Volume 30, Number 4, Summer, 2012

Phoebus Krumm

By L. Neil Smith, Scott Bieser and -3-

Big Head Press, 2011
Reviewed by Max Jahr

With over 20 novels to his credit, L. Neil Smith makes his third foray into the graphic novel realm with an original graphic novel. Phoebus Krumm is set in the same universe as his novel Henry Martyn (1989) and Bretta Martyn (1997). As with the graphic novel version of The Probability Broach, Scott Bieser handles the artwork, along with -3- (aka Charles H. Weidman III). The eponymous Krumm appeared in both prior works as a friend of Arran Islay, the young boy who became otherwise known as the famous pirate/rebel Henry Martyn. His daughter Bretta and several other characters from both novels also appear in Phoebus Krum, which belongs squarely in that universe.

At the core of the book are the two competing powers, the Jendy Empiry-Cirot and the Monopolity of Hanover. Currently coexisting in an uneasy peace, the former appears to be developing a massive starship with planet-crushing powers. The Jendy Ceo, Burton Halliwater (in a barely masked play on Halliburton and Blackwater—and with the Ceo’s physical resemblance to Dick Cheney) is hell-bent on converting every human to his own galactic-core workshipping religion.

Krumm is recruited out of his retirement by the Ceo of Hanover, Lia Woodgate, whose humble origins trace back to Henry Martyn. She is related to Anastasia Wheeler, who oversees a laissez-faire society on Luna, orbiting a long-dead old Earth. Woodgate somehow governs from a libertarian perspective, and along with Krumm sends two other agents on a mission. One is the Jendy ambassador, Frantisek Demondion-Echeverria, who transferred his allegiance to Lia rather than support Halliwater’s mad scheme. The other is Hannebuth Tarrant, who appears often as the narrator of Phoebus Krumm, and first appeared in Bretta Martyn.

While some knowledge of people, places, and events in the two earlier books helps to illuminate the back-story, this swashbuckling tale stands fairly well on its own. The black and white artwork works well; color might have added an extra dimension, but isn’t necessary. Contrast the artwork with the full color extravanganza that is the graphic novel version of The Probability Broach; color seemed vital in that book, as it’s a seminal and vibrant libertarian work of fiction. Contrast it again with Big Head Press’s take on the Odyssey, which was in black and white, and one can see that method also works.

Despite the large cast and Smith’s penchant for exotic character names which sometime confuses the narrative flow, the action/adventure style sets a fast pace. Phoebus Krumm is a crowded book, and one that probably needs to be read more than once to be really appreciated. But overall it tells a good tale, a swashbuckling adventure in space, with odds and ends of philosophy tossed in for good measure.

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