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The Official Bryan Talbot fanpage / Articles

Warren Ellis reviews
The Adventures of Luther Arkwright


This review of the Adventures of Luther Arkwright was added to the site on 18/5/03 and was originally published on the Artbomb site.

Luther Arkwright is probably the single most influential graphic novel to have come out of Britain to date. Bryan Talbot's later The Tale of One Bad Rat is an absolute symphony of the form, showing how to use all the tools correctly to make a work of stunning clarity and emotional power. Luther Arkwright invented the tools. Arkwright informs Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, me, and all the rest of us. It's probably Anglophone comics' single most important experimental work. Powered by the British "New Wave" sf of the Sixties, it looked for a way to tell its story in a challenging, information-rich and adult manner. And no-one else had done it. Not even the French comics of the Sixties and early Seventies, with their mad glee at bending the form, had provided the equipment.

So Bryan Talbot invented it.

He took from everywhere - the films of Nick Roeg, head shop culture, 19th Century magazine illustrated, medieval woodcuts, classical portraiture, Sixties collage, Mal Dean and the New Worlds illustrators, anything and bloody everything, and adapted it all to work in the special environment of comics. You can't just "steal" Nic Roeg's cutting - you have to work out how time breaks down in comics, the staccato sequential imaging as opposed to the continuous image, and devise a way to achieve the same effect in a different medium.
To correctly service his visionary sf story of a multiverse being destabilised by madmen tunneling through parallel Earths, and the emergent superhuman trapped in a backward Puritan alternative Britain who discovers the actual truth behind the insanity even as he achieves his own conceptual breakthrough, Bryan Talbot had to invent a vocabulary. One that was fifteen years ahead of its time.
Modern comics have now just about caught up with Luther Arkwright's techniques. But it remains one of the medium's richest works of science fiction, is as close to the definition of "novel" as anything on this site, and will always be one of the most explosive creative experiences comics have yet undergone. In all the ways that matter, there is still nothing else like Luther Arkwright.

-- Warren Ellis

Also take a look at Warren's review of Heart of Empire, and the Artbomb site where this review was originally published. For more articles and interviews check out the articles page, and to see what other people have said about Bryan's work see the quotes page. Heart of Empire, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and the Tale of One Bad Rat all have their own homepages on the site.


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