Story: Mark Sable
Art: Andrea Olimpieri
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
What They Say:
The survivors of the salvage crew finally discover the wreck of THE DEADALUS, Earth’s first interstellar starship. They’ve also discovered the alien entity that crashed it into the ocean – a berserker probe that has judged humanity unworthy of space travel. As a World War threatens to break out on the surface, our heroes find themselves trying to prove to the entity that humankind is not only worthy of the stars, but of survival.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I’m almost always game for a series about Mars and colonizing there and have been since I was a little kid. I’ve read far too many novels, fiction and technical, about how it can and should be done and am just fascinated by it. This new series comes from writer Mark Sable, who has a couple of other AfterShock series, with artwork by Andrea Olimpieir. Sable’s scripts are ones that I struggle with a bit but invariably have some very neat elements to them that keep me coming back for more. This, I think, is my first experience with Olmpieri’s artwork and it’s perfect for this book. There’s a strong sense of style and design about it that definitely clicks and with them also doing the color design for it there’s this sense of weight and oppressiveness that shines through it, making it feel incredibly lived-in and broken down.
The premise is one that reveals itself slowly throughout this issue but it is, at its core for now, a murder mystery that we get revealed in the final page, which is fine because so much of what has to be done here is exploring the landscape and world that it exists in. With a “heroic” launch in 2050 to begin colonizing Mars, it’s now twenty years later and there’s a good sense that things quite fell apart because of the nature of the landscape. It’s a hard-labor kind of existence for the people here with yearly dropships that bring in goods from the corporate overlords. One of the people there, a man named Ludd, has seemingly made their existence worse by sabotaging the mining robots and that has the residents here doing the labor, but he points out that if they weren’t, they’d likely be killed because they’d be useless if so much of this could be automated. This is a fair point, especially since laws are fluid when the come to corporations, another planet, and enforcement.
Since it’s a dropship day, we see how hard it is on the residents who barely eke by and tensions are high, especially as Ludd pushes back in a lighthearted way on Reiser, one of the corporate guys who oversee things. That has the local sheriff, a woman named Carolina Law, stepping in after it gets a bit violent but without pressing Ludd on his actions because he’s a local hero of sorts. It’s complicated small-town politics with a massive corporate overlord that watches things, and gives them a greater sense of importance. This takes us back to the earlier part at the end with a murder. But in between these points, we get a pretty decent idea of just how hard life here is, the way people cope with it, and how others take advantage while escaping their own pasts on Earth. It’s hard to say where it’ll go but it offers some intriguing things in a kind of haphazard way that does make you want to know more.
Fear of a Red Planet plays to some of the things that get me excited but does it in a way that has a kind of steep learning curve for the reader. We get a lot of information but trying to piece it together into something cohesive isn’t easy, which is fine. It’ll take time and probably most of the run for it to come together, which certainly ups the value of reading it again and seeing the pieces more clearly. The cast of characters are pretty familiar and the setting is interesting so there’s plenty to latch onto and enjoy. Olimpieri’s artwork is very strong here with how everything comes together for the world design and I’m curious to see where it’ll go as we explore more of it and some of the periods in between the first arrival and where things are now.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: AfterShock Comics
Release Date: November 23rd, 2022