A Philosophical, Profound And Personal Sci-Fi Story: Reviewing ‘Traveling To Mars’ #1

by Olly MacNamee

Summary

Traveling to Mars #1 is one part ‘Silent Running’ and one part a figurative journey in finding yourself as Roy Livingston sets off on a one-way trip to the red planet to claim it for Corporate America. Mark Russell and Roberto Meli deliver a very personal and profound sci-fi yarn you can’t help but connect with.

Overall
10/10
10/10

Meet Roy Livingston. And like many, his life was a mundane series of events ending in a dead-end job and divorce. Oh, and terminal cancer. Making him the ideal candidate for a one way trip to Mars, and a place in the history books. And as Roy travels to Mars he has a lot of time on his hands. Time to reflect on his life and in doing so allowing Mark Russell to once more look at our reality through the medium of fiction with his always slightly skewered and original viewpoint. And the imagery conjured up by his use of language that makes Russell, for me at least, one of the leading voices in American comics today. Roy’s thoughts on history being simply a series of obituaries and our role through life akin to lint rollers, “picking up pain and regret as we roll along,” being a great example of this. For Roy to be something of a cop-out at life, he certainly has a way with words. And this debut issue of Traveling to Mars, are scattered with these pearls of wisdom. Which helps create a very unique and engaging voice for Roy, our profound and oft-times philosophical narrator for the journey. 

Joining Roy on his mission are two AI robots, as they head out to exploit Mars for its natural resources. And, going Russell on art is Italian artist Roberto Meli, who is equally at home drawing the mundanity of Roy’s domestic surroundings as he is in rendering the sci-fi scenery and tech too. The familiar with the unfamiliar, the ordinary and the extraordinary. The level of detail may be lost on may readers, but it’s an effective foundation that really tells us everything we need to know about Roy and his deadbeat life, from the huge industrial spool he uses as a coffee table, to a quite moment in which Roy is seemingly picking at his toenails. It is so well observes and realised on the printed page. It makes for a sharp, interesting contrast to where he finds himself now. 

Russell’s healthy eye for exaggerating corporate America’s rapacious appetites and by-all-means-necessary approach is once more a theme underscoring this series, and the mission to Mars. Not for any humanitarian reasons is Roy embarking on this mission. It’s all in the name of Capitalism. A common theme in Russell’s work, but one he always finds different ways of exploring. Although, when the corporate sponsors are revealed, it’s something of a surprise nonetheless. 

Traveling to Mars #1 is a very personal journey, both literally and figuratively, and it’s only just begun. But, in this first issue alone we have a good deal of soul searching and, ultimately, regret too. Will Roy, a dying man, find a new lease of lief somewhere out there amongst the stars? It’s an intriguing, existential set up and through clever dialogue many will immediately relate to, we have a simple man, an everyman, we can all connect with. 

Traveling to Mars #1 is out now from Ablaze Publishing

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