Brass Sun Issue One – Praise Be To The Cog
By Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard
2000AD / Rebellion
A first for 2000AD and an interesting one at that. Sure, they’ve done foreign publishing before, through Quality in the 80s, DC in the 90s, and most recently through IDW, and they’ve done graphic novel collections that get around the world, but this is different. This is 2000AD taking a comic already serialised in the pages of the comic in the UK and repackaging it themselves in US comic format ahead of eventual collected edition.
The trail was blazed somewhat by the Dredd movie sequel Underbelly, but that was a stand-alone single issue and a film tie-in to boot.
The interesting question that Brass Sun prompts is why start here?
The easy answer is that Brass Sun isn’t typical 2000AD and that makes it possible to market differently. For no matter what 2000AD have tried, their stock roster of heroes has never succeeded abroad in the same fashion it does in the UK, so something like Brass Sun, which has a distinctly different appeal may well be a good in. Added to that there’s the recent success of IDW publishing the other standout non-Dredd story of the last couple of years, the Brendan McCarthy, Al Ewing Saucer Of Zilk. It may simply be that 2000D decided they could just as easily do that in house.
However, all speculation aside, the publication of Brass Sun in any format is a great idea as long as it means more people get to see it. It was, barring Dredd tales Day Of Chaos and Trifecta, my fave thing since starting to regularly read 2000AD. There’s something absolutely alluring about the series, mixing good, old fashioned pulp style adventure with epic sci-fi, both in scope and look. Reading it as an episodic thing in 2000AD was great, but re-reading it here, still cut-up into bite-sized chunks but with each of the six issues having 30-pages of comics, it’s so much more rewarding, seeing the rhythm of story and art develop without the punctuation and delay of the weekly wait.
Joe already told you why you should be reading it (review here) and I heartily concur with every word he said to be honest, and no doubt when the collection comes out later in the year of these 150 pages making up Brass Sun parts one and two I’ll revisit the entire thing. But looking over this first issue I simply couldn’t resist sticking my oar in.
That’s page 1. You see what I mean about it being somewhat different? We’re zooming out, further and further, not on a watch mechanism, but on something far more fantastical….
The “Brass Sun” of the title lies at the heart of what gives this comic its epic quality – a completely mechanical solar system, a genuine Orrery, supporting plentiful and varied life amongst its many planets, all interconnected via a mass transit system known as the rails run by an ancient order of religious engineers, the Prime Numbers. Frankly, easier if I show you….
Yes, that’s why Brass Sun impressed, why it still does.
There’s something incredible still about seeing the physics of the universe redefined in such a way. Yes, the scale is out, the proportions surely impossible, the distances required to span interplanetary space beyond a mere engineering project, but that impossibility merely adds to the incredible mystery of it all, something to ponder as the beauty of the clockwork model writ large unfolds.
On top of the epic beauty and impossible scale there’s a well imagined theological aspect to the worlds here, something that creates both a backdrop to the society and a driving plotline through the tale. The religions here are ones where the creation stories struggle for dominance, where the idea of a creator known as ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ is referred to, and renounced as heresy by the religious leaders of the time.
That the religious orthodoxy flies in the face of reason, evidence and science is ignored, those in charge refusing to acknowledge to the greater worlds out there the horrifying truth for all people of The Orrery, that their Brass Sun is winding down, that the outer planets are succumbing to icy, deathly cold. Science classed as heresy, astronomical instruments capable of seeing the truth outlawed, the truth is lost, only a select few still struggle on despite the risk.
Our heroine Wren is rather dropped into all this by her grandfather, who passes on a vital mission, to find the all important key required to restart the sun. Yes, it’s an obvious thing, a macguffin of sorts, definitely something to drive the story along, give us a reason to set off with Wren on her quest.
But that’s not the point, all classic quest tales have a start, most have somewhat dubious or obvious reasons to send their hero out a-questing. I’ve got to say sending a teen girl out into a system of interconnected mechanical planets to find the broken up pieces of a key that will wind up the mechanism powering the life-giving Brass Sun is a pretty fabulous setup for a quest if you ask me.
Wren’s quest will take her, and us, across the worlds of the Orrery, in all their magnificence and beauty. Which is rather the point. So much of the appeal of Brass Sun comes from the epic nature of the quest, the whole vision of writer and artist to create not just a world but a complete, incredible solar system that can’t possibly exist, but here, and in our imagination, Edginton and Culbard have made the impossible almost real.
The epic scale of the work is made all the more imposing as we take the pov of young Wren, feeling oh so overawed by the sudden responsibility thrust upon her, this poor girl from the parochial and now decidedly chilly planet of Hind Leg cast as potential saviour of the galaxy.
There were times within the pages of 2000AD that the pace felt a little too slow, where Culbard’s use of big panels or full-page spreads meant a 5-page 2000AD episode felt almost slight. I kept saying the collection would change that, would allow the pacing to work as the artist intended, and I’m so happy to say it does.
Here, with 30 pages to read there’s a sense that the big open pages aren’t slow, but are in fact essential, allowing writer and artist to create a sense of magnificence, of vastness that’s sharply counterpointed by the insignificance of poor Wren.
Overall Culbard and Edginton do wonderful world visioning stuff in Brass Sun, all set against a plot of straight adventuring that plays so well against the really high concept sci-fi. Great work done so well.
Brass Sun in 2000AD was great, but reading it in longer form here makes it even better. Now imagine how much fun it’s going to be when it gets completely collected?
Brass Sun Issue 1 is out at the end of May.
Finally, as a little added bonus… the covers to issues 2-4…