From Music To Comics: Coheed and Cambria’s The Amory WarsA column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Nicholas Slayton
Stories in music are not uncommon. Some songs can have deep meanings and narrate a story. Some bands make concept albums, like Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The even more ambitious bands sometimes make a series of concept albums telling segments of an epic story. Coheed and Cambria are one of those bands. Each of their CDs covers a segment to their story. So far, three albums have been released, covering the second, third, and fourth installments.
Originally titled the Bag. On.Line Adventures, the story is set in a universe called Heaven’s Fence. The Fence is made of 78 planets, all connected by the Keywork, a beam of light powered by the Stars of Sirius that passes through every planet. Three races inhabit Heaven’s Fence: humans, Mages, and the Prise. The Mages rule the Fence, while the winged, blue skinned Prise are tasked with keeping an eye on the Prise. The balance of power, however, was upset when a Mage named Wilhelm Ryan started a war with his fellow Mages and the Prise, eventually emerging as the ruler of the Fence. His rule has lasted for years, but a rebellion led by the Mage Mariah Antillerea threatens to topple him.
An adaptation of the first album (but the second chapter of the story) The Second Stage Turbine Blade, penned by the band’s front man Claudio Sanchez, was released in 2004 with art by Wes Abbot. The story concerned Ryan’s top general, the robotic Mayo Detinwolf, confronting the married couple Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon with some bad news, and some terrible news. The bad news: Detinwolf claimed that Coheed was the unwitting carrier of the Monstar virus, which if activated could lead him to destroy the Stars of Sirius and disrupt the Keywork. The terrible news: the Kilgannon’s four kids carry an untreatable offshoot called the Sinstar virus that could be even more dangerous. Detinwolf gives Coheed an offer: kill the children and receive treatment, or he would kill the entire Kilgannon family. The secrets of the Monstar are tied into the couple’s amnesiac past, as well as Detinwolf’s plan to dispose of Mariah. Further complicating matters was the arrival of Jesse, a mysterious man claiming to be Coheed’s brother.
The Second Stage Turbine Blade was an incredibly well written comic, with a genius premise and great art. Sanchez’s writing meant that a dense plot flowed smoothly, and the concepts brought up in this book topped anything else I had read at the time, and it still does. Sadly, after two issues the book was put on indefinite hold as Abbot suffered health problems. The first issue is out of print, and the second issue is in limited supply, but both are gems. No comic accompanied the band’s second album In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 (the third chapter of the story), and with Second Stage on hold, the story was left open for a while, with only small tidbits from Sanchez as to the fate of the characters.
When their third album came out in September of 2005, Sanchez and the band released a graphic novel to go along with it that would tell the fourth chapter of the saga, called Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV Volume 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness. As I previously wrote, the graphic novel was a near perfect installment of the story, covering the attempts of Coheed and Cambria’s son, Claudio, teaming up with Jesse to dispose of Ryan. The twist was that the story pulled back to show the Writer, the creator of the story, suffering a mental breakdown following a disastrous relationship, and his decisions on whether or not to end the story. His sanity degrades further, leading to his subconscious creating the personality of Ten Speed, a demonic bicycle trying to help the Writer move on and end the story. Good Apollo was epic, and Christopher Shy’s art provided a haunting, moody atmosphere was that perfect for the story. The graphic novel proved that The Bag. On.Line Adventures was not over, and that the story still had kick.
However, The Bag. On.Line Adventures were over in a sense. According to Sanchez, The Second Stage Turbine Blade comic was finished, and for financial reasons they had to cut out scenes from Good Apollo. However, he also announced that due to a larger draw and a greater budget, the story would return as a series of miniseries under the banner title of The Amory Wars. Preceding the first miniseries was a sketchbook released in limited quantity, with art by the series artist Guy Vasquez. The sketchbook shed some background information on the universe of the stories, and showcased Vasquez’s characters designs. The first miniseries of the Amory Wars, a revamp of The Second Stage Turbine Blade, is due out on June 13, and from the looks of a preview, it should be as good as, if not better than, the original series. This is a comic you do not want to pass up.