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The Official Bryan Talbot fanpage / Articles

A review of Heart of Empire,
from Tripwire magazine


Armageddon - a - go - go

When I was first introduced to Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright all those many years ago, the character came across to me like a bizarre, alchemical combination of the sun god Apollo, Jesus Christ, '70s porn star Harry Reems, and David Bowie's lightning boy, Aladdin Sane.

Looking back, I realize now that I only got him half right.

You see, I left out Ian Fleming's James Bond (which is rather surprising, since most of us Americans can't help thinking about British-bred heroes without bringing up Her Majesty's Secret Service's pride and joy), as well as Michael Moorcocks' classic anti-hero, the reality-hopping Jerry Cornelius -- the original cyberpunk himself.

Like Cornelius (and the majority of the others), Arkwright appeared to be his own man, working only for himself and "The Greater Good" (also see "The Good Fight," "The Right Stuff," etc.). Like the best modern heroes, Arkwright knew what the score was, and what had to be accomplished to transform dream into action. More importantly, he also seemed to be above the fray -- as if his part was somewhat bigger than those he was trying to save. Which leads us straight into Heart of Empire #1.

Like all messiahs who have come before, our hero only laid the foundation for the creation of a better world after the events of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. He left it to his Queen Anne (now Empress of the World) and her allies to rebuild from the ashes.

There's an old American expression that's appropriate here. It goes something like, "They dropped the ball" -- big time!

As Heart of Empire opens, its 23 years later and Arkwright is believed dead. And apparently, the sum of all of his heroics and strategy have only succeeded to make the world one under a totalitarian England's thumb, while forcing the powers that be to raise a lot of masonry. On the bright side, technology is decades ahead of our own reality, and all are left to stand in awe of Arkwright's sacrifice and the works he left behind. But then, Empress Anne (as she calls herself, while forcing others to do the same) has become a nightmare, creating a empire that reflects her mental state; a tragic kingdom which will eventually be handed down to her seven-foot, sexually-frustrated anemic daughter, Princess Victoria (who also happens to be the major protagonist of the story). But whether the good princess -- or any one else, for that matter -- will live to claim the throne is anybody's guess. You see, there are rumors that the Pope has sent his best assassin to the Imperial Palace in London to commit a dreadful deed, and that Armageddon is set to come upon the world in seven days...

Talbot's laying the groundwork for something big and dramatic and sexy here, folks. And with the prevalence of pre-millennium tension on both sides of The Pond, as well as the creation of Grant Morrison's Hypertime theory (which has since brought back the concept of parallel worlds in 'The Original Comic Book Universe'), it couldn't have come at a better time. Beautifully illustrated -- this time in full-color (Take a bow, Mr. McKie!) -- with enough twists to have readers coming back for more, Talbot has returned to the high-fantasy, underlying eroticism, and fast-paced action that made the original Arkwright series a delight to behold! All we need is for him to give us some alternate earths of our very own, and this would be adult high-adventure at its grandest!

In other words, pick up the books, kids. All nine of them. And consider that the signs are right, the lighting is good, and the mood is set for some good ol' Armageddon-a-go-go.

Cue the music and raise the mirror ball. It's time to get it on!

Scott Braden

Story: Four 1/2 out of five

Art: Four out of five

Overall Quality: Four 1/2 out of five


The whole of Heart of Empire - together with all pencilled and inked pages, 60,000 words of annotations by Bryan and the whole of the Adventures of Luther Arkwright is available on a CD-Rom for only 18 US dollars.


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