Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Adventures of Luther Arkwright
The Adventures of Luther Arkwright is a graphic novel written and drawn by Bryan Talbot. It was originally published as a serial in the British underground comic Near Myths in 1978, and was later continued in pssst! magazine, but interrupted, with less than half of it complete, in 1982. Between 1987 and 1989 the story was completed and published as nine standard comic books by Valkyrie Press , and was subsequently published in the United States by Dark Horse Comics.
The story is adult in tone, with many mythological, historical and political references, and a little explicit sex. Its genesis owes something to the influence of Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius stories, though Moorcock and Talbot agree that the similarities between the characters are limited. Warren Ellis calls Arkwright "probably the single most influential graphic novel to have come out of Britain to date... probably Anglophone comics' single most important experimental work."
In 1999 Dark Horse published Talbot's sequel to Luther Arkwright, which was called Heart of Empire.
The Adventures of Luther Arkwright has been made into a full cast, three hour audio adventure by Big Finish Productions, starring David Tennant (recently cast as the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who) and Paul Darrow (Avon in Blake's 7).
Luther Arkwright is a work of apocalyptic science fiction set in parallel universes. The eponymous hero has the unique talent of being able to move between parallels purely by force of will, and is aided by Rose Wylde, a telepath whose many incarnations across the parallels are able to communicate with one another. Luther and Rose are agents of a parallel known as "zero-zero", whose stable position in the multiverse has allowed the development of a world at peace with itself and sufficiently high technology to monitor the parallels for signs of the malign influence of the "Disruptors".
Most of the action in the story is set in a parallel world where the English Civil War has been indefinitely prolonged by the actions of the Disruptors, who are also responsible for unleashing "Firefrost", a legendary artifact which is destabilising the multiverse. Arkwright intervenes on the Royalist side in order to draw out the Disruptors and locate and destroy Firefrost. Along the way he is captured, dies in custody and returns to life with his powers enhanced.
The storytelling of the early episodes is complex, with flashbacks to Arkwright's upbringing by the Disruptors, escape to the parallel of his birth and early missions for zero-zero intermingling with the course of his mission in neo-Cromwellian England, with story-telling techniques and art styles shifting to match. The scenes of Arkwright's death and rebirth are particularly abstract and full of religious and mythological symbolism. The later parts of the story have a more straightforward, linear form. At the end Arkwright, having completed his mission, rejects violence.
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