For Farscape fans in Chicagoland and the Great Lakes area.

Jan 9

Farscape Comic Book Review

Category: Farscape Comics

Read no further if you haven’t read the new Farscape comic book and don’t want to be spoiled.

I finally snagged myself a copy of the first book. Once again, as I read the story, I experienced the usual feeling I get whenever I read a comic book.  What a horrible chore it is to wade through all those static images to get to each piece of dialog and to puzzle out the action. This is one heckuva slow way to read a story. In a book, you get a thousand more words that carefully describe it all to you. In a movie you get the actual characters acting this all out for you. All of that is a lot more information to process at once, and yet, it’s the “simple” comic book story that I find to be hard work to wade through.

My first difficulty was that the dialog seemed awfully stiff and forced.  The entire story is told only by dialog, with only a little bit of exposition at the beginning to bring any newbies up to speed. The author is trying very hard to have the dialog accomplish too many things; both moving the story forward and expressing the characters’ inner thoughts. That’s just too much to saddle naked dialog with, and it seems very artificial.  No one sounds like they’re speaking in their "authentic" voice.

Another problem is that these characters are saying things that are trite. Take, for instance, the awful palsy-walsy behavior between Jothee and Crichton. At this point in the story they’re not pals of any kind, and the sort of joking that the author has them doing seems all wrong. I could see this behavior between D’Argo and Crichton, but Jothee is just this kid that suddenly showed up a few weeks ago. He and Crichton have no common ground, and very little shared experiences, and not all of those are good ones. The trite thing to do would be to show some macho male bonding thing, as the author did, but it’s not right for these two people at this point in their personal timelines.  Farscape never used to be so trite.

Of course, it’s hard to tell from the illustrations what emotions the characters are feeling, as they seem very wooden. This may be because the burden the artist has in illustrating a comic book based on a TV show is that he must portray the characters “realistically”. In my opinion, simplifying these characters so that they were nearly caricatures would’ve served Farscape better in this medium. It certainly would’ve allowed more expressive illustrations of emotions on the characters’ faces, without the artist having to try to guess how the original actor would’ve looked while expressing those emotions.  (Of course, I can just about hear the whining from a certain segment of the fandom at how "none of the characters look real".  Sigh, this medium seems utterly bound by its conventions, but one can sort of understand why.)

The images are sadly static, and at the same time very artificially staged. I’ve always hated weird camera angles which only exist for the sake of being weird camera angles, and this story has that IN SPADES. Perhaps, since the story is mostly told through dialog between people who are standing around, I suppose someone was thinking that this would be the way to ‘liven’ it up. Even so, seeing the bizarre tilts and angles makes one really appreciate how intelligent the directors were in planning the shots in every episode of Farscape.  The POV in this comic book swoops all over for no obvious reason.

And there are a few more things that bothered me.

  • John Crichton is uttering WAY too many pop culture references. In this twenty or so pages there were at least seven of them, which is almost double what there would typically be in any given episode – and we’re only a quarter of the way through the story. Not only were these pop culture references more sparse in the original series, but the further Crichton journeyed emotionally from his original home, the less frequently he used pop culture references, so that by season four you could have an entire episode were he made none at all. Additionally, Crichton’s pop culture references were very frequently sly and subtle, and they often had multiple meanings. He didn’t simply use them as a way of showing off some arcane piece of trivia to confound his alien friends with, but as private jokes with himself, which only he (and the audience) could understand. Very often the pop culture references illuminated the dilemma or situation that Crichton found himself in.  Rockne O’Bannon and David Kemper frequently alluded to Crichton’s use of pop culture references as a way for Crichton to anchor himself in this new and strange surroundings.  What was unsaid but just as true is that these references frequently underscored how alone Crichton was.   Crichton’s use of these references was both pithy and poignant.  Here in the comic they’re just loud and dumb.
  • Where are the DRDs? In Farscape they’re almost always around and busy doing stuff. Here, where it wouldn’t cost much more than some ink to throw them into the frame, they’re nowhere to be seen.
  • And who didn’t see the big betrayal coming at Rygel from his “favorite” wife? I thought that these characters were smart! Yet here everyone is standing around wondering what’s happening, and all acting dumber than a box of rocks.
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