Released in tandem with “Beyond Belief” #0, “Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars” #0 is also available through the “Thrilling Adventure Hour” website and turns back time to take a look at how Sparks Nevada came to meet Croach the Tracker. Written by “Thrilling Adventure Hour” creators Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, this comic book opens with a forlorn Sparks Nevada slogging through his daily, menial paperwork chores, a task that leaves him all too much time to wallow in self pity.
Regular listeners of the “Thrilling Adventure Hour” podcast will undoubtedly hear Mark Gagliardi speaking Croach the tracker’s lines or the gravelly delivery of Sparks Nevada’s declaration, “I’m. . .from Earth,” as made famous by Marc Evan Jackson while they take in the occurrences in “Flood at First Sight.” Even local saloonkeeper Felton’s chronic bellow for “HAAAALP!” rings out with the comedically yodeling desperation Craig Cackowski has built into that character.
For those not familiar with “Thrilling Adventure Hour,” as with “Beyond Belief” #0 Acker and Blacker provide a perfect starting point, for longtime listeners and new fans alike. For the longtime fans of the podcast, this provides a new point of entry, serving up an untold tale that has eluded listeners. Acker and Blacker intelligently set up the Sparks Nevada universe right before the reader, clueing readers in with only what they need to know going forward: Sparks is a marshal, he hails from Earth, he lives on Mars. Sure, the writing duo constructs a bit more depth and breadth around Sparks, introducing readers to Croach the tracker and a set of miswired Deputybots, as well as providing clues to the source of Sparks’ mindset, but they don’t overburden the reader, choosing instead to give Sparks a situation through which to introduce himself.
J. Bone’s art is springy and fun, like a comic book about a lawman on the Mars’ frontier should be. His characters move through the panels and the story, never standing pat, but always finding ways to act out dynamically and expressively. His more animated style gives the characters — even the robots — a wider emotional range. The artist mostly adheres to the basics of the designs set forth by Randy Bishop in the BOOM! Graphic novel, but for new readers, the designs seem just as spry and lively as if Bone had crafted them from scratch. Additionally, Bone uses the characters and their range of motion to move the story through the comic book. When Croach is shot and falls from his mount, the stirrup is given wobbling lines to indicate motion. The end result is a comic book that looks like it could also be deconstructed into a coherent, single-story coloring book.
That makes colorist Jordie Bellaire’s work sing loudly, and she does not hesitate to fill the page. Naturally, there are some panels Bellaire leaves free of background, allowing Bone’s characters to lunge out from the confines of the page, but the characters in those instances are meticulously colored and truly the foci of the visual tale. Bellaire uses some interesting technique choices, such as outlining the characters’ hair in a slightly darker tone than the content, a design choice she also employs to great atmospheric effect with distant portions of the landscape. She uses bold colors, amplifying the fun inherent in Bone’s drawings. Marshall Dillon (appropriately named for this assignment) is every bit as integral to the appearance and success of the tale in “Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars” #0. His lettering contains highlighted echoes for the mechanical beings – – the robots, the marshal station doors and the wormhole generator – – as well as a cool, blue tone to the analytical Martians as their word balloons float wiggly tails behind them. The lettering highlight of this issue is the growly retorts Sparks fires off under his breath as tries to dodge being outguessed by automatons.
Do yourself a huge favor, drop a couple bucks, read “Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars” #0. It’s a fun book that gives the reader a complete story cleverly framed around an origin of two unlikely allies. From there, go download the podcasts. Writers Acker and Blacker and artist J. Bone have already given you a head start on enjoying the further adventures of Spark Nevada through the story in this comic book.