A glimpse into ’18 Days’

The Mahabharata graphic novel that is taking the world by storm

Culture

October 31, 2018

/ By / Kolkata



Mukesh Singh's cover art for Brahma in the first issue of "18 Days"

Mukesh Singh’s cover art for Brahma in the first issue of ’18 Days’

Grant Morrison and Mukesh Singh’s behemothic graphic novel tells the epic story of the Mahabharata for an entirely new demographic of audience.

The Mahabharata (ancient Indian epic) is the epic of all epics. We know the story and we know the immense place that it occupies in our culture. Numerous works have been released re-imagining the story, over and over again. From the small screen to the silver one, from the pages of a novel to the pages of a graphic novel, the Mahabharata has been seen in all. And yet, Grant Morrison’s ’18 Days’ – a bi-monthly serial graphic novel series still manages to stand out on its own in the sea of adaptations.

Cover art for "18 Days" #4

Cover art for “18 Days” #4

When we imagine the narrative, we are transported to a realm of a bygone medieval era of swords and chariots and of bows and arrows. And this is where Morrison and his artist, Mukesh Singh play their own unique tune. Instead of swords and cutlasses, the duo transports us to a world of science fiction where humanity has reached the pinnacle of perfection (or imperfection), where the line between what is human and what is Godly is thinner than ever. And, it is this utopia that is struggling to fight a war to end all wars.

As vimanas (airplanes) break through the sky and brahmaastras (supernatural weapons) spell doom and rain down destruction from the heavens, the course of the climactic war that concludes the age of the Gods and begins the age of man is waged. It is the prototype for every war ever fought. The scale is epic, wherein the biggest armies ever conceived face one another across the ultimate battlefield to decide the fate of the future.

The art by Singh looks straight out of a psychedelic art exhibition. The colours and hues are rich and they strike the eye. The fractal kaleidoscopic effects of liquid light painting are absolutely befuddling and catches the reader’s attention. For an art form, that tells its story through paintings almost as much as it does with words, Singh’s work is profound.

Bhima in "18 Days" #5

Bhima in “18 Days” #5

Grant Morrison is, of course, one of the world’s most famous comic book authors with a career spanning decades. The Scotsman began his work back in the ‘80s with the ‘Starblazer’ for DC Comics. 1989 saw him rise to unprecedented success with the release of ‘Arkham Asylum’ – the cerebral Batman graphic novel which went to become a “#1 New York Times Bestseller”. He has also written ‘Animal Man’, ‘All Star Superman’ and the non-fiction book, ‘Talking with Gods’ among others. His research on Hinduism and the Mahabharata has led him to visit India on a regular basis over the years.

Mukesh Singh is one of India’s best known illustrator who has worked for Marvel Comics on an “on and off basis” since 2010. He has designed the ‘Incredible Hulk’ and ‘Captain America’ since 2014. He has also been the chief artist for ‘Devi’ – the series featuring India’s first female superhero. He is also the chief artist on Guy Ritchie’s series, ‘Gamekeeper’.

The launch of the series saw it taking the American market by storm and the graphic novel has even been found itself on the New York Times Bestseller list. The first 24 issues have been collected into a single volume and is available in the Indian market via publishers, Graphic India. A motion comic of the work can be found for free on YouTube while an animated series based on the novel is up for production.

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