"The Army of Dr. Moreau" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Carl Sciacchitano
2015, 130 Pages
Graphic novel released on April 15th, 2015
I'm not sure if H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau is required reading for high school or college courses, but most people have a good idea of the story. A crazy guy starts slicing and dicing people and animals to create abominations against science before everything falls apart thanks to the likes of Val Kilmer. Maybe I'm mixing up the book with the awful movie. In any case, it was all make believe...or was it? That's the beginning of the idea of The Army of Dr. Moreau from writer David F. Walker and artist Carl Sciacchitano.
The creative team sets H.G. Wells' story in the real world. The events of the novel are shrouded in secrecy until the Nazis start digging around the South Pacific looking for trouble, like they do. They find the island and continue Moreau's experiments with the goal of creating an army of feral man-beasts. Edward Prentiss had survived the island once before (he's the narrator of the novel, although Wells changed his name along with a few other details) and is now picked up by a small task force to go back and stop the Nazis.
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The big theme running through The Army of Dr. Moreau is man vs. monster. Although these creatures look like horrible beasts, they're more human than their creator or the Nazi officer that's picked up where he left off. Moreau raised them to have a sense of what is right and wrong. They've lived on for years, safely on this island in a peaceful civilization, but now they're forced to take up arms against these soldiers who want nothing more than to use them as cannon fodder and to destroy their enemies.
Aside from Prentiss, the human cast is pretty forgettable. Most are stuck-up British soldiers that don't believe any of this is real until it's too late. Prentiss is a real standout as he's an old mercenary that's tired of war. He's seen far too much death and destruction over the years and this island is the one place he feels at home. He doesn't fit in with modern day civilization anymore. He's more attuned to the animals, as they are more human than anyone else he has encountered since leaving the island. You can see this inner struggle on his scarred face and cold eyes.
The animals present a similar issue, as there's not a lot of room to tell their story. They're represented more as a group instead of having a handful of standout characters. While what they go through is horrible, it doesn't pack quite the emotional punch, as you don't learn much about who they are individually. Instead, it's more generic, as you feel bad that these would-be animals are being mistreated, even though they walk on two legs and speak English.
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Artist Carl Sciacchitano did a great job with the design for these creatures. No two look alike. There are two basic camps throughout the book between those that have lived here for some time and the new breed that's currently being developed by the Nazis. The locals have a more natural look, cultivated over generations of living on the island, while the experiments are rough patchworks, like something from the lab of Dr. Frankenstein. They're covered in surgical scars and have fear in their eyes.
The Army of Dr. Moreau is a nice addendum to H.G. Wells' classic novel. Writer David F. Walker took a story that didn't necessarily need a sequel and made it work in a very natural way by pulling it into the real world. This is a tale of humanity and how it can come from a place you might not expect. Plus, it's always fun to see Nazis get killed, right?
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