US: Nov 2003
Heaven’s War is Raw
Yes, you can judge this one by its cover. Heaven’s War is indeed about the supernatural war in heaven, as described in the Bible in Revelations 12:7. You might have heard it while growing up and maybe still hear it today: there is a war between good and evil; the angels and demons are at odds, and the outcome of their struggle will affect the entire earth. The demonic forces’ victory means bad things will happen, while the angelic forces’ victory doesn’t necessarily mean good things, but those bad things won’t happen. Well, duh, you may be thinking. But, I ask you this: what is good and what is evil? What makes an angel any different or any better than a demon, and does it matter in the end? Kind of like the Matrix all over again, huh?
The year is 1938 and “The infamous Aleister Crowley plans to manipulate those angelic struggles and thus shape the world according to his will.” In the opposing corner are “The Inklings”, a group of male, white, Christian writers primarily made up of 20th century fantasy authors J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams.
You can assume that in order to appreciate or even “get” Micah Harris’ Heaven’s War, one would have to know who the hell Aleister Crowley is, be familiar not only with the works of “The Inklings” but also their personal lives, and have some idea about Biblical matters. Fortunately for us, Harris included about fifteen pages worth of “Annotations” at the end of the graphic tale, which did shed some light on the story.
Also from the annotations, one gets the impression that Harris previously unpublished cares a whole lot about this tale and has invested plenty of time and effort into Heaven’s War, since he’s been working on it since the mid-90’s. No doubt a lot of research had to be done to weave a believable and interesting tale, and the story is rather interesting, but a little too serious and rigid.
It’s serious in the sense that it comes off a little too preachy and overtly philosophical, and often I felt like an outsider, like the entire content of the work was an inside thing that I had to be a part of to understand. For example, in an exchange between Charles Williams and J.R.R. Tolkien, Williams states, “It does seem the universe is always capable of a worse trick than we can suppose. A virus, for example: it’s not only destructive; it’s diabolically clever.” Tolkien retorts, “A virus is part of a fallen creation, Charles, not part of the world’s original state. Evil is no essential balance, but rather an imbalance to be righted, a rebellion to be put down.” Constant jargon like that weighs down the story, much like wading through muddy, seaweed-infested waters.
The artwork by Michael Gaydos, who also illustrates Alias (published by Marvel), is simple black and white with no shading whatsoever, which works fine, but Gaydos does nothing adventurous with it. With a story like Heaven’s War, which is steeped in fantasy and the supernatural, one would expect various bursts of visually stunning scenery or something. But there is practically nothing. The layout of the artwork is as serious and rigid as the story itself. About 90% of the pages all look alike, in terms of panel layout and often content, which brings me to the repetitiveness of this novel.
Charles Williams has the ability to mentally travel throughout the timelessness of the universe, though not of his own volition. To play up the theory of time being a constant thing “that the past, present, and future are one under the arch of eternity”, as Williams puts it the character visits and re-visits the same three settings throughout the story. This, in conjunction with the sparse close-ups and full-figure shots, gives the story the eeriness that Harris was going for, and that Gaydos expresses rather well, in those rare instances.
With the only sound effects in the entire graphic novel being “fwoosh”, “fwoosh”, and “crash” all within two pages there isn’t much action, and of course, the resolution comes down to the matters of philosophical and religious interpretations. So what the hell is Heaven’s War? It’s a graphic novel that takes an analytical look at the mysteries and mythologies of life and requires a bit of prerequisite reading and patience to be appreciated. If this sounds like your cup of tea and you plan on perusing it, I recommend reading the endnotes first.