[SPOILER FREE] There’s something rather beautiful about reworking a world famous Dickens into something utterly unique. The imagination that Charles Dickens possessed allowed so many to find themselves walking the streets of his wonderful worlds. Growing up I adored Oliver to my bones, to the point that if I never got the chance to be a pickpocket for Fagin or never inhabited the style of the Artful Dodger, I would have considered my life a life wasted. Ergo, neither happened, but I can take solace in these books and movies in the same way now as I did when I was young. To explore an utterly mind-bending new take on that story through the new Image Comic series Oliver was something of a treat.
I should put it out there now that I bloody love Gary Whitta. I have done for years. I’m a filthy After Earth apologist and happily declare Rogue One my all time favourite Star Wars story. To discover he had written a bold new take on Oliver Twist in comic form was close to leaving me near catatonic, the ultimate mash-up of writer and story for me.
I tweeted out when I picked up my copy that I don’t often buy comics, it’s a rare occurrence for me to stumble into Forbidden Planet and come out with anything, but Gary Whitta reworking Dickens? Feed that into my veins, please.
Oliver retells the classic story as a post-apocalyptic tale, with Oliver himself born into a world ravaged by war. His mere presence in the world is a mystery, his own existence on the line just by being alive. He’s protected by a group of survivors who have sworn an oath to protect him, and #1 falls deep into the questions of his origins, without providing many answers. Oh, Oliver also has superpowers, and if the sequence in this issue where we discover this isn’t a nod to The Matrix I simply don’t know what to do anymore.
Without wanting to get into spoilers, those that look after Oliver have something of a heavy past themselves, and this is presented beautifully through panels drawn by Darick Robertson. The broken, destroyed London landmarks (such as the London Eye) bring this broken world to life, the story of how London came to be this way is devastating, an endeavour to merely end a war, rather than win one. Oliver throughout has questions, essentially asking the questions we have about his backstory, what happened in the war and why he feels out of place. The themes of acceptance and survival whatever the cost reign supreme. Oliver is very much still an orphan, and those around him have no choice but to hide in the shadows.
You immediately care for Oliver. Perhaps that’s because we’re all so aware of the Dickens original, we wouldn’t want this reimagining of the character to experience life in the way that he had done. If anything, Whitta’s Oliver still has that glimmer in his eye, that idealistic vision of what he could accomplish should he be let off his leash and allowed to roam free across the barren London wastelands. He’s aware of his powers but he doesn’t know why has has them, and it was seem we’re going to have to wait a little while to find out ourselves. That’s fine with me, I’m in no rush to leave this world just yet. Gary Whitta just made me get back into comics.
Whitta and Dickens. A combination I never knew I wanted but man, I’m so glad it’s here. Please let this be the beginning of a Dickens/Whitta Universe. I’d fall over myself for a post-apocalyptic Christmas Carol.
Oliver #1 is out now.
Writer: Gary Whitta
Art: Darick Robertson
Distributor: Image Comics
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of Oliver #1. For our full review policy, please go here.
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