fantasy and science fiction book reviewsCitizen of the Galaxy by Eric Gignac and Robert Lazaro

ROBERT HEINLEINS CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY COMICCitizen of the Galaxy is one of the classic Robert Heinlein juveniles, and would seem a perfect choice for a graphic adaptation — a relatively simple, straightforward plot, a wholly linear structure, a coming-of-age story with space slavers, all told in a relatively few number of pages. Unfortunately, IDW’s graphic version by Eric Gignac and Robert Lazaro is not close to a perfect adaptation.

The story is, as mentioned, relatively simple. A young boy named Thorby is sold as a slave to an old beggar named Baslim, who turns out to be more than he seems. Soon, Thorby is forced to flee the planet by taking ship with the insular Traders, then forced to leave the Traders for the military, then forced to leave the military when his true identity is discovered. Eventually he ends up on Earth.

The first problem, and the most noticeable, is the often-jarring manner in which scenes shift from one to another. There’s very little sense of fluid movement throughout. This sense of abruptness isn’t merely structural, but also carries over into other aspects of the book as development of character personality or relationships move too quickly, with some responses or actions feeling unearned or artificial.

Citizen imageAnother result of moving too quickly is that some potentially emotional scenes are robbed of their impact. Deaths of certain characters, for instance. Or as when Thorby is supposed to be “shunned” by the Trader crew, which should lead to feelings of loneliness and possibly despair on his part, but do not because thanks to the abridged timing, we’re told in one panelthat he was “being snubbed,” but it is the very next panel where he becomes involved in a conversation, the ensuing dialogue robbing that “snubbed” line of any effect or sense of actuality.

The sometimes clumsy merging of text and art also sometimes diminishes the impact of certain scenes. In general, while the art is mostly clean and easy to follow, backgrounds are often somewhat shallow, there seems Citizen image 2(to my taste at least) an over-reliance on close-up shots, and balloon placement at times is a distraction. I’d also say there are times when the artwork isn’t trusted enough to carry the narrative or tone. Finally, I found the visual portrayal of the primary female character to be unfortunately sexualized.

Heinlein’s juveniles would seem to an excellent source for graphic adaptations. But thanks to an overly compressed narrative and some clumsy or ineffective artistic choices, Citizen of the Galaxy is only a shadow of its original tale.