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Teenagers from Mars
Review by Kerry Garvin

Story
Teenagers from Mars Review Cover Image
Teenagers
from Mars

Story
Rick Spears
 
art
Rob G.

Publisher
Gigantic Graphic Novels
 
Format
Softcover Collection
 
Publish Date
February 2005
 
Cover Price
$19.95
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In their song “Teenagers from Mars,” punk band the Misfits sing, “We take your weak resistance, throw it in your face. We need no introduction, for mass annihilation.” Assuming writer Rick Spears is a fan, it’s easy to see how main character Macon Blair embodies these lyrics and the song in general. Now I don’t know if Spears intended to make this connection, but it certainly fits.

In Teenagers from Mars, twenty-something slacker and Wal-Mart clone Mallmart employee Blair takes on the world. With the help of girlfriend Madison and sidekick Max he inadvertently raises the ire of the anti-comic book public and the authorities in his town. After a bad day at work, a black eye from his boss and a pink slip, a drunken Macon and Madison find themselves outside Mallmart in the mood for revenge. After a little vandalization, Macon finishes with a “Comic Book Liberation Army” (CBLA) tag in spray paint. Once the crime is discovered, anti-comic book sentiment reaches a high point complete with book burnings and riots. Macon will stop at nothing to get his own comic book, a zombie thriller, back so he can finish the book and continue his life with Madison in peace.

Spears’s story is successful mainly because his main character is written so soundly and strong. Blair is a man with punk in his veins. He is dissatisfied with his low end job, but stays to ruffle feathers. He fights and loses often, going home with black eyes and multiple scrapes and injuries. When he leaves the mark of the until then imaginary CBLA on the Mallmart, he starts a revolution in his town. He infuriates the religious right, the local government, and anyone bearing a slight resemblance to “The Man.” He doesn’t shirk away from his responsibilities though and vows to defend comic books and act as a one man CBLA. The character of Blair is so fleshed out that it makes the reader stay immersed in the story. Without this attention to detail my interest in the book might have waned.

Teenagers from Mars Review Interior Image

It did take me quite awhile to actually dig in and get into the book. The opening was very slow and didn’t deal with Blair or with his comic book army as much as I would have liked. It turned out to be lucky that I missed the original run, because if I read the first issue alone, I might have decided not to pick up the rest of the series. After the first 40 pages of the trade though, I became hooked and sped through the rest.

Removing the covers from the text and letting each issue flow together contributed to my inability to put the book down. Reading this trade without the covers serving as chapter markers makes the book completely seamless. If the cover gallery wasn’t included at the end, I might not have known that this book was a trade rather than an original graphic novel. This style is new to me and it is great to read the book all the way through without the interruptions that the covers sometimes cause.

Art
Rob G’s work is definitely the highlight of the book. The panels here are big and full. Most pages have between six and seven panels. This allows G. the chance to get in a lot of detail. The riot scenes are especially detailed. Hundreds of people are mashed together in one full-page panel. The angry faces, placards, and pitchforks almost give the page its own pulse. Many other pages share this same feeling of being alive with the possibility of jumping right out of the book. Since each panel is clear and with only a little bit of text the art is allowed to shine.

While vandalism, censorship, and violence aren’t the shiniest of subject matter, G. still gives each its own beauty. His style is gritty and fits the subject matter. He carries off the punk attitude of Spears’ story in his art. I’m most attracted to the panels he does in a blurry style. When either a character is in motion or he is focusing the reader on something important in the middle of the panel, G. blurs everything around the action. The blurriness is so natural looking, just like the background looks when you focus on something in the foreground. This technique has been used before, but never as successfully as it is here.

Teenagers from Mars Review Interior Image

If I was to give one critique it would be that sometimes the perspective between Macon and Max, a child, seems off. It’s hard to tell if Max is 6 or 12 years old. In some panels he looks a little thick and squat, but in most he is a skinny kid. I’m not sure why there is the difference. Still this is only a small matter in a few panels compared to a thousand superior ones.

Like the riot scene mentioned above, there are many full page panels with no text. Many of these pages could serve as the cover or as a special pinup. I appreciate that they are included within the book itself rather than as extras. These pages serve to move the book forward without bogging it down in dialogue. They are some of the best pages here.

Bonus Features
This collection has a great little section of extras that includes a cover gallery, bonus sketches, and portraits of all the characters. Since the covers weren’t included within the main text of the book it is nice to see them at the end of the book. They are reproduced at two per page, but it still gives you enough to see the detail and appreciate Rob G’s art. The thumbnail portraits of all the characters were the best bonus though. I enjoyed looking through and seeing each person, not matter how small their role in the book. This was like the dessert after a particularly satisfying meal.
Final Words

While slow at first, Teenagers from Mars soon grabs hold and doesn’t let go. Once I was into the story, I didn’t put it down again, finishing most of the 255 pages in one sitting. Spears words and G’s art are tight and work well together. I like the book’s punk sensibility and as the Misfits say in their song Teenagers from Mars, “We want, we need it, we’ll take it, baby.” I’m left wanting even more.

Highly Recommended

Other Rick Spears and Rob G reviews:
Filler


Kerry Garvin (email) is a total nerd. She once made a robot out of tin foil for a boy she loved, but was too shy to deliver it. Kerry can also be found rambling at The Comic Queen and A View From the Ham.
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