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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

'The Lost Books of Eve' is Great Biblical Fantasy

The Lost Books of Eve, Vol. 1 (Viper Comics, 2008)
Story and Art: Josh Howard
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

At the very beginning of Existence, the Garden of Eden stands at its center, as a place of peace and tranquility and home to God's favorite creations--the first humans, Adam and Eve--while all manner of beasts and supernatural beings in between roam everywhere else. But when Adam is abducted from the Garden, Eve leaves the safety of her Paradise to find and rescue him. Her quest to reunite with her beloved Adam brings pits her against fallen angels, demons, and even worse creatures... and her search for Adam soon becomes a search for knowledge that will eventually put humanity in its proper place in God's Creation.

Art by Josh Howard
This slim graphic novel collects all for issues of Josh Howard's mini-series of the same title. As of this writing, it is out of print and it is the only collected series from this fine talent that has not been given a new edition, unlike his signature series "Dead@17" and his alien conspiracy tale "Black Harvest".

And this is a shame, because "The Lost Books of Eve" is not only the most intelligent work Howard has produced yet, but it is also the best showcase so far of a central feature of his fluid, cartoony artwork: Howard has a great gift for drawing female characters that seem frail and vulnerable while at the same time you have a feeling they can kick your ass if they put their minds to it. He has a talent for drawing and writing strong female characters without making them hyper-sexualized or somehow masculine... he captures the ideal feminine image in his work.

And is characterization of Eve, Mother of All Humanity, is the perfect example of a Howard female. She is beautiful without being sexualized--despite the fact she, naturally, spends the book in little or no clothing--and she possesses an innocent and vulnerable quality even while showing herself to be a ferocious fighter and possessed with an iron will when challenged. Driven first by love, then by a need for knowledge and a desire to understand, Eve is a perfect fantasy heroine.

But as great a character as Eve is, what makes this book truly excellent is that Howard spins his tale between verses in the Old Testament's "Book of Genesis" without attacking the Scriptures that so many people hold sacred. It's makes for a far more interesting read, and is a far more creative endeavor, than the approaches that have been standard fare in recent decades: Comics creators tend to either crap all over the stories of the Bible, or they adhere so slavishly to them that there's no point in reading their stuff, because King James already commissioned something far better than they could ever come up with.

In "The Lost Books of Eve", Howard tells a completely original story without violating the Bible in any way; it is the foundation upon which his stories are built and he wisely does not try to undermine it. The creativity with which he places Eve (and the hapless and slightly dim-witted Adam) in a fantasy universe that feels like a natural extension of the Old Testament, as well as the mythologies of other cultures from which he incorporates bits and pieces, is something that deserved far more recognition and commercial success than the project apparently received.

I wish there would be a "Lost Books of Eve" Vol. 2, because I would love to see the end of the beginning of Eve's story--since we all know how it ultimately ends. Unfortunately, I doubt that Howard will be returning to the Dawn of Creation any time soon, as he Howard described a recent installment of his "Dead@17" series as an "unofficial sequel" to this book.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a cool read....
    I like to check out things like this when they don't intend to mock the original stories they're based on.