The earlier Gilberton version of The War of the Worlds can comfortably claim some primacy over this version (over and above date of issue) as an important piece of comic book history, but the Marvel Comics version (number 14 in their series) is a lot superior in several important ways.
First and foremost, the story is far more faithful to the original novel, not only in narrative terms but in a willingness not to pull any punches. This is a far more visceral version, unafraid to show bodies going up like torches, the veneer of civilisation crumbling and all manner of unpleasantness, just the very things that H.G. Wells was so keen to show. In fact, this version goes a bit further than Wells in its single-minded pursuit of sensationalism, excitement and even a little bit of ardour. He certainly didn’t have the narrator’s brother enjoy a passionate kiss on the deck of the Thunderchild as Martian Tripods crowd the horizon.
Is this version worse for that? Not really. Marvel comics of this time were certainly guilty of a lot of cheesy dialogue and overblown dramatics, but the additions here are large to the benefit of a taunt visual retooling of the story. With the correct period setting retained, this really does make for a particularly powerful piece of work from the pen of Marvel master scribe Christopher Claremont, who of course found fame as the driving force behind the X-Men. Much to Claremont’s credit, very little is left out of the story, making this one of the most complete adaptations ever attempted, though the chapter “The Man On Putney Hill” is the most obvious exorcism, having been completely cut. The loss is not however mortally significant.
The art by Yong Montano is very strong, with the Tripods getting an extreme makeover that makes them look particularly implacable. The crowd scenes in London and the panic and devastation caused by the Martians are well presented, and there is a dynamism to the characters and panel layout that brings events powerfully to life. In the War of the Worlds between comic book versions, the winner is Marvel Classics by a knockout.
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