One Punch Reviews #71: Red’s Planet
Ladies and gentlemen, I have some very sad news: I’m cancelling Mars Week. I knw you were looking forward to the parades with a giant Marvin the Martian balloons, a public reading of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, the contest to think up with a better Martian rover name than “Curiosity,” and free Mars Bars for the kids.
But I only have myself to blame, really. Earlier this week, I thought to myself: “Self, why don’t you finally review that other Mars-themed comic? Uh, what was it called? Red’s Planet?” It was a full-proof plan… until I reached the end of Red’s Planet and realized it had nothing to do with THE Red Planet. Fortunately, though, I have no regrets reading Eddie Pittman’s Red’s Planet. I’ll come right out and say it: it’s the most delightful webcomic you’ll ever read about Mars that will turn out to be not about that at all.
If I had to level any complaints, it’s that the comic’s leisurely pace combined with the once a week updates makes for some slow storytelling. While the comic has been going on for over two years now, and only in the last few pages has our main character, “Red,” arrived at a distant soil. (Or, rather, crash landed with a bunch of aliens that don’t seem to get along with each other. It’s like Lost meets John Carter… which is basically Gilligan’s Planet, now that I think about it.) I thought this webcomic was called Red’s Planet? And we’re only getting to the titular planet just now? Then again, any planet that Red steps on is technically Red’s Planet… so, for the entire first chapter, Earth is Red’s planet. That line of reasoning may be a little too deep for a comic aimed at kids, though. It’s really more appropriate for esoteric indie movies, where I’m told that the movie Tyrannosaur is not actually about a friggin’ tyrant lizard king.
I don’t mind, though. The entire first chapter of Red’s Planet, which is set on Earth, is probably my favorite one thus far. Red is rebel child stuck in a foster home with an uncaring guardian. She has a tendency to skip school; when the other foster kids board a bus, she sneaks off to travel on her lonesome down quiet rural backroads. She’s not a bad kid, though. A local police officer is sorta sympathetic towards her plight; when he picks Red up, he’s almost like a father figure. But enough is enough, and Red’s run away from home too many times. It looks like her next stop is a juvie home. It’s such a cozy set-up that it’s almost a shame when the aliens come and accidentally abduct her! (They were actually after the car she was in, which is something of a collector’s item on the space market.)
Red disappears for much of the second chapter. Our setting shifts to an alien medina quarter, where everyone has set up tents despite being located in an indoor, environmentally controlled facility. (It makes for a nice visual, though.) We’re introduced to several fantastically designed alien creatures … from a giant two-headed turtle to a fussy robot. How much fun did Mr. Pittman have designing all of the different alien beasties? I’m thinking “barrel full of monkeys” levels.
It turns out that Mr. Pittman is an animator, and he brings it. Even the human characters come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, fluidly designed for maximum delightfulness. They have that quality that’s both cartoony and solid, something along the lines of Jeff Smith’s work on Bone. Scenes are also very cinematic. Pittman pulls back to view the wide vistas of outer space and employs glowing motion lines during a high speed car chase.
The art is sumptuous, the character is surprisingly deep, and everything radiates a light, joyful tone without being too sugary. It may not be Mars, but I wouldn’t mind rocketing off to Red’s Planet on a regular basis.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5).