the tale, all adding to the Arkwright mythos.
I’ve never made a secret of my enjoyment of multiverse tales, particularly in SF, ever since reading Keith Laumer‘s Worlds of the Imperium. Bryan Talbot brought many new angles to the entire concept from the get go with his original Luther Arkwright story, and The Legend of Luther Arkwright continues that, in consummate style.
It is a glorious epic of a story, much enjoyed. In many timelines…
• Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright: 50 years of a British comics legend exhibtion runs until 2nd October 2022 at the Cartoon Museum, 63 Wells Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1A 3AE. Web: www.cartoonmuseum.org | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube
Bryan Talbot: The Father of the British Graphic Novel
by Bryan Talbot & J.D. Harlock
Experience the sweeping biography of the one and only Bryan Talbot, the writer and illustrator behind some of the most acclaimed comics in British and American history.
From his work at DC on Batman and The Sandman to his work at 2000AD on Judge Dredd and Nemesis the Warlock to his creator-owned comics like The Tale of One Bad Rat, Alice in Sunderland, Grandville, and the legendary The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, the first British graphic novel, you’ll discover never before revealed information about his life and work in this beautiful new hardcover designed by Alan Fisher with an exclusive cover illustration by Bryan himself and intros by industry titans Neil Gaiman and Ed Brubaker.
Painstakingly compiled over two years, this exquisite and lavishly-illustrated book is a must-have, not only for fans of Talbot’s legendary oeuvre, but for anyone with an interest in the history of comics and the craft that goes into creating them!