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Comic Book / Luther Arkwright

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Luther Arkwright is the creation of Bryan Talbot. He serves as the main character or an important secondary character in the following of Talbot's works:

  • The Papist Affair (1976)
  • The Adventures of Luther Arkwright (1978-1989, Adventures)
  • For a Few Gallons More (1979)
  • The Fire Opal of Set (1984)
  • Heart of Empire, or the Legacy of Luther Arkwright (1999, Empire)

The main story arc can be found in The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Heart of Empire.

Despite not reaching the popular acclaim of Maus, Watchmen, or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright had a huge influence on the development of the graphic novel. It shows in the first volume of Heart of Empire, which contains fan mail from Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Garth Ennis.

W.O.T.A.N. detects the following tropes

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    The Multiverse of Luther Arkwright 
  • Alternate Universe: The works are based on the premise of an infinite multiverse of parallel universes or realities which differ with each other in many things. For example, one of the main places where the action in the comic book takes place is a 20th century world where Great Britain is still ruled by a puritan government and a descendant of Oliver Cromwell. In addition, New York is New Amsterdam and the other great powers are the empires of Czarist Russia and Imperial Prussia. Based on rather scant mentions, "our" universe is apparently where Luther lived for some years around his teens to early twenties.
  • Art Evolution: Especially notable between The Papist Affair and the other stories. Heart of Empire also used very different techniques than the earlier stories, besides being in full colour.
  • Crapsack World: The primary parallel of the main story arc, 00.72.87, is dominated by ruthless dictatorial great powers all out to dominate the lesser powers and wreck the other great powers. Then it got worse in Heart of Empire.
    What I saw was genocide, torture, rape and summary execution. Whole cities razed, whole countries crushed beneath the tracks of our ironclad dreadnoughts and bombed into submission by our skyships.
  • The Multiverse: Primarily explored in Adventures, where Arkwright serves as the primary field agent of Valhalla Nova, and the only of their agents capable of crossing into other parallels.
  • Mystical White Hair: Luther Arkwright, Victoria, and Gabriel Shelley all have white hair, as well as a marked lack of body hair. It is implied that this is the case for most Homo Novus.
  • Names Given to Computers : W.O.T.A.N. is the supercomputer used on parallel 00.00.00 to keep track of events on other parallels in The Multiverse.
  • Odd-Shaped Panel: Done very liberally. Some examples:
    • Overlapping panels
    • A single scene covering an entire page, with panels overlaid
    • Pages with no panel borders at all, all the "panels" bleed together and form a single whole
  • Putting on the Reich: The Puritans in Adventures. Includes things like mass rallies, the use of "Hail Cromwell," black uniforms with simple crosses, and a security force called the C.S.S. The Excalibur Legion in Empire, with their uniforms.
  • Scenery Porn: Both Adventures and its coloured sequel Empire had a lot of thought put into the Steam Punk backgrounds, which were usually flooded with references to other issues, Victorian culture, science fiction or random statues of Luther (after he died).
  • Touch Telepathy: Used several times. Mind reading is done by touching hand to head, but it appears that it's more of a data dump than reading surface thoughts (though it is implied that another psychic can control the contents of the dump). However, it is possible to implant thoughts without touching.

    The Adventures of Luther Arkwright 
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Disruptors, the final antagonist in the story.
  • Anachronic Order: A lot of the story is told via flashbacks of Arkwright's past, often jumping to other parallels in the process during the first half. The second half of the story becomes more linear.
  • Anti-Hero: Arkwright kills easily, lies, is sexually promiscuous, and hardly nice. However, as he learns more about himself and comes into his powers, he also changes.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Lord Protector Nathaniel Cromwell, who was severely beaten by his father.
  • Bondage Is Bad: Used with Lord Protector Nathaniel Cromwell, who acts out his sexuality by raping royalist girls and by being dominated by women dressed as nuns.
  • The Chosen One: Luther Arkwright himself, the result of a millennia-long genetic breeding program.
  • Cool Guns: The "Armstrong-Siddley 'Royal Albert' Vibro-Beamer":
    At two yards, its effect on a human torso is comparable to that of a sledgehammer hitting an overripe watermelon.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Used very frequently; most Info Dumps are of this form. Together with the streams of consciousness and the anachronic storytelling over multiple timeslines it makes for a very dense work.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Luther again. Kidnapped from the maternity ward by the disruptors, raised by machines, then on the run both from the disruptors and himself until he was found by Rose of parallel 00.30.22.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The goal of the Disruptors.
  • Famous Ancestor: Nathaniel Cromwell is a direct descendant of Oliver Cromwell.
  • From Bad to Worse: Issue 4, Black Tuesday ends with Charles dead and with him the Ragnarok strategy, the royalists surrounded, and Arkwright lying in a pool of blood. Issue 5, The Theatre of Cruelty, shows the crackdown of all known and suspected royalists, and ends with a dying Arkwright in a torture chamber.
  • Inner Monologue: Used frequently from the viewpoint of Luther Arkwright. Often disjointed, and sometimes hard to separate from background Info Dumps.
  • Public Domain Character: Octobriana plays a minor but important supporting role, as a Russian revolutionary superhero. She is also a friend and sometime lover of Luther.
  • Pregnant Badass: In The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, the heavily pregnant Princess Anne leads her armies into battle against the Cromwellian regime dominating an alternative Britain while just about ready to drop, goes into labour during the battle, gives birth (to twins!), and then gets right back up again and, bare-naked, leads the final climactic charge. The Boudicea-like imagery is not lost or wasted on her or her followers.
  • Schizo Tech: The year is noted in Issue 1 as 1984, though the main setting in a parallel amidst an English Civil War and European Imperial Empires shows tech only at "our" First World War or inter-war levels, but with various incongruities. Arkwright brought over his "Vibro-Beamer" pistol from a more advanced parallel, the Disruptors are implied to have supplied some weapons tech to the Puritans (such as a shoulder-fired rocket-launcher), but more fantastical tech that appears include Steampunk style helicarriers.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Firefrost, a trillions-of-years-old technological object that destroyed the entire galaxy where it was created. Sought after by the Disruptors to harness its power, and by Arkwright and his allies to neutralize permanently.

    Heart of Empire 
  • Arc Symbol: The five-armed spiral.
  • Call-Back: Many. One of the most prominent is when Victoria wakes up naked on parallell 00.69.05, walks out in public, and garbs herself in a Union Jack flag. Both the event and the poses calls back to when her father Luther did the same in the royalist camp in Adventures.
  • Decadent Court: Queen Anne presides over a court of deadly intrigue and decadent orgies. Her closest servants view her absorbing the vitality of her enemies as their "favourite bit".
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: When Arkwright appears, he has retreated to a war-ravaged world where he serves as a pacifistic healer and diplomat. Victoria herself chooses to abdicate and turn over power to a democratic government, leaving Albion to explore the world and "to end animosity, to make amends, to facilitate recovery".
  • The Empire: The British empire that Anne has created after the end of Adventures dominates the world and is rotten to the core.
  • Empty Eyes: Used to imply mind control.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Henry, Luther's and Anne's son, was mortally wounded in the backstory. Instead of accepting his death, Anne tried to save him using her psionic powers, feeding him raw life force. He became an Eldritch Abomination with only the desire to die. Only trouble is that the only way it can suicide is by doing a "psychic version of the Big Bang, only in reverse".
  • Hair Antennae: Victoria has two prominent ones from the top of her forehead.
  • Overly Long Name: As many royals, Victoria has this: Mary Victoria Elizabeth Boudicca Miranda Cordelia Arkwright Stuart.
  • Parental Abandonment: The case for Victoria. Luther retired to another parallel after the end of Adventures, and Anne was warped by the death of Henry, turning into "a hateful bitch" in Victoria's own words. No surprise her reaction to meeting Luther was first to slap him and then to cry in his arms.
  • The Professor: Doctor Dee, skilled in both medicine, alchemy, chemistry, astrology, and babble.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After Queen Anne is dead and Victoria declines the throne, it is offered to Luther, due to him being a famous hero of the civil war twenty years prior. He turns it down angrily and goes into a brief rant about how "homo sapiens" always want someone else to tell them what to do and don't want the responsibility of making their own decisions.
  • Satchel Switcheroo: Victoria is given a box of migraine medicine by Gabriel, who is quite the accomplished amateur chemist. However, she picks up a box of LSD instead.
  • The Sleepless: Queen Anne says she hasn't slept in some twenty years. She keeps going by psychically sucking life energy out of others (which always kills them).
  • A Threesome Is Hot: Victoria has her first time as a threesome with Gabriel and Ophelia. Queen Anne regularly goes to bed with three of her Irish Guards.

    Other strands of the multiverse 
  • After the End: For a Few Gallons More in parallel 02.79.10 is set in a world where civilisation collapsed after a bacteria with a psychedelic effect was released after an attack on the research institute. The only people who survived the prolonged and massive psychedelic experiences where those already used to psychedelics.
  • Church Militant: The submachine- and shot-gun wielding, motorcycle-riding nuns in The Papist Affair.
  • More Dakka: Lampshaded in The Papist Affair when Arkwright exchanges a shotgun for a water-cooled machinegun that he fires from the hip.

Alternative Title(s): Heart Of Empire, The Adventures Of Luther Arkwright