Originally published in 1988, The Forever War is an adaptation of the 1970s military sci-fi novel by Joe Haldeman. It tells the story of soldiers fighting an interstellar war against the alien Taurans. The novel, stage play, graphic novel, film, and now comic book (this is a republishing of the ‘80s graphic novel) focus on Private William Mandella, who serves as the protagonist of the series.
When an alien ship destroys another ship full of colonists from Earth, Earth declares war. This issue starts things off by showing us Mandella training for battle on Cerberus, a cold, frozen moon. We see death after death in the training, until the soldiers are finally deployed into combat.
Haldeman’s writing clearly shows us Mandella’s helplessness. I do wish we got more of a backstory with Mandella, but I must admit, this is the more realistic way of showing war. An obvious allegory of Vietnam, this book shows the process of the draft, in which it didn’t really matter who you were, where you came from, or what kind of person you were. If you were drafted, you fought in the war.
I’d love to see more characterization, but I do have to commend Haldeman on this personal way of writing Mandella, who is most probably a metaphor for Haldeman himself. He was drafted into Vietnam. He did everything he could to avoid it from the Peace Corps to getting an objector status. He even considered fleeing the country. In his writing, he portrays what he felt towards the U.S. government when he was drafted. Essentially, the government was drafting people to fight against forces they barely knew anything about. Picking people out to die is what pissed Haldeman off…and appropriately so. Mandella is no different, feeling a mix of urgency, panic, and hopelessness.
Judging by Maravano’s illustrations, we can tell that this is a reprint of a book from the ‘80s. There is a basic color palette that doesn’t allow for much vibrancy, but also depicts the solemn tone of the content perfectly. We even get to see some gruesome stuff that shows off the harshness of training.
The Taurans really have nothing to personally identify with. We can’t sympathize with them, much like we can’t sympathize with war overall. I see what you did there, Marvano. This barely detailed art style actually fits in really well with Haldeman’s writing. Characters don’t show much expression, but that’s for a reason. War isn’t funny, happy, or even ecstatic for soldiers.
One thing I love, though, is the panel layout. From big to small, there is always something interesting to look at when it comes to these panels, which are often times accompanied by tons and tons of caption boxes or at least exposition. The creative team has done an amazing job on this issue.
Reprinting the graphic novel into a comic book medium is a great way to get the story of the original novel out there. Whether you’ve read the ‘70s book or not, this is a great read with a really enthralling message that can be seen in every stroke of ink, letters included.
Written by: Joe Haldeman & Gay Haldeman
Illustrated by: Marvano