By Eric Hobbs & Noel Tuazon (NBM/ComicsLit)
When you read that as many as one millions Americans were fooled into hysterical panic by Orson Wellesâ€™ Halloween radio broadcast of the War of the Worlds itâ€™s had not to think â€œhow dumb are you?â€ or â€œdonâ€™t you people read books?â€ but the sad fact remains that a vast proportion of the population heard a portion of the innovative updating of the HG Wells classic on October 30th 1930 and genuinely thought the end of humanity had come.
This superbly low-key monochromatic tale takes a canny peek at human nature in a time of sustained privation (the Great Depression had just hit the USA a damned sight harder than any Martian death-ray could) and urgent – if only imagined – emergency as a small community in rural Indiana endures a couple of unhappy coincidences that result in a horrific confrontationâ€¦
At the height of a brutal storm a small band of farmers and families huddle in a barn. Itâ€™s been a bad day all around. Young Gavin Baker has finally asked wealthy Thomas Shrader if he could marry his daughter, Kim, but the meeting didnâ€™t go well. Nevertheless the lovers still planned to escape to New York where Kim could become a writerâ€¦
Shrader had made a killing bailing out and buying up failing farms over the past year and wasnâ€™t well liked by the newly destitute townsfolk such as widower Jacob Lee or cropper Eli Dawson, but heâ€™s the only employer left so they make doâ€¦
A severely beaten, wandering Negro named Martin Steinbeck stumbled into the Baker place later that day. Heâ€™d clearly had a brutally rough encounter and was astonished when the family offered him help and sustenance rather than hatred and further violenceâ€¦
Later, throughout the community the townsfolk tuned in their radios and all caught what they believed to be newscasts reporting Martian invaders blasting New York and New Jersey when suddenly a storm hit and the town lost power. With the phones and lights out, panicked, terrified people all headed towards the Shrader place with its solid storm cellar but when Kim discovered a truck with dead bodies it in, the only conclusion could be that the aliens have already reached the Heartlandâ€¦
But when the families arrive Shrader delivered an ultimatum: only five people will be allowed refuge, him, his wife and three other and only then if rebellious Kim is one of themâ€¦
With imminent doom lurking in the darkness, friendship, civility and human empathy begin to breakdown and a very human atrocity seems inevitableâ€¦
This is an enchantingly subtle and impressive tale, carefully avoiding histrionics and bombast, and ultimately uplifting and positive. Eric Hobbs has focused on the communal heroism of the common man and the misty, raw line-and-wash illustration of Noel Tuazon marries dreamy introspection with painful sufferance to give the ensemble cast a look far removed from the general run of modern comics.
The book also contains a photo and clippings gallery displaying the mediaâ€™s response to the original radio broadcast, deleted scenes, character sketches and a brief commentary on the creatorâ€™s working process. Tense, ironic and deeply moving this may well be the sleeper-hit of the year and a major motion picture soon afterâ€¦
Â© 2010 Eric Hobbes.