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The Official Bryan Talbot fanpage / Articles

Heart of Empire review: from Popimage


Luther Arkwright may be no more, but his legacy lives on

Writer and Artist: Bryan Talbot
Colorist: Angus McKie
Letterer: Ellie DeVille
9-issue series published by Dark Horse Comics 1999
$2.95 each

Reviewed by Arni Gunnarsson

Twenty-three years ago Luther Arkwright prevented the destruction of the universe. He orchestrated an attack in Para 00.72.87 against the forces of The Puritan Empire, to counter the effects (known as Firefrost) caused by the Fire Opal, a weapon wielded by beings known as the Disruptors. For 23 years the Empire he helped establish has ruled this world. But now a new disaster, more sinister than the Fire Opal, is set to threaten the world in seven days time.

Various psychics are seeing the signs. One in particular is Doctor Dee, now an old man banished from the Court of Queen Anne. Dee sees that it is the sickly and frail daughter of Queen Anne and Arkwright who stand in the midst of the coming maelstrom. In 7 days, Victory Eve will celebrate the Royalist victory over the Empire of Cromwell... and the birthday of Princess Mary Victoria Elizabeth Boudicca Cordelia Miranda Arkwright Stuart.

Bryan Talbot's HEART OF EMPIRE has been 3 years in the making. At the time of writing 6 of the 9 chapters in this epic story have been published. The last is due in December 1999.

The art, in colour and not as dense as in THE ADVENTURES OF LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, makes HEART OF EMPIRE fantastic to behold. Talbot's art is now crisper and cleaner, something regular readers of his work will first have noticed in THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT. Combined with the craftsmanship of the amazing colorist Angus McKie, HEART OF EMPIRE is as close to a perfectly illustrated comic as one can find. The backgrounds, stunning visuals of a slightly adjusted London and Rome, take on a life of their own.

Indeed, there are plenty of pages that would stand alone as works of art. Of the 284 pages, only 10 are done by someone other than Talbot; in this case SMS, an SF artist with a remarkable skill in architectural paintings. The characters are always well rendered, the expressive close-ups amazing. One of Talbot's comments about modern comic art is that body language is often poorly used; something of which Talbot himself cannot be accused. Vicky's grimaces of pain during her migraine attacks are almost enough to convey her pain to the reader. The costumes are exquisitely researched and designed, outshining any superhero costume today.

Bryan Talbot's storytelling puts most of today's writers to shame. The years since THE ADVENTURES OF LUTHER ARKWRIGHT have honed the talent exhibited by Talbot at that time to perfection. Unlike LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, which was overtly experimental, HEART OF EMPIRE is more straightforward in its narrative. Gone is the jumping between infinite parallels; instead the story takes place in only two, making it easier for the reader to follow events. Within the story Talbot even has time for cameo appearances by the famous and infamous - Kenny (R2-D2) Baker is a member of the Royal Household, and a certain Princess Diana is locked away in an asylum.

As the story develops the reader is drawn deeper into this fantastic world. Talbot has combined elements from various cultures and eras in human history. A combination of opulence, splendor, humor, profanity, idealism, magic, fear, racism, hatred, conquest, revolution and ultimately salvation make HEART OF EMPIRE one of the greatest epics in years, something no fan of great literature should miss.


Arni Gunnarsson is Columns Editor of PopImage


Also take a look at the Heart of Empire homepage where I have gathered as much of the material about Heart of Empire as I have been able to find in one place, and also take a look at the other reviews Popimage have done of Bryan's work, of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and the Tale of One Bad Rat.

If you have come to this page as part of the guided tour then you can go back to the main guided tour page, go on to the next page in the tour - the review of The Tale of One Bad Rat, or go back to the previous page in the tour which is the review of the Adventures of Luther Arkwright.



The design and content of this page and this entire website is copyright 1999, 2006 by James Robertson: all images are copyright 1999, 2006 by Bryan Talbot