Nowadays it would seem that post-apocalyptic reimaginings of Dickens’s Oliver Twist are like buses. You wait and you wait and then two come along. Firstly we had Dark Horse’s gender-flipping series, Olivia Twist, in the Fall, and now we have Oliver from Star Wars: Rogue One screen writer Gary Whitta, The Boys’ co-creator, Darick Robertson, and Image Comics.
While it is billed as a futuristic adaptation of the famous novel, it also borrows from Shakespeare somewhat too – and specifically Richard II famous ‘sceptred isle‘ deathbed speech given by John of Gaunt – opening up upon the bleak and desolate landscape of a ravaged Britain and focusing on the journey of a solitary individual as they trudge through the poisoned countryside on the way to a derelict London. There, this mysterious figure is revealed to be a heavily pregnant woman who’s orphan child is brought up by cloned military survivors, making the best of a bad situation on the streets of this once thriving metropolis. That child, of course, grows into the titular character of the comic and seemingly the only living boy in the capital.
Mysteries are hinted at and the downfall of civilisation is explained to Oliver, and therefore to us, by his mentor, Prospero, and the cast of colourful characters are introduced and the setting of a post-apocalyptic London, stunningly established by Robertson, who’s level of detail is on a par with the great George Perez. Every brick of every building, every slate on each and every rooftop are all meticulously rendered by Robertson, who seems to have just leveled-up his game and is producing his best artwork to date.
It’s quite remarkable just how much detail there is in even the slightest of panels. Just wait till you get a look at the splash page of London near the start of the book (or, just look above) and then marvel at Oliver scaling the rooftops and back alleys of a London that has been blasted back to resemble the unsociable gothic world that the original Oliver Twist had frequented.
It’s a compelling enough a concept to have me seeking out the second issue, I must say, but the artwork definitely seals the deal for me. A vivid and vile world where humanity still has some hope of surviving. What part Oliver will play in that remains to be seen. But, I’ll be along on this particular ride to find out. Please, sir, can I have more?
Oliver #1 is out January 23rd from Image Comics.