Heaven's War

Nicola A. Menzie

Takes an analytical look at the mysteries and mythologies of life and requires a bit of prerequisite reading and patience to be appreciated.

Heaven's War

Publisher: Image Comics
Contributors: Michael Gaydos (Artist)
Price: $12.95
Writer: Micah Harris
Item Type: Comic
Length: 120
Publication Date: 2003-11

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Also from the annotations, one gets the impression that Harris — previously unpublished — cares a whole lot about this tale and has invested plenty of time and effort into Heaven's War, since he's been working on it since the mid-90's. No doubt a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.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.