Lost Empire

Iron Wolf: Fires of the Revolution, written by Howard Chaykin and John Francis Moore, illustrated by Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell (1991): Baroque science-fiction story set in Chaykin’s reworked version of DC’s 1950’s and early 1960’s science-fiction stories. Humanity has gone to the stars and fractured into various empires and archipelagoes, many of them with their own ‘Earth’ at the centre. In one of these, the Renaissance-flavoured Empire Galaktika, Iron Wolf and a group of rebels with different aims seek to overthrow the corrupt Imperial government.

There’s a fair amount of wit here, not the least of which is the revelation that the ‘Empire Galaktika’ is pretty small beans — one solar system, a handful of planets — swelled to self-importance primarily because of its long isolation from the rest of interstellar human civilization. Iron Wolf teams up with some explorers from those larger, outside civilizations, and revolutionary shenanigans ensue. Chaykin and longtime writerly collaborator give us the wry, sarcastic dialogue Chaykin first offered in his seminal American Flagg series in the 1980’s. The team-up of a fairly young Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell makes for lovely art.

Chaykin’s introduction notes the influence of oddball space operas that include Dune and Cordwainer Smith’s Instrumentality stories, in which far-future tech mixes with social mores and structures borrowed from humanity’s past. Chaykin has the ‘Empire’ and other little empires consciously borrow from humanity’s social past, a mark in part of how bored certain pockets of humanity have become with the way things are.

Beyond the ‘Empire’, events chronicled in Chaykin and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez’s Twilight miniseries have given humanity the curse of immortality, and one of the characters from that longer, larger epic shows up here. It would be nice if DC allowed for Chaykin’s return to this particular universe, representing as it does one of the more successful attempts at adult science fiction in the history of mainstream comic books. Recommended.

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