3 out of 5
Martian Lit – Maritan Comics’ publisher – proposes a promising, interesting concept which most of its output (comics, books) explores: Mars has been colonized by Martians, and our stories are theirs, told from their point of view as they ‘discover’ Earth and have worked it into their own history and myth. Martians furthermore have the technology to sorta hijack human bodies, transplanting themselves into a mind, and experiencing life as a human, with Martian awareness… and the ability to essentially encourage others to act a certain way. Extended over the course of our history, this allows for main writer Julian Darius to explore big events and small events from a uniquely outsider point of view. Martian Comics was, I’d say, intended to be snapshots of these explorations, with some ongoing stories weighing down flashes which could fill in a huge – and forever expandable – mythology.
The reality ends up being subject to Darius’ decision to do a deep-dive rewrite of American politics as swayed by Martians, which completely overtakes one of the ongoing stories – The Girl From Mars – and, while stopping for some interesting highlights, is otherwise a rather plodding history lesson from someone pointing out how all our wars and politics are motivated by power struggles. This ends up being the bulk of several issues from about #4 forward, and while I can appreciate how what started as a more manageable idea grew into a rather obsessive pursuit, the concept (people love money!) isn’t all that fresh, and presenting it in an exposition-heavy, linear fashion is akin to just reading wiki articles on any given event. Frequent artist Sergio Tarquini is thus also stuck unable to develop original characters, and instead must art-up recreations of famous photos and video stills. I am not a history guy, so there’s bias here, but just structurally, this giant chunk of non-story (it really boils down to background…) is out of place, and would have been much more effective done in the snapshot style of some of the other bits. While The Secret History eventually went waaay off the rails into just reciting historical events without tying it to its own supposed internal mythology, the way it initially spun up its alternate world is, I think, what Darius was going for here, but it’s just too dryly presented.
I do sincerely respect that amount of research this aspect of Martian Comics took, and while I’ve just kicked it several times, once Julian shifts in to history lesson mode, the tone and pacing is consistent, and he does make sure to constantly reference the Martian influences on things. So I allow a reserved nod of approval, whilst knowing that I won’t be rereading those sections any time soon.
…And we have the other bits and pieces, which are generally fantastic. There’s definitely a bit of over-seriousness to the prose, but once you give yourself over to the world, it’s a great experience, with talented artists and colorists and letterers keeping the books looking professional.
Yes, I’m looking forward to ‘The Girl From Mars’ being done with its march through history, but more positively, I’m absolutely looking forward to more Martian Comics, and the glimpses it will offer into both proposed Martian lives and the Martians’ take on ours.