Written by: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor
Man From Space is back in a 64-page graphic novel collecting issues 1-3 and a few bonus one-page shorts. It also includes some of Marc Jackson’s past and current comic strip work. I reviewed issue #1 a few months ago, but I’m back to give the collected edition a fresh new take. Suffice to say, I appreciate it much more as a graphic novel than I did when it was just a standalone issue.
Creator/Illustrator: Marc Jackson
Man From Space is perhaps the most zaniness and random comic I have ever read. Rather than follow a linear story, it offers a wacky cast of characters meandering about without a clear goal. For the most part, it is really fun and entertaining. At the same time, it lacks a little something to make it shine as a completely engaging comic. More on this later.
The story is about a man whose spaceship crash-lands on a deserted looking planet. Because he doesn’t have a name, I’ll refer to him as “the Man” from now on. He doesn’t arrive alone, but with his best buddy Michael, a mistrustful fish with a gambling problem. Together they banter and argue like best bros do about things like women and having no food, water, or money. All of a sudden, the Man launches into a backstory about Dr. Brain draining both his brains in return for cash, wrestling a midget with a mustache (named Kid Whiskers), and temporarily body swapping with a creature called Larp Escobah. Oh such crazy, weird stuff.
Eventually they meet the alien Whemblo, who with Michael’s help, creates a teleporting robot named Hector. The Man activates Hector’s teleportation capabilities, which relocates both of them to another area on the planet. There, he meets more oddball characters. I would give more details, but as I said, Man From Space is random and aimless. If I tell you what wacky adventures the Man and Michael go on next, I would ruin their whole escapade.
Man From Space is a humorous comic with great one-liners and a less than average Joe. Surprisingly, it also has one fantastic, sentimental moment that was all too adorable (Hint: It had to do with the Man and Kid Whiskers). The Man is a little too idiotic for my taste, but it makes sense if his brain has been drained. Though it begs the question of how he functions at all! I said it in my last review, but I’ll say it again. My favorite character is Michael the Fish. He talks only in bloops, schloops, and ploops, yet he is the most fun character in the story. While basically incomprehensible, he chimes in at all the right times. He is that prankster friend everyone has and while you want to trust him, you know he’s still up to something sinister. Normally I wouldn’t say this, but I like his apathetic nature to the welfare of his friend, the Man. Perhaps Michael knows that despite what shenanigans the Man is up to, he’ll be okay.
Turning now to the art, it is cartoonish in a very good way. All the human characters have lanky arms and legs much like Plastic Man or Mister Fantastic. Some of the aliens have elongated oval bodies or heads. Only Michael appears to be a normal looking goldfish. Overall, the art is simple and clean, fitting the silly tone of the book. The colors are also bright and cheerful.
While Man From Space is a lighthearted read, its lack of a clear objective prevents it from standing out amongst traditional comic book storytelling. Each issue within the graphic novel is short and not much happens in the small space of time it’s alloted. The Man goes from one hijink to another in no particular order or rational manner. Where is he? What’s he trying to do? Who are these characters and where did they come from? Now I’m not looking for an elaborate plot. It doesn’t need anything complex because at the heart of it all, it’s supposed to be fun and give us a good laugh. If anything, the nature of the book seems more suitable for children (with the exception of a few jokes in the story) than it would be for an adult like myself. If that’s the case, I think it’s perfectly fine. That’s just my two cents.
An observation I made is that the Man From Space makes a better comic strip than it does an actual comic book. I enjoyed the bonus one-page shorts provided at the end a great deal more. They didn’t need much context and just worked. The funny thing is that Man From Space began as a comic strip in Spain, which Jackson later adapted into the comic book you see before me today. Currently, he has even adapted the comic book into a comic strip for his local newspaper, Macclesfield Today. After reading these simplified 4-panel strips of Man from Space, I found myself laughing and relishing in the story a lot more. Again, I think it has to do with context and having a direction. The 4-panels keeps the story simple. In one example, the Man From Space is thirsty so what does he do? He drinks from Michael’s fishbowl. Zing! That’s it! And if you read the strip one after the other, you get a clear idea that the Man and Michael are trying to get off the planet, which I didn’t get from reading the first three issues.
Taken in as whole, which includes all the bonus material, I had an entertaining time reading it. It’s not perfect, but Marc Jackson definitely has the right idea and he’s improving every step of the way. On a side note, I checked out his website and he does some excellent cartooning / comic strip work. He even does commissions, which I’ll say is quite tempting to look into.
3.5 out of 5.0 (as a whole)
4.0 out of 5.0 (for just the bonus comic strips)
Author: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor
Laura is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently resides in Southern California. She drinks too much milk tea, talks too much about Green Lantern, and would marry Barry Allen if he were real.