Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is widely regarded as one of the greatest books in science fiction. It is a series of short stories, often called ‘future histories’, which are both self-contained and which contribute to the narrative whole. It was originally published in 1950, and had 28 parts starting in 1999 and ending in 2057. It tells the tale of man’s colonisation of Mars while things aren’t going so well back on Earth. There are Martians to contend with too. Or are they merely ghosts, or even delusions?
Dennis Calero, who has previously worked on Legion of Super-Heroes and Cowboys & Aliens, has taken Bradbury’s tales and turned them into a graphic novel. The timescales are the same, but only 14 of the short stories are presented. It has been a few years since I last read the novel version, but I do remember that I did enjoy it, and it left me with an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder. Is it fair to compare this edition with the prose? Maybe not, but what it should still present is a coherent narrative structure in a series of short tales.
It is hard to criticise such classic text and story, and I’m not going to. What I will say, however, that there are sections of narrative that are very wordy and visuals alone cannot do them justice. The are some large chunks of dialogue that take place in short scenes (for example, The Third Expedition and large passages of exposition (e.g. The Green Morning) which feel out of place in linear art storytelling. I found myself somewhat confused about who was saying what and when. The stories themselves are as I recall them to be, and the fact that many are missing doesn’t actually detract from the overall feel. If you hadn’t read the original, you wouldn’t know anything was missing. That is a decent achievement.
The artwork is, well, nice. Taken on its merits alone, I would like it. However, in the context of the story I feel it is too dark in place, too stark and bereft of detail in others. The design is great, especially the Martians and retro, 1950s feel that inhabited the original text. While again, the colour design is distinctive and I liked it, I just don’t think it helped to tell the story.
This attempted at turning classic science fiction into a modern, relevant, graphic novel has not, in my opinion, been a success. The story stands ok, but there is too much dialogue and narrative for this medium. The art hinders the story further, despite it suiting my personal tastes. Nice try, but unnecessary.