Only a very casual fan of Rush, I’d never heard Clockwork Angels before. The album is playing right now in the background as I write this though, courtesy of Spotify. So what the heck has Rush got to do with comic books? Well, it’s no coincidence Clockwork Angels #1 is based on the album of the same name, but I’m guessing you probably had figured that out by now.
A comic book based on a musical album isn’t a terribly new idea, but it’s still one that’s not been done very much. I always think it’s a bit of a risky move, how do you capture the essence of the album and tracks without being too abstract? And how do you still keep that essence without it becoming unrecognisable with new details? One way is to bring on experienced sci-fi writer Kevin J. Anderson, just like publisher BOOM! Studios have here. Neil Peart gets credit for the original story and lyrics, but it’s Anderson who has knocked out the script. Anderson was also responsible for the prose novelisation of the album, so this is familiar territory for him. On the art side Nick Robles was picked to bring it to life, a newcomer to comics.The story begins in a comfortably familiar fantasy trope, there’s a small village where all is peaceful and well. Amongst its citizens though is an active young man who longs for some adventure in his life. Right away we start to learn the rules of the world as our protagonist, Owen, and his future wife talk about how the rain is scheduled to arrive via the Watchmaker. It becomes clear the Watchmaker is part-President and part-God to the region. A dictatorship it may be, but it’s a happy one. Everyone else in the town is blissfully content with the status quo, poor Owen though continues to dream of the outside world.
So, now let’s talk about the artwork. I am delighted to say it’s gorgeous. Beautiful painted panels evoke warm memories of fairy tales and wholesome fantasy villages. The use of colour is inspired, interiors use soft browns that make everything look cosy and warm, while nighttime exteriors have cool blues that get across the cold dimness of night. The clothing and architecture, beyond the simple town, is classic steampunk too. Everything from Owen’s boots to the fantastic night steamliner locomotive just ooze atmosphere. I’m amazed that Robles is being billed as new to comic books because he tells a story masterfully.
Having now patiently listened to the bulk of Rush’s original album, I can say to the curious that this issue covers around the first two tracks with some general information pulled from others. It’s actually a surprisingly accurate depiction of the lyrics, listening to them I can see exactly how the comic pulled from some vague, almost interpretative, ideas and built them into solid lore. It’s taken the best of the album and given it real substance without being too much of a slave to the music. This is the first issue in a total of six, so I’m sure the rest of the miniseries will cover the remainder of the album.
Clockwork Angels #1 is brimming with charm, I absolutely adored this issue. If I had to sum up the story I’d say it’s a steampunk fairy tale. Reading it was like returning to an old beloved story from my childhood, or watching a classic Disney movie. There’s a warmth to it that’s lacking in a lot of comics these days. It’s absolutely fine for all ages so far and feels like the kind of comic I’d want to sit down and read with my (currently imaginary) children. The story isn’t terribly unique in this issue, but it’s told in such an engaging and involving way that I honestly didn’t care, this is just a fantastically fun comic. Don’t miss out on this, it releases tomorrow and I highly recommend grabbing a copy.