Review: “Tales of Honor #1” Imperfect but Promising

"Tales of Honor #1" (w) Matt Hawkins (a) Jung-Guen Yoon Image Comics $2.99
“Tales of Honor #1”
(w) Matt Hawkins
(a) Jung-Guen Yoon
Image Comics
$2.99

We are, by some accounts, entering a new renaissance of science-fiction films. The last decade has seen the reinvigoration of the Star Trek franchise under J.J. Abrams, the rebirth of Battlestar Galactica, the rise of the Transformers franchise under Michael Bay, and will soon Star Wars returns under the auspices of Disney. It should be obvious to even the most casual observer that studios are clamoring for the next great space opera.

It is increasingly true that Hollywood is running out of good, new ideas. Direct evidence of this phenomenon can be seen in that all of the aforementioned projects are updates or remakes of decades-old properties. Private conversations with people involved in the industry have left me with the understanding that the easiest way to see a new project put into production is no longer to submit an excellent script, but to produce a work in another medium which lends itself to adaptation to the screen.

Enter Honor Harrington.

The Honor Harringon novels span thirteen core novels as well as a host of spin-off titles. In developing a long-term plan for bringing this universe to life, Evergreen Studios has approached the process in a novel way. It is being called a “cross-media project,” one whose elements will include not only the comic book series and eventual live-action film, but a set of cross-platform mobile games which will allow a deeper look into the technical and strategic elements that comprise the Honorverse.

Writer Matt Hawkins has been given a great deal of freedom in how he chooses to adapt creator David Weber’s original prose to a more sequential format. This is, most certainly, one of the greatest challenges in adapting a novel for either comics or the screen. As anyone who read the Ender’s Game novel before seeing the recent blockbuster release will likely tell you, finding a way to capture a plot whose progression is largely dependent upon internal monologue and explanation of high-concept technology is no easy task and can take the air out of a project as easily as a bomb-pumped laser torpedo through a starship’s hull. The freedom that Hawkins is afforded is critical in avoiding the easy trap of simply jettisoning all of the self-reflection and internal struggle which combined to make the novels’ Honor such a compelling character.

Hawkins chooses to tell the story in a non-linear manner, setting Honor up as the omniscient narrator of her own history. For the most part, this is an effective solution. It humanizes what would otherwise be several scenes that, while taken directly from the pages of the source material, would come off as extremely sterile were it not for the perspective offered. This is not to say that Hawkins’s use of the device is completely without issue. There are several instances in which he chooses to flash ahead in the story, either visually or with aside thoughts by Honor-as-narrator which foreshadow future events. While these are somewhat effective in showcasing the direction the series will take, there are instances in which moments are cheapened by injecting pathos from events which have not yet occurred. The story still moves along at a brisk clip, and Hawkins deserves a salute for his ability to compress literally hundreds of pages of exposition and action into less than twenty-five pages of scripted panels. Despite the changes made in terms of the non-linear nature of the tale, the universe is clearly recognizable as that which readers of the novels are familiar with, and the story is not difficult to follow.

The art on this book is a definite bonus. Jung-Guen Yoon’s use of texture and shadow displays a remarkable ability to capture subtle emotion with a minimum of line work, while also lending the art a very real quality. Unlike many comics on the shelves today, the figures on these pages do not appear as over-idealized caricatures of the human form, but as believable bodies presented with variety. If there is a single weakness to Yoon’s work, it is that the images lack a certain sense of motion. Some of this may be a result of the rigidity of the formalized world that Honor inhabits as a member of the Royal Manticoran Navy, but even the external shots of starships in motion seem surprisingly static. Hopefully this is by design and, as the series progresses and we see the evolution of tactics becoming less rigid and more fluid the framing of the panels shifts to match.

Tales of Honor is an intriguing enterprise on the part of Top Cow and Evergreen. It is clearly an attempt to streamline the novels into something suitable for feature film presentation, and while it is unclear what the final shape of the series will be, its first issue shows tremendous promise. It has some structural issues and there are some things to quibble about with respect to the artwork. It is still a series to keep an eye on, as it is almost certainly destined to the beginning of something much bigger for a character who will soon take her place among the legends of science fiction.

RATING: 7/10

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Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He also hosts the weekly Infinite Crossover podcast in cooperation with Fanboys Inc. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and resident of a real-world Smallville.

contact: joshuadepstein@gmail.com Twitter: @CrusaderZero6

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Josh Epstein

Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and resident of a real-world Smallville.

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  • Karry

    “We are, by some accounts, entering a new renaissance of science-fiction films.”

    Oh, for the love of Zeus, shut your trap before some hapless producer reads this !
    Sci-fi movies have always been shit, which is exactly proven by Transformers, Star Wars, and Star Trek, and there is absolutely zero need to subject Harringtonverse to such perversions.
    Now, a television mini-series, on the other hand…

    • Karry, with the rare exception of shows like Battlestar Galactica, television rarely has the budget to do large-scale space opera well. The small screen excels at showcasing fiction which relies heavily on in-close character interaction (such as Firefly), but no show has demonstrated the ability to give viewers a non-cringeworthy representation of capitol ship combat. Babylon 5 tried and failed due to the technology of the day, and Deep Space Nine came closest by reserving the vast majority of a season’s FX budget for one or two episodes which gave fans the big battles. The Honorverse is so steeped in the intricacies of interstellar naval combat that any attempt to do it on the small screen would have a hard time moving beyond long-winded descriptions of tactical maneuvers, which doesn’t make for good television.

      On the other hand, a series of feature-length films would have the budget to do these scenes justice, which would help bring a huge new audience to the Honorverse.

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