There are many Englands that occupy contemporary thought. The most recently immediate is the real, contemporary England of the Olympics, Spice Girls, and the Royals. There is the Downton Abbey England of recent history that extends through the rebuilding of England after WWII, full of tea and stiff upper lips. And then there is the other England, one of Merlin, dragons, myth and magic. Lore, by T P Louise and Ashley Wood, creates a fusion of Englands, mixing mythic, contemporary, and quintessentially British tropes into a series that is compelling and quirky.
Louis and Wood propose a world that is on the verge of crumbling. The thin layer that keeps those that walk upon it and those that dwell in the underside separate is cracking. The fact that it has supernatural breaks is nothing new. There is a group, the High Shepherd Order that manages, on a global scale, these underside vents. Readers learn of all of this primarily through the diary of Jonathan Bradley, one of the Shepherds in the High Shepherd Order. This is one of the unique attributes of Lore, its clever balance of long form narrative texts via the first person, journalistic writings of Jonathan Bradley and the equally interesting third person perspective when the narrative breaks into its illustrated comic form.
This title is not a light and easy read meant for a compact time commuting or while waiting for an appointment like many other multi issue titles, in which each issue is quickly consumed and even more quickly forgotten. Instead, Lore is an intense, demanding multi-day tale of the woes and worries of the somewhat bumbling Bradley in his quest to help stabilize the ruptures separating ordinary humans from the chaos of demons and spirits that lie nearby. Bradley is a typical antihero; he sleeps with young women, is disengaged from his daughter, and generally seems to have a great amount of disdain for everything, human or otherworldly spirit. At first this unlikeability also translates in a hesitation in credibility. Is Bradley just crazy or are all of these occurrences real? If these occurrences are real, how much does the regular society understand what is happening? However, it is established through that yes, Bradley’s vision of the world is real and the regular world’s tangential understanding of it is akin to the worlds of Buffy or X-Files portrayal of the unaware masses.
Lore is full of death, destruction, possession of humans by spirits (termed “plants” in the book), a lot of action and a little sex all framed in the British world of London flats, small cars, country estates and many cups of tea. Bradley is both hunted by spirits from the underside and friends with others. Readers are never sure when encountering a new (or even reoccurring character) if they are a regular person, a Shepherd, a plant or some combination. The plot is full of interconnections and surprising character development. Archer, an underside spirit, becomes quite a likeable and trusted companion and Delphi, Bradley’s young lover, shows her true nature as a Sheppard as the story unfolds.
When reading Lore, the world is convincingly crafted and visually rendered, such that hoping between the long diary passages and the more traditional comic sections is easy because the world is so fully imagined. Woods visual style is rough, painterly and stylized leaving the haunting feeling of dingy corners and misty mornings that are associated with London. Louise’s characters are nuanced and well thought out, allowing the focus to be on the questions of character’s motives not on whether or not they are real and believable. There is a slightly misogynistic tone to the book, but only because it is the subtle sensibility of the main character from which most of the story is told in first person. This highly developed world is crucial when telling tales of the supernatural; it puts the emphasis on characters in an unusual situation rather than a coolness factor of spirits and magic.
However, for all of its well-crafted writing, the arc of Lore fails, because it stops as opposed to concludes. Originally released as five single issues, now issued as two trade paperbacks with an additional sixth issue, the story feels like it is a cliffhanger with no conclusion in sight. Issue six seems to go off in a completely weird and unexpected direction that glosses over some the main storylines in issues 1-5, and instead focuses on the story of Bradley’s daughter, Archer, and werewolves. Perhaps there was an intention to make more issues at a later time. Lore never seems to complete the thesis that it started.
And this is where Hollywood steps in. It is easy to see where Lore has the appeal to film community. In fact, it is shocking that Lore had not been picked up by a studio before now and made into a film already; as it has incredibly cinematic vision and pacing. Earlier this year it was announced that Warner Brothers has picked up the rights to create a film based on the title. Subsequently, it has been revealed that Dwayne Johnson (Aka The Rock) will be staring in the film of this very British story. It is said that Warner Brothers has hopes that this will become the next franchise along the lines of Men in Black. There does not seem like there is any possibility that, when made into a film, Lore will not become a vehicle for crazy monsters and spectacular gore, which is absolutely not what the books by Louise and Wood are about. What is riveting about this story when it is working at its peak, is that always returns to the exploration of the delicate balance of the world/underside, and what impact that has on all involved, human or otherworldly. Let’s hope that Warner Brother sees this and that there are no American Jonathan Bradley action figures in everyone’s future.
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Volume 1, 2004
Volume 2, 2006