For hardcore fans of the television and book series of the same name, The Expanse graphic novel adds little of substance to the space opera universe it is set within.
Set between seasons 4 and 5 of the TV show, this book focuses on an investigation, led by former Martian marine Bobbie Draper, into a smuggling ring run between Mars, Earth, the Belt, and possibly a new party. Aided by Chrisjen Avasarala, former Secretary-General of the UN based out of Earth’s Luna, the pair quickly get in over their heads.
For those who have not read the books or seen the show, the story is a thrilling science fiction space opera with a large cast of characters. Mars is its own independent military planet, with intelligence and strength praised above all else. Earth sees itself as the head of the galaxy, with political leaders constantly negotiating alliances and trying to unearth what Mars or the Belt is up to. Belters are those who belong to neither planet, instead normally residing amongst or beyond the asteroid belt or dwelling on other planets’ moons.
Between all these is the limitless space, or the expanse, and many of our characters fly through it between these planets and various space stations. There’s ample source material here for an exciting story, which is why it was so disappointing to read a story that feels like filler material. Writer Corinna Bechko pens a plot that is given no resolution, as the story she begins finishes in the fifth season of the TV show. For fans of the show, this also takes the “impending doom” feeling so prevalent in the show’s most exciting moments and makes it essentially non-existent. We already know how this story ends, so the stakes are not even present. It would have been more exciting, for new readers and for fans, to get a story that fleshes out some unseen corner of the universe instead of time spent with well-known characters. Add to this some rather stilted dialogue for both Bobbie and Chrisjen, and the graphic novel is skippable for even the most die-hard fans.
All of this could have been saved if the art by Alejandro Aragon captured the commanding presence of Avasarala or the stern resoluteness of Bobbie. But it just doesn’t. Often the character’s faces are like blobs with lines, with little definition given to the expressions being conveyed in the text. Chrisjen is often the victim of this, with her face being drawn amorphous to the rest of the ways her character is depicted. Add to this the many, many panels given very dark colorations and we end up with a rather muddy representation of what The Expanse could be.
Age ratings for The Expanse seem to be mixed. The publisher suggests teen, but I could not find a lot of information about this series online. I would say teen is an ok rating though, as there is not any content within that would be too adult for that age range. However, the TV show itself probably appeals to the older teen and adult crowd, so I would place this title where they have easy access.
However, when it comes down to it, I would not recommend this graphic novel to a friend, let alone a library. If for some reason, the friend is as obsessed with the TV show as I am, I would feel it my duty to let them know they are wasting their time. For a library, there are many other graphic novels and comics worthy of your budget. If you have a big following of the show at your library, I’d ensure a constantly maintained collection of the prose series over this graphic novel.
By Corinna Bechko
Art by Alejandro Aragon
BOOM! Studios, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: 13+
Related media: Book to Comic, TV to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)