Retroworld graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Humanoids - ‎ 978-1-59465-074-1
  • Release date: 2008, 2013
  • English language release date: 2014
  • UPC: 9781594650741
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

Marce is an agent of the C.M.R, representing an advanced humanoid civilisation who transport him onto primitive planets for specific missions. Most who encounter him remain unaware of his alien status.

Patrick Galliano is adapting the work of influential French science fiction novelist Élaine Grimaître, here credited as Julia Verlanger, the alias under which she’s best known, although these two stories were written in the 1970s under another alias, Gilles Thomas. They could be seen as a warning against unfettered capitalism in presenting Almagiel, a world desperately short of edible plants, where the vast majority of the population are indentured slaves working in incredibly dangerous conditions. Cédric Peyravernay’s design for the scheming Orval, the most prominent of their masters, is seen on the cover while the on-planet focus is Jatred, promoted to a more responsible position after an act of bravery. The masters who know of Marce’s imminent arrival are torn between retaining their privilege or the opportunity of a better world for all, as a condition of C.M.R.’s aid is that the slavery system ends.

Retroworld is unique for presenting pages from two artists whose work is rarely seen in English. In Peyravernay’s case the first of two French graphic novels combined for this edition is his only comics work before departing for game design, while this is one of only two graphic novels available in English from Mexican artist Bazal (Oscar Bazaldua). Peyravernay is greatly influenced by Juan Giménez, delivering the same style of cinematic SF with immensely detailed technology and accessories, but his pages are also cluttered. Bazal works in roughly the same style to avoid too great a contrast, but simplifies it slightly and his facility for movement is better suited to the attacks of giant creatures.

The two chapters form a fast-moving SF thriller, the characters endangered by both rogues and monsters. Having introduced the concept, the second part begins with an inescapable prison, where there actually is an ingenious method of escape. It’s more a bonding story of two men pitted against continual imaginative danger, and the obstacles well thrown in. No sooner has a possibility been noted, then the door is slammed shut. However, what constantly irritates is poor dialogue. Quinn and Katia Donaghue are credited for translation, and their efforts move the story forward, but all too often at the cost of plausibly presenting how people would actually speak to each other. Examples occur time and again.

Live with that, and Retroworld has predictable moments, but is enjoyable old-fashioned SF adventure.