By Daniel Vlasaty
Hadrian’s Wall is a lot of things blended together to make a decidedly dark and interesting read. It’s a science fiction story. It’s a murder mystery. It’s a drama. It’s a story of addiction and withdrawal. It’s a lot of things and the best part is that each of these things would be good on their own, but when they’re all blended together it becomes something even better. Something great maybe.
As a science fiction story, we have a crew on a space ship and they’ve just been boarded by space rebels. As a murder mystery, we think we know who the murderer is, at least Simon’s sure he found the right person. But is he right? Did Simon’s ex-wife, Annabelle, kill her new husband (and Simon’s former friend)? (Man, writing that sentence really makes this thing seem like an over-the-top, uber-dramatic soap opera). And Edward’s murder also plays into the story of the rebels, because it turns out he was working with them. As a story of addiction/withdrawal, we have a character who is addicted to a substance that, at the moment, he does not have access to. His pills were flushed down the drain and he doesn’t have any more and he’s stranded on a ship in outer space. So, he’s starting to go through withdrawals. And in his withdrawal, he is hallucinating. And what he is hallucinating is Edward. Edward is helping him figure things out, or is he? He’s just a hallucination, so maybe he’s just telling Simon what Simon’s already thinking and wants to hear. I don’t know.
So, yeah, there’s a lot going on in Hadrian’s Wall.
And you’d think, with all these different stories and characters and the way they’re all tangled up that it would get confusing and convoluted and that it would all weigh down heavy on the book. But I never got that feeling while reading. It all comes off as natural and organic and it makes sense as we go along with it.
Trying to explain this book to someone, I feel, is kind of hard. Because it is so many different things and it is really a great book.
The writing in Hadrian’s Wall is smooth and confident. The fact that all these different story threads are being handled in such a way just goes to show the high-caliber of writing going on here. There are some flashbacks sprinkled throughout the book that delve deeper into the minds of the characters and they really help us understand these characters as people. We see Simon trying to make his failing marriage work, even if both he and Annabelle both know that it’s too late. We see Edward second-guessing his decision to work with the rebels. We see a super pissed off Simon confronting Edward for sleeping with Annabelle.
This issue felt like a change of pace, though. The first four issues of Hadrian’s Wall were more closely focused on Simon’s investigation into Edward’s death/murder. With little bits of side-story and history here and there. But it was mostly about Simon and his investigation. But with issue #5 the story pulls back a bit to show us more of the characters and the universe they’re living in. I’m intrigued by a lot of the new stuff we’re seeing in this issue. Especially the rebels and what they’re doing. Who are they and what do they really want? And also Simon’s withdrawal and hallucinations. It can take the story to some different and interesting places
The art in Hadrian’s Wall has always been great, and this issue is no different. I love the painted look of it. And the colors, all the dark blues and grays and purples, really give the book the claustrophobic feel it needs. I also think the panels and page layouts really play up the claustrophobia, too. Some pages are overly cluttered (in a good way), with panels on top of other panels and panels shifting and shrinking and missing panel walls. It makes the book, on a page by page level, interesting and unique.
This book blends some of my favorite things together. Science fiction and crime and drugs. I am so happy that Hadrian’s Wall is back. I’ve really been enjoying it so far and I missed it while it wasn’t coming out these past few months. I’m excited to see where the story goes now that we’ve been introduced to more characters and ideas and conflicts.
Hadrian’s Wall #5