The Martian Confederacy Volume 2: From Mars With Love original graphic novel
Writer: Jason McNamara
Artist/Cover artist: Paige Braddock
Tones: Braddock & Brian Miller
Publisher: Girl Twirl Comics
Price: $15 US
Three years ago, I was entertained and amused by a science-fiction graphic novel that was unlike other sci-fi books. Low on visual detail but packed with fun and intelligent ideas, The Martian Confederacy proved to be a great read. I was thrilled when the creators touched base recently and gave me a sneak peek of their followup effort. The same characters are back in this sequel, but the premise shifts considerably when the plot takes them off Mars and into new socio-political circumstances. But what really drives the story forward is the relationship between the two main protagonists, which serves as an amusing, saucy conflict, given Boone’s playboy attitude. Also charming is the artwork, which is far simpler in tone that one usually finds in a science-fiction comic book or graphic novel.
When children that the android Lou sometimes babysits are kidnapped and whisked away to child-labor camps off planet, she and her partner, the rogue Boone, risk their freedom and their lives to leave Mars in an effort to save them. With their ursine friend Spinner helping them with transport, Lou and Boone soon discover they have more than the child slavers to contend with. Alcalde, the law on Mars, has taken the pair’s defiance as an opportunity to be rid of them once and for all, but to do that, he must also undertake a dangerous mission: to risk the ire of his new bride for focusing on work during their off-world honeymoon.
The art in the first Martian Confederacy graphic novel was adorned with red tones rather than grey tones, and it was fitting, as the entire story was set on the Red Planet (albeit it more than a millennium in the future). This second original graphic novel has abandoned the red tones for blue ones, and again, it’s fitting, as this story takes the characters away from their home on Mars. Rather than the arid, rust-colored landscape of Mars that red represented, the blues are no doubt intended to convey the cold, antiseptic nature of space travel. I like the color shift and how it serves as an immediate cue that this is a much different story than what we found in the first graphic novel.
When I reviewed the first book, I compared Paige Braddock’s simple cartooning to the styles of K. Thor Jensen and Bryan O’Malley. This time, I was reminded of other cartoonists’ styles, I think in part due to the incorporation of children as key characters in the story. Braddock’s depiction of the kids put me in mind of the artwork of those known for their work on the newspaper comics page, such as Lynn Johnston, Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson. I also enjoyed how Braddock employs thicker, blunter lines to bring the adult characters to life while reserving softer, thinner lines for the kids. I also appreciated that despite her simpler leanings, Braddock is nevertheless able to convey the sex appeal of Lou in both of her forms in this issue. At the same time, her portrayals aren’t gratuitous either.
While the overall tone of the book is quite light, I was surprised and impressed that McNamara wasn’t afraid to portray his protagonists as utter bastards at times. I was initially put off by Spinner’s subplot. The betrayal that lands him in a state of possibly perpetual slavery seemed too harsh, and the explanation of how a friend planned to atone for that sin seemed far too callous a reaction to the crime. Still, the political element that quickly arose in the Spinner subplot was entertaining and intelligent, so the slightly bad taste that had been left in my mouth was eclipsed by some good writing.
There were a couple of aspects of the plot and script that didn’t quite work for me. The appearance of the late Professor and his widow in the latter part of the book seems kind of sudden, with nothing to foreshadow or even hint at these characters’ roles in the story. I was quite confused for a bit, as I couldn’t quite remember everything about them from the first book. Furthermore, one aspect of the ending — one character’s benevolent adoption of one of the kidnapped children — seems awfully tragic for the mother. It’s as though McNamara endeavors to give all of the characters a happy ending, even the villains.
As the title of the book suggests, this plot is ultimately a love story. There are a couple of tender moments that work quite well, but what I really like about it is that McNamara avoids cliches. Boone and Lou aren’t tamed by their love for one another. They enjoy each other’s wildness and recklessness. While Lou brings out another side of Boone, his bad-boy charms aren’t lost in the process. 8/10
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