Written by Mark Russell
Art by Roberto Meli
Colors by Chiara Di Francia
Letters by Mattia Gentili
Editor Davide G.G. Caci
Published by Ablaze Publishing
“Traveling to Mars tells the story of former pet store manager Roy Livingston, the first human to ever set foot on Mars. Roy was chosen for this unlikely mission for one simple reason: he is terminally ill and therefore has no expectation of returning. Roy is joined on his mission to Mars by Leopold and Albert, two Mars rovers equipped with artificial intelligence, who look upon the dying pet store manager as a sort of god. Against the backdrop of not only his waning days but those of human civilization as well, Roy has ample time to think about where things went wrong for both of them and what it means to be a dying god. A riveting story of planetary exploration and of finding meaning in your final days.”
When Mark Russell is writing the story you know you’ll be getting deep and well-thought-out themes, often with well-placed humor. Traveling to Mars delivers on this and then some. This issue spends a lot of time worldbuilding and developing our main character, Roy. Mark does an excellent job exploring the character and really honing in on what motivates him and where he is at mentally at this point in his life. He is dealing with his very real mortality and trying to come to terms with what are the last months of his life.
Roberto Meli is a beast on the artwork as he not only kills it on design for space stations and Alabama landscape but also does a fantastical job imagining what a younger Mars would look like with life on it. The emotion shown by Roy is clearly visible throughout the issue and for a lot of the issue he just seems tired and ready for his life to end. All of this is captured very well by Meli’s art and accentuated by Chiarra Di Francia’s colors that vividly depict space and the fictional old Mars with life on it. The use of muted or more vibrant colors throughout is well done to depict the scene tones and seemingly follows what Roy may be feeling.
As always, Mark Russell’s writing cannot be understated as this story is so thought provoking and leaves you sitting for a while, contemplating your own mortality. Subtle humor, satire, and social commentary are pervasive in this issue as has come to be expected from Mark Russell’s writing.
If you’re a fan of The Martian or Not All Robots, then you’ll want to check out Traveling to Mars #1, which is out now! I cannot wait for issue 2 as I am betting things will go off the rails a bit now that the premise has been established and the world built up some.