Clash of the Classics #1: Don Quixote Fights the War of the Worlds
Do mad times call for madmen? Perhaps he was the right hero in the wrong time before, but Quixote may not belong in any era, at all. Does a glorious crusade lie ahead for knight & squire? Or has Sancho at last passed the point of no return with the Senor?
There’s no guessing where these stories we think we know will end, now- nor how other classics at the Grand Library will spin out!
Some days, a comic book comes along that’s a pretty easy sell for me. I’m a sucker for pulp heroes, action-packed sci-fi and fantasy, and classics reimagined. Wanna take a guess where this one stands in that lineup?
Miguel de Cervantes introduced Don Quixote in his original story, as a man who so badly wanted to live in a world of chivalrous knights & daring deeds that he created that world in his mind. Quixote traveled the land with his “squire”, the farmer Sancho Panza, a self-proclaimed knight errant seeking adventures worthy of his own chivalric virtue. Even in the early 1600s, it was a look at a man who was so entrenched in his own reality, so determined to live the life he chose, that he made the world around him follow suit.
When I was contacted by writer Tom Pinchuk and asked to take a look at Don Quixote Fights the War of the Worlds, I was roped in pretty fast. At first glance, it seems like it might be a fun, low key riff on a couple of old stories, but things go a little deeper than just “crazy old guy fighting Martians”. Full credit to Pinchuk for digging into the perceived reality of someone like the man from La Mancha, Don Quixote, going so far as to hint at how the power of one’s belief can influence others. With the opening of that idea, Pinchuk goes even further by refusing to give up a definitive answer to the question. We’re left wondering, is Quixote just a lucky lunatic, or is he that most honorable of knights living to fight a just war?
Picking up Pinchuk’s narrative and putting images to paper is Greek artist Nikos Koutsis. The first thing that came to my mind was that it reminded me of the old Classics Illustrated comics that ran up until 1969. Koutsis’s style is hyper detailed, a little on the frenetic side, and his characters cover a huge range of looks and attitudes. I loved his design for the title character… Quixote, not the Martians (we’ll get to them in a minute). An older man, he’s lean, lanky, and not at all what one would picture as a warrior ready to tilt against the monstrous invaders. Which segues into the next part of Koutsis’s design, the Martians! I love his take on the classic tripod war machines, incorporating into them aspects of Quixote’s most hated enemy, the windmill. The aliens themselves are left more amorphous, their blobby, kinda squishy look adding to their otherness. As if simply being an invading force bent on capturing and devouring the human race didn’t make them unlikeable enough.
Finally, I have to give a shout-out to the lettering team of Sean Konot & Patrick McEvoy. McEvoy handles the prologue, giving it the look of old manuscripts as the “Grand Library” is ravaged by a storm and the pages of literature’s greatest manuscripts are blended together to shape the series premise. The result gives the reader an introduction performed by an omniscient narrator that brought to my mind The Watcher from Marvel’s fantastic What If…? series. The rest of the book is lettered by Konot, and his work captures the over-the-top presence of Don Quixote himself, as well as the more soft-spoken & sardonic wit of Sancho Panzo. I like the bold type giving emphasis and cadence to the dialogue, something that can be overused in comics to the point that it defeats the purpose.
If you’re looking for a new take on old stories, but not necessarily interested in a straight up retelling, Clash of the Classics looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun to follow. Available digitally through Kypsel’s website, it’s also launching an interesting new way to buy, read, & pass around your comics. So saddle up, brave reader, as we foray into the unknown on a search for high adventure!
Final Score: 12/13