Sunday, November 18, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #322: The Martian Confederacy, Vol. 2: From Mars With Love by Jason McNamara & Paige Braddock

I read the first volume of Martian Confederacy nine years ago, around the time it came out, but clearly didn't love it enough to jump into the second book any time quickly.

But time wounds all heels, and, during a business trip recently, I remembered that I had The Martian Confederacy, Vol. 2: From Mars With Love on a device, and so read it to keep the Book-A-Day streak going. (If you think that "streak" is filled with the book equivalent of a lot of bloop singles, well, you're not wrong.) As with the first book, it's written by Jason McNamara and drawn by Paige Braddock, and both of them will probably be very surprised to see this post pop up if they have the usual Google ego-searches active. (I'm sure they've done plenty of other stuff since this, and I like to believe that everyone gets better, too.)

Martian Confederacy has a veneer of seriousness and drama, but it's a loose, ramshackle construction that fights against that seriousness every step of the way. (I called it "the Dukes of Hazard on Mars" the first time around, and I stand by that.)

As the cover gives away, central this time is a love story between our somewhat lunkish (but good-hearted) hero Boone and Lou, his android roommate (platonically, up to this point). They set off to investigate the abduction of the children of a friend of Lou's -- there's a big hole in the side of their trailer and everything -- and end up being shanghaied by the Alcalde into investigating a wider problem, and breaking his rules to get off the planet and find the culprits.

You see -- and you'll want to be sitting down for this -- there's a planet-wide child theft ring, which nobody has heard about for some reason, and the Alcalde (corrupt, the only law/government on the entire planet, no apparent thugs to actually enforce his edicts but he acts like someone will do what he decrees) tells Boone and Lou that they need to solve the problem before he (the Alcalde) comes back from his honeymoon. Oh, and they're specifically ordered not to leave the planet, though the instant they start to think it about, it's clear the kids were all kidnapped to somewhere other than Mars.

That's how From Mars, With Love is the whole way: superficially plausible as long as you don't think about anything for even a second, and full of very durable cliches mixed with random oddities. (The Alcalde's new wife is two women, connected upside-down at the torso, and they flip around semi-randomly, taking over the personality and activity of the single person they seem to be legally.) The universe is pretty crapsack -- slavery (at least of non-human sentients) is legal, kidnapping kids is pretty common, and everything is pretty beat-up and junky. And the plot is the usual combination of fighting and let-me-tell-you-what's-really-happening, with the kind of ending you'd expect from a story like this.

I have a feeling the creators took it a bit more seriously than I did, but that's OK: you should commit to the things you're doing. As far as I can tell, this is where the series ended -- two collections of outlaw medium-future adventures, sticking it to The Man on the red planet. It's unique, I'll give it that: it's definitely one of a kind.

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