Dark Satanic Mills graphic novel review

Fantasy author Marcus Sedgwick’s graphic novel debut Dark Satanic Mills is full of big ideas

William Blake’s pastoral musings-turned-national hymn ‘Jerusalem’ has become such a part of England’s dreaming that its original meaning is often overlooked.

A romantic poet, he believed firmly that God could be found in nature and not in the ritualised dogma of the Church, and bespoke graphic novel Dark Satanic Mills, which depicts a London bike courier suddenly in possession of a controversial document in a post-apocalyptic theocracy in which religious police – known as Soldiers of Truth – round up unbelievers, is clearly in step with Blake, the heretic at the heart of English patriotism.

Echoing Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V For Vendetta not just in the oppressive, very British dystopia it depicts and the independent everywoman drawn into the heart of a vast conspiracy, but in the heavy black lines and prominent use of shadows by artist John Higgins (best known as colourist on Watchmen and The Killing Joke, as well as a long-running 2000 AD artist, writer and colourist).

Written by Marcus and Julian Sedgwick, there’s a superficial similarity with Marcus’ children’s book Floodland – both depict an environmentally damaged Britain overrun by flood waters, and this book’s strengths are similar in its concepts.

This flooded London is powerful and poignant, while the brutal sun-scorched desert where the orbital mirrors have failed produces one of the book’s most memorable segments, in which our heroes are pursued by a bike gang who’ve adorned themselves with mirrors and foil for protection.

The over-dependence on thought bubbles betrays the Sedgwicks’ background in prose and sets Dark Satanic Mills off somewhat bumpily with too much tell and not enough show when it comes to Christy, who by the end of the book has still yet to convince as anything other than a vanilla sponge for the reader’s own identity.