Karen Haber Reviews Stanislaw Lem’s The Seventh Voyage by Jon J. Muth

Stanislaw Lem’s The Seventh Voyage, Jon J. Muth (Graphix/Scholastic 978-0-545-00462-6, $19.99, 80pp, hc) October 2019. Cover by John J. Muth.

Imagine Buster Keaton in space, trying to fix his disabled craft while beset by a growing number of paradoxically created versions of himself, and you have an idea of the deadpan insanity that informs The Seventh Voyage, Stanislaw Lem’s droll, subversive tale of hapless Spaceman Tichy’s space-time dilemma. Beautifully adapted by ac­claimed artist/author Jon J. Muth into a funny, charming painted tale published in hardcover graphic novel format, it’s a complete delight.

Muth, a comics writer and artist as well as an acclaimed children’s book writer, plays happily here in the sandbox of both medium and format. Some pages appear in classic panel-driven format while others are full or half-page, washy wordless images. His watercolors are filled with details – oven mitts, a clownish spacesuit, a hardcover edition of The General Theory of Relativity – that give an added dose of hilarity to the story. According to the afterword, Muth built models to sketch from and/or used household objects (a bell jar for Tichy’s helmet) while his spouse sewed the oversize spacesuit model.

Muth’s mastery of watercolor and his use of it puts the book a level above most other graphic novels. A Caldecott Award and Eisner Award winner, the artist is known for both his work in comics (Sandman, Swamp Thing, and Wolverine, among others) and his popular children’s books (Zen Socks, Zen Shorts, and Zen Ghosts, among many), and other graphic novels.

In his afterword, he tells of wanting to render Lem’s deadpan tale for quite a while. The pack­age is impressive: hardcover, satiny gloss paper. There’s also a bio of Stanislaw Lem. The Seventh Voyage is a treat for lovers of fantastic art, Lem’s work, and high quality graphic novels. First rate.

This review and more like it in the February 2020 issue of Locus.

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