Imagine, gentle reader, a time when a comic book fan who didn't reside in the USA would never be sure if they could get their hands on the more obscure comics coming out over-the-pond. That was my big frustration in my years of hunting up and down in Manchester's two Odyssey Seven shops (alas no more, were taken over by the all conquering Forbidden Planet) for the issues needed to fill in gaps in my Cerebus collection, as well as all the fascinating looking mini-series and stuff from the various indie companies in the years of the late 1980's to early 90's. The Light And Darkness War was actually bought to my attention by a 1989 Channel 4 TV programme called "The Day Comics Grew Up" a serious look at mature works such as Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, The New Statesmen and this six issue series, The Light And Darkness War. It also bought anime and manga to my attention as well as an nice bonus. As the first issue of The Light and Darkness War was released in autumn 1988, it was already over and done with when the TV show piqued my interest and so I only ever found one issue (no.4) in the back issue bins. I was very taken with the art by veteran Scottish artist Cam Kennedy, but it was hard to judge the story, by Tom Veitch on the basis of just one issue. It has taken nearly three decades but I finally got my hands on a beautiful re-issue of the series by Titan books (even though the original was published under the Marvel Epic imprint), with a hardcover and lots of "extra features". So it's been a long wait to experience the book in it's totality, will it live up to expectations? Ah, read on...
Lazarus Jones: "'How many women and children didja kill in'Nam? - That's what the idiot said. 'Hey jerk' I said 'what about the bodybags full of arms and heads.. and boots with the feet still in 'em? -- What about the guys who left their guts stuck to the decks of the Hueys? 60,000 just like you' I says 'cept they were heroes and you're crap!'"
And with that we are introduced to Lazarus Jones, who lost his legs twenty years ago in the Vietnam War. He is being pushed in a wheelchair by his wife Chris to the Vietnam War Memorial to see the names of the rest of his chopper crew who died in the attack that resulted in his injuries.
|Laz remembers the dead.|
|Souls set free from the bonds of flesh.|
A mystery voice says to his spirit, "I can take you to your friends Lazarus Jones.. or you can go back. The choice is yours." Lazarus doesn't want to go back if it means losing his legs again. The voice says he is on "the edge of the outer darkness. In a star system called Abraxis" A stone barge appears and the voice says Laz can join his friends if he wishes. Laz calls to them and finds himself on the surface of the planet with his legs intact.
He rushes forwards and Engle, Slaw and Huff who are piloting the barge pick him up. They are happy to see him and it seems time moves differently for them as they ask if he died in the war. Laz said the war ended in 1974 and "we lost". The others don't seem too concerned. Slaw says "grab some ammo. I'll teach you how to kill the dead."
|Reunited in the afterlife.|
Then their ship flies to a palace in a place called Black Gate they are supposed to be investigating. They are greeted by a woman called Lasha, daughter of Nethon the governor. While they wait for an audience with the governor, Lasha warns them that they should leave, there is darkness in the air. He father is sick with it.
The traitor reports to a Lord Na, saying the prisoners escaped. No matter, Lord Na asks if the planetary chiefs have assembled, when told they have he says, "now I begin the subjugation of these light-cursed worlds".
Narration: "A galaxy of light. One of the myriad of universes men go when they die... a warrior's galaxy... ensnared in a 10,000 year struggle with the infinite darkness that surrounds it. What lives in the outer darkness? Nothing. What moves in the outer darkness? Warships... bearing primitive weapons carrying soulless warriors named Deadsiders...storming a light world called Black Gate. A military outpost in a star system called Abraxis... here living men - who died in Earth's bloodiest battles have been born to fight again".
On the planet Black Gate Lord Na has revealed himself, criticising the gathered "servile captives of the light". He says using the power of darkness he has been liberating souls. A planetary chief called Blood says only a "simpleton would give fealty to you". Lord Na zaps Blood with his powers and Blood starts praising him. A fight breaks out amongst the watchers and Lord Na's guards and the lightsiders are captured and enslaved. Watching this from afar are Slaw and Huff who go and report back to Engle and Laz.
Lasha's information on the planet paid dividends and they have found an old fortress their sky barge can lurk behind. Using the blue Mentep they get in touch with Galactic who are in the middle of a battle. They report the situation at Black Gate which they think might be being prepared as a beach head for a major Galactic strike. Engle wants a full defence fleet but command can't spare even one as they are on a major push into the "Dark Regions". Engle and crew will have to resort to hit and run until reinforcements can arrive.
|Sexy time for Laz and Lasha.|
Lord Na asks if they can bridge the gap between worlds. They can't but someone on Earth has built a machine that can. We then join said Earthbound scientist Nicky, the nephew of Nikola Tesla and his girlfriend Delpha a psychic channeler. Using Tesla's theories, Nicky has created a machine to "exteriorise the contents of the concious and subconcious minds". Meanwhile Delpha is getting images of the light and darkness war in her dreams. Both are somewhat dubious about each others abilities, but love each other in an "opposites attract" kind of a way.
|Nicky Tesla, Delpha and a brief guide to NikolaTesla.|
Back on Black Gate, Engle has a plan to get more men. They are going to raid the slave camps. Laz and Lasha meanwhile have gone to attempt a rescue of Lasha's father. They sneak past the throne room where Lord Na now sits and find Nethon in a cell being fed upon by giant worms. The doctor appears and says Lord Na would like to see the "dutiful daughter". She kicks him in the stomach and Laz guns down the rest.
Lord Na however appears and kills both the treacherous doctor for being weak and Nethon to wound Lasha, then lets Lasha and Laz go, telling them to take back the message to "make the game more interesting". He wants to test his army, he wants to feel some real resistance against him.
|EPIC BATTLE THEME PLAYS.|
We then rejoin Nicky and Delpha. Odom has offered Micky a huge salary to come make his machine for him. Lord Na tells Odom:
Lord Na: "... his device has stimulated the vibrational channels that were active in ancient times. Reopening the physical link between Earth and the Afterworlds!"
He tells Odom to watch Nicky and Delpha and when the time comes, take them prisoner. Nicky is showing Delpha his nearly complete machine which he has unoffcially nabeed some lasers to complete, but she says there is something "really frightening about this place" and that her channeling in which she sees "the Vietnam guy and the woman" has got more intense.
|Lord Na and Odom the arms dealer.|
To prove he's not a spy, Nicky demonstrates the machine to Odom. He puts on the headset so he can show you what a person is dreaming. He envisions soldiers from the Light and Darkness war fighting. Odom says it's "quite marvellous".
We get more images of the fighting and the antique weapons of war the fighters use. As Nicky marvels at all this being inside him, another voice intrudes saying "who would have imagined that my work would reach its utmost fulfillment after I am dead?!" It's Nikola Tesla who has "survived" his death by crossing over into the afterworld he was investigating just before he died.
|Nikola Tesla lives (sort of) take that Edison!|
Nikola Tesla: "The barbaric science of Da Vinci and his followers is held in high esteem here... I was told 'don't upset the old ways'. It was decreed that his contraptions were divine revelations. To move beyond them was forbidden."
He says he is a heretic who speaks out against their "stupid war." But he is told they have always been at war and it's good for the Galactic economy. Bitterly Tesla fades away and Lord Na appears yelling "My weapons Odom! I am under attack!"
Odom says he he was told he had six months, but Lord Na threatens to destroy him. Meanwhile Nicky and Delpha are amazed that someone has been able to physically cross over. We then cut to Laz's team and the rescued slaves attacking the Black Gate palace where Lord Na is based.
As the battle ensues, we get a conversation between Lasha and Laz, he says when they made love he saw they had made love a thousand times before, "we're older than your father. We've been fightin' this war... together... for thousands of years." The barge works it's way through the palace, battling as it goes.
|The barge of the dead returns to the mortal world.|
Delpha recognises Laz, "it's you isn't it? You're real". Lord Na manages to make his getaway back to Black Gate with the weapons Odom has provided him while Odom's men fight the light warriors. Odom leaves behind a squad of men who commendere a military helicopter in order to better fight the light warriors who have captured the Tesla machine.
Slaw asks Laz how he feels being back on Earth. Laz says it's weird, knowing his comatose body is 8,000 miles away. Then the darkness warriors attack in their helicopter, hitting the stone barge and causing it to come crashing down which brings the first half of this series to a cliffhanger ending.
|And crashes into a building, well done guys.|