Sunday, 17 November 2013

Universal War, by Denis Bajram (from 1996 onwards)

Nowadays, French-speaking comics are not necessarily very well known in the science-fiction field. OK, we had Moebius and Enki Bilal, but the former is dead and the latter spends more time painting and selling his paintings than drawing comics. Now, French-speaking artists are probably more renowned for intimistic stories (from Lewis Trondheim to David B).

American readers looking for a good SF comics will probably not investigate on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. But they may be wrong. Denis Bajram, a French artist, has been creating since the mid 1990s one of the most interesting, ambitious, captivating, mind-blowing SF saga of the last 30 years. It is called Universal War. Three 6-volume each sagas are planned. The first arch (called Univarsal War One, or UW1) was published between 1996 and 2003, and was publihed in the US by Marvel Comics in 2008 and 2009. The first volume of the second arch (Universal War 2...) was released in September 2013.

Universal War One begins at a time, at the end of the 21st century, when all the solar system has been colonized. A civil war between the United Earth Forces (UEF) and the Colonization Industrial Companies (CIC), which comprises the various outposts and colonies beginning at the planet Saturn and beyond, is about to break out. Near Saturn, we follow the adventures of the Purgatory Squadron, which is composed of members who face Court Martial for various infractions (which we discover progressively). Suddenly, a black wall appears near Saturn, cutting the solar system in two. This wall absorbs all light and matter. Incredibly big, incomprehensible and terrifying, the Wall is centered on Uranus's moon Oberon, cutting off access to any planet beyond Saturn. The Purgatory Squadron, more or less in line with commands from the headquarters, will explore this wall and try and discover what is behind. This search will bring them in various points of the solar system and will reveal completely unknown parts of themselves and of the scientific field...

In this saga, Denis Bajram mixes together classical elements of SF sagas with an incredible maestria. Each volume of the saga brings new elements and rises the issues at stakes to a higher level. From a problem located aroud Saturn, it slowly becomes a war that could change the future of mankind as a whole. The plot is very complicated, with numerous people and times involved but everything is very carefully designed, nothing is left to chance. A perfect balance is found between the particular stories of a few characters and the overall fate of the system solar as a whole, between human feelings and scientific descriptions.

And, last but not least, Denis Bajram's art is very efficient: his spaceships are very convincing, his compositions are very impressive. A must-have for any SF fan and a very good way to discover SF for all the people who think that they are not fond of spaceships and exploding stars...

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