This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics
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I’ve always had a soft spot for hard science fiction. The type of sci-fi that plays within the rules of physics (okay, maybe bending them slightly) and presents our heroes with the realities and mundanities of space travel. From the books of Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan all the way to movies like Moon and Interstellar, I’ve been drawn to stories about the wonder and awe of space. Andy Weir’s The Martian tells the story of an astronaut stranded on Mars with little hope of rescue. Using the tools at hand to eke out a life for himself, Mark Watney sets about surviving in the confines of his prefab enclosure. Watney confronts isolation, diminishing resources and the perils of living on another planet head-on with a sense of sardonic humor and the determination to survive. The Martian utilizes the best of hard sci-fi and survivalist fiction to tell a story about the majesty and terror of space and these comics all take me back to Acidalia Planitia right along with Watney and his potato farm.
Ocean/Orbiter: The Deluxe Edition by Warren Ellis, Colleen Doran, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Randy Mayor & Dave Stewart
Warren Ellis loves space and it’s clearly evident from these two tales. Both stories explore the future of space travel, one through the corporatization of the the field and the other through the devastating loss of space travel. In Ocean, Ellis and Sprouse take us 100 years into the future and to Jupiter’s moon Europa. Here, a team of plucky scientists are helped by a UN weapons inspector in their race against a massive computer software conglomerate that’s trying to exploit a paradigm-shifting mystery deep beneath the depths. In Orbiter, ten years after it disappeared after attaining orbit, the space shuttle Venture returns home but it and its pilot have been changed. As a team of scientists try to piece together what happened, they find more than they can possible imagine, depicted wonderfully by Colleen Doran’s rough but realistic art. Both stories deal with the isolating nature of space travel and the human yearning to get out there. Ocean exists in a fully realized future, where a breakfast bagel sandwich costs $8.95 and corporate employees have software downloaded direct to their brains to facilitate productivity. Orbiter was initially published just a week after the Columbia disaster and the parallels between the two are strong, including the prediction that the loss of another shuttle would curtail further human spaceflight in the United States. While Orbiter is the emotionally closer of the two to The Martian, both tales resonate strongly with the same sense of adventure.
Planetoid by Ken Garing
What happens when the world is fighting against you? It’s not just that the atmosphere is corrosive or that the ruined industrial architecture is collapsing around you, but that long dormant machinery is rising up to fight you and the owners of the planet are on their way. That’s what fighter pilot Silas is working against when he is pulled into the heavy gravitational pull of a small planetoid in enemy space. Stranded and fighting to survive, Silas begins a journey to gain some semblance of control over this strange world when he discovers he’s not alone. Planetoid shares the same survivalist spirit as Weir’s novel and the same sense of danger lurking around every corner.
Prophet Vol. 1: Remission by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Richard Ballerman, Farel Darlymple, Giannis Milogiannis & Marian Churchland
In the distant future, Earth has become an alien landscape, almost unrecognizable. In this future, John Prophet awakes from cryosleep with a mission. Prophet is a mind-bending look at the truly alien. John Prophet encounters alien intelligences, sentient fungus and unintelligible tongues. But he has a mission to accomplish and nothing will stop him. Prophet must fight for survival with limited tools. As he moves closer and closer to his goal, questions of identity and his own sanity begin to creep in. Is John really alone? How long has he been asleep? While this book is the furthest afield of The Martian in terms of plot, it shares many of the same themes and presents the reader with beautiful depictions of the absolutely alien.
Divinity by Matt Kindt, Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn & David Baron
This recent release from Valiant Comics has really struck a chord with me. Divinity centers on a secret Soviet space mission, a long-term mission to the edges of our solar system. The astronauts are chosen because they lack connections, because they could stand to be away from Earth for 30 years or more. Only, Abram has a secret, a woman he loved, their relationship hidden from the prying eyes of his handlers, and a child to be born while he’s away in space. Abram is launched on his long-term mission and is changed by an unexpected anomaly. It allows him to experience history second hand, to understand the world he’s left behind and to wonder what has become of the family he left behind. In isolation, Abram is changed, and he returns to Earth 56 years later, fundamentally changed. As with The Martian, we see themes of one-way communication, the longing for life at home and the effect of isolation. Divinity takes us a step further to ask what could be out there and what could it do to us?
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