by Héctor Germán Oesterheld (Author), Alberto Breccia (Artist)
This is the first of the first of the Albert Breccia Library books published by Fantagraphics that I’ve read. I’m not sure if it was the best place to start – they’ve put out five so far, but it was the one that seemed most appealing to me (also the shortest, I think). Written by Héctor Germán Oesterheld, it’s a condensed and updated version of a strip he wrote originally from 1957-1959, which is also available in a 368 page collection from Fantagraphics. This version from 1969 is actually only 49 pages of comics, so very condensed.
The story here is pretty minimal, and brings to mind a good episode of The Twilight Zone, or a long EC Comics style science fiction tale. Aliens invade earth and strike a deal with the major powers of the west to leave their countries alone in return for being able to take over South America. Approximately the first half of the book follows a small house of survivors of the first wave of the alien attack, as they hide out from a deadly “snow” the aliens drop from above and try to figure out what is going on, while the second half sees a resistance army attempt to take out the aliens. Kind of standard stuff, but it reads more interestingly than the basic plot, especially during the first half. The second half really feels more rushed (apparently it was, as the reboot was cancelled and condensed to reach the story’s conclusion).
The original version, which I’ve yet to read, but want to, looks to have much more straight-forward artwork by Francisco Solano Lopez. The main attraction of this 1969 update is definitely Alberto Breccia’s much more interesting, often mind-blowingly inventive black and white artwork. Apparently when this book was originally serialized, readers complained about the art, and though I love it, I can kind of get those complaints. At times it does seem a little too busy and a little too abstract to completely grab me. To some extent, the characters also seem a bit interchangeable. I never really knew who was who, though it didn’t seem to matter much.
If the second half of the book was more fleshed out, I’m sure it would have made for a better read, but overall, it’s still an enjoyable, surprisingly serious, somewhat unique take, especially for 1969, of an alien invasion of earth. And that Breccia artwork is stunning.