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War of the Worlds

Second Wave #1

(BOOM! Studios; US: Feb 2006)

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I guess we can blame War of the Worlds: Second Wave #1 on two things, the popularity of last year’s film version of the story and the fact that the original novel is in the public domain. Because if the movie bombed or BOOM! actually had to pay for rights, we might not have been subjected to this “sequel”.


But the movie didn’t bomb. The movie made over $591 million worldwide. And that’s not even counting DVD sales. Heck, Tom Cruise jumping up and down on a couch couldn’t derail it. So it was a no-brainer that BOOM! Studios would jump at the chance to do a sequel/adaptation. But War of the Worlds: Second Wave #1 takes its plot from more movies than just War of the Worlds.


There is a term in film reviewing known as “The Idiot Plot”. Popularized by film reviewer Roger Ebert, an idiot plot is a plot in a movie or book which would not work if the characters in it were not complete idiots. Take for instance, horror movies. If all those teenage victims just left the house instead of being idiots and checking out the basement, they’d be alive and the movie would be over in ten minutes.


Ladies and gentlemen, the entire foundation of this series revolves around an “Idiot Plot”. Our hero does something incredibly stupid in order to get the plot—and the entire series—underway.


What does he do? I have been told that revealing such a pivotal plot point in a review would be bad form, but if I don’t, you might be curious enough to pick up a copy of this issue to find out what it is for yourself. And that, my dear readers, is something my conscience cannot bear.


Our main character, Miles, is at home with his wife, Gina, fixing their dishwasher when the invasion hits. Chaos ensues—people start running away, a fire engine lands in their front lawn, general overall calamity. Miles decides that they should make a run for it. He makes the idiotic suggestion that Gina wait in the basement of their home until he brings “the car around back.”


The fact that the artworks shows us no discernable way to get “around back” in the first place is the not the reason why this is such a stupid move. No, it’s dumb because the car in question, as it is drawn, is TEN FEET FROM THE FRONT DOOR OF THE HOUSE! TEN FEET!!!


Miles made his wife go down a flight of stairs to the basement and wait for how ever long it took him to find a way to the back of the house instead of letting her take the six steps to get to the car. Of course the aliens end up destroying the house and even though the ceiling of the basement appears to be intact afterwards, we are led to believe that Gina died in the attack. When Miles picks up the screwdriver he was using to fix the dishwasher as he vows vengeance, you almost expect him to stab himself in the head with the tool. He is as much, if not more, to blame for his wife’s death as the aliens.


See, Michael Alan Nelson made his main character a moron. We are given the indication that Miles’ thirst for revenge will be the basis for the rest of the series. But it’s hard for this reviewer to continue with the series with such a dunderheaded hero. And the saddest part about this is that if they wanted to go with the “revenge” angle for their main character, there were so many other ways to go that wouldn’t involve making him out to be an idiot.


This plot point isn’t they only major flaw with the issue. The storytelling is bad as well. The entire issue is basically a prologue for the series. This is nothing new. Many first issues in today’s “write for trade” era serve the same function. But many of those other first issues aren’t as sloppily constructed as this one.


The creators went to great lengths to pad the story, going so far as to include a two page splash panel montage which doesn’t advance the plot whatsoever and only illustrates what we see later in the book. On the other hand, they spend three pages building up an air strike on the alien craft only to leave us with no payoff. We see the bomber drop its payload at the alien ship but never see the bombs hit. Were they successful? Was the ship destroyed? Did they fail? We’ll never know because they just went on to the next scene.


The artwork by Chee is serviceable. When he has to draw something like the alien ships, he excels. When he has to draw anything in the real world, it seems like he is lost without photographic references. Some of the close-ups on his faces and the way he draws machinery are very realistic. When he has to draw faces from far away or soldier’s uniforms, not so much.


I hope by now many of you out there have guessed that I cannot recommend this book. While it is not entirely without merit (Nelson creates a palpable sense of panic and chaos, which helps the book’s middle section), the issue and the series as a whole lost me when it came to its main character. I don’t like the Idiot Plot in movies and I certainly don’t like it in comic books.

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