Trish Trash: Rollergirl Of Mars Vol. 1 by Jessica Abel (graphic novel review)

December 28, 2016 | By | Reply More

Trish Trash: Rollergirl Of Mars’ is a graphic novel by Jessica Abel with background and design by Lydia Roberts and colours by Walter. I’m not sure what background and design means. With 64 pages, it’s quite a thin hardcover edition but a very nice one and I guess you’re paying for those lush production costs. It was originally published in France where they took graphic novels seriously long before anyone else.

Anyway, Patricia Nupindju or Trish is a young lady who works on the family moisture farm in Candor Chasma, Mars, but has ambitions to be Hoverderby pro. The local team, the Novas, are having try-outs for new players, so she bunks off school to go, even though one is supposed to be nine years-old and she is only seven and a half.

There is an asterisk in the word balloon where Trish mentions her age and a useful footnote at the bottom of the page. It tells you that seven and a half on Mars is equal to fifteen Earth years because the Mars year is twice as long. A bit later someone mentions ‘Novembris’ and a footnote informs the reader that Novembris comes after November and Decembris after December because months are doubled on Mars to account for the long year. A bit later, another note says that a T.L.A. is a Temporary Labour Assignment, a compulsory work contract assigned to Martys who reach a certain level of debt. This kind of asterisk with footnote is an ancient tradition in comicbooks, established if not pioneered by Gardner Fox at DC Comics.

Hoverderby seems a lot like Rollerball from the classic film with James Caan. The professional players have stage names like Hanna Barbarian, Captain Fly and Betty Demonica. They are all young women and presumably have more money and status than moisture farmers. Although Trish fails to make the team, the coach is impressed enough to take her on as a Skategirl as with her knack for repairs she can fix the skates which often become clogged with dust during a match. She signs an indenture contract and has to work long hours. Her struggling family need her help on the farm and are not impressed.

The science is pretty realistic. Mars is depicted as dusty, bleak and red. There are no roads and the few vehicles hover. When outside, the people wear Radsuits to protect them from the environment. The colonists have a hard life and are indentured servants to the Arex Corporation that financed the settlement. This is very similar to Robert Heinlein’s many tales of colonisation such as ‘Logic Of Empire’ and ‘The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’ which often ended in rebellion against the mother planet. As an American, it was Heinlein’s unbiased view that settlers in foreign lands and their descendants, ie him, were smarter, tougher and generally better than those who stayed home. It was also perfectly righteous of them to rebel.

There’s another resemblance to Heinlein in the info dump, something he tended to do in his early short stories. Critic James Blish said he was the only author who could get away with it. Here the info dump comes in an appendix at the end of the book with informative essays explaining the rules and history of Hoverderby, how radsuits work, Native Martians and the homestead debate that set the terms for Martian colonisation. Cleverly, these articles are attributed to wiki.marzred.arex.mars and the one about the almost legendary Native Martians has ‘citation needed’ scattered throughout. The info dump is frowned on in modern fiction as the smart writer is meant to fit all that stuff into the narrative. Personally, I don’t mind it. Better a good info dump than narrative made clumsy by squeezing it in.

The art was okay as modern goes. It looks like outlines coloured in so was presumably done on a computer. This is the first part in a serial so the story hasn’t progressed far as yet but Jessica Abel has put in enough interesting plot elements to make an intriguing mix and established a reasonably strong central character. There’s no blood, guts or sex and, in fact, this is a pretty good clone, in graphic novel form, of a decent Heinlein juvenile novel from the 1950s. I rather liked it and look forward to part two.

Eamonn Murphy

December 2016

(pub: NBM/Papercutz. 64 page graphic novel hardback/ Price: £13.99 (UK), $14.99(US), $20.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-62991-614-9

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Category: Books, Comics, Scifi

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About EamonnMurphy

Eamonn Murphy is a science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel reviewer who writes a bit too. Many of his books are currently free (but not on Amazon).
See website for details.

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