By Stephen Walsh and Keith Page
The Iron Moon is one of the first releases from Print Media, but it’s not the first time we’ve met the iconically retro-space-suited character on the front. That’s Lieutenant Charlotte Corday. And we first met her in Walsh and Page’s London Calling, published by Timebomb Comics and reviewed here where I said some of this….
“The best I can describe it as is a surreal story of psychic spies chasing vampires in post war 50s London through a filter of The Goons, Monty Python and even, with the off-kilter look at a very familiar time using a host of fantasy and genre ideas, Moore and O’Neill’s League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But that briefest of descriptions really doesn’t do justice to something that really, really attempts to be quite fantastically different from anything else out there. That it doesn’t always work, that it’s a flawed work almost isn’t the point. It’s something well worth your attention, just for the sheer passion, the ambition, and the craft, that’s gone into it.
Charlotte Corday, …. [may be an agent] of the French Secret Service. She may have been sent to London 50 years ago on a top secret mission. She may be there to find the head of a group of vampires in residence in Highgate Cemetery. Or perhaps none of it ever really happened and it’s all just a story made up by Corday to pass the time as she and the boys boat across a flooded London. How’s that sound? Confusing? Surreal? Bizarre? Brilliant? Oh yes, London Calling is all of those things.”
Now, with “The Iron Moon” Corday flits in time yet again, turning up at the end of the 19th Century in an alternative world of a British Empire that’s ventured forth and conquered space. Walsh and Page are doing a fine job of positioning Corday as some kind of Jerry Cornelius type character, multiple versions adrift in time, each iteration not really aware of the others, or maybe not yet?
It certainly gives them a huge scope of stories to tell, and from the work so far, and news of future Corday stories to come, they’re going to play with the concept for some time to come.
(Enter Charlotte Corday, a French member of Her Majesty’s Royal Space Navy, but not exactly trusted by her fellows – “… and don’t think I haven’t noticed the way your frog accent comes and goes!” a simple line that makes reference to Corday’s mysterious origins. From The Iron Moon by Stephen Walsh and Keith Page, published by Print Media)
Where London Calling was a twisting, confusing, romp, designed to confound and entertain, The Iron Moon is far more traditional, far more linear.
Not that this is a problem, authors Stephen Walsh and Keith Page tell a weirdly old fashioned tale of Dan Dare-ish space exploration, of steampunk Victoriana, peppered with familiar faces (Queen Victoria, The Duke Of Wellington, Nelson, Napoleon) that sounds high concept, but ends up being a very good, old fashioned boys adventure with a bit of weird thrown in for good measure.
We’re back in the tail end of the nineteenth century, with a vigorous Queen Victoria heading into the second century of her reign and her Empire extending across the globe and out into space. With a mechanised Duke Of Wellington ruling over her armed forces, both here and in space. But Queen Vic has a problem – she’s lost all contact with her “Iron Moon”….
(Another lovely little throaway idea – “they don’t answer the telephone, Lieutenant Corday”.)
So Corday, as a member of Her Majesty’s Royal Space Navy, is pressed into service. Once space-bound, it doesn’t take long for Corday to discover there’s a lot more to deal with than the problems of the Iron Moon, and meets new races, some friendly, some not…. the whole thing builds up at the end into some incredible “Rourke’s Drift in space” type battle. Which is where The Iron Moon really takes off.
And there’s the problem, because until the “Rourkes Drift In Space” stuff I found The Iron Moon a tad frustrating. The setup seemed just too rushed, Walsh’s storytelling too simplistic, his dialogue a little too static and wooden, and as a consequence I found the first twenty or so pages rather a chore to get through, which was really disappointing. However, once Corday does find herself on The Iron Moon, everything snaps into place and it races by, hugely enjoyable, pacing so much better, and Walsh outdoes himself by not only creating the whole “Rourke’s Drift in space” vibe from the epic battle scenes, but also finds time to throw in an Earth based political conspiracy and a clever and fun bit of space weirdness.
The enjoyment of the second half is such that it overwhelms any sour taste left from the stuttering, difficult start. I finished The Iron Moon really, really pleased to have enjoyed a cracking, old fashioned boy’s own style space faring adventure worthy of the best of The Eagle. And the extra weirdness that found its way in right at the end only made the whole thing better.
(That’s the “Rourkes Drift In Space” stuff. Brilliantly done by Walsh and Page from The Iron Moon, published by Print Media)
But whilst the story is a thing of two halves, Keith Page’s artwork is excellent throughout. Similar to his work on London Calling, but more polished, with a subtle and well constructed colour palette (no harsh computer colouring here I assume) really adding to the traditional feel of the book. It all evokes memories (whether real or imagined) of the work of Bellamy and Hampson, of Colonel Dare jetting off to fight the Mekon again – it has that sort of feel.
The adventures of Charlotte Corday by Walsh and Page doesn’t stop here though, as Timebomb Comics have also commissioned a second Corday in 50s London story from the pair. Right now, it’s called “Squadron Of The Screaming Damned”. And there’s also mention of another full colour story to appear somewhere that features the V-Car squadron of London Calling and their battle against those vampire hordes.
The Iron Moon is available right now in a most impressively produced larger than A4 full colour hardback album, the oversized format feels strangely right, harking back to a time when all comics were big comics.