“Fear of a Red Planet” #1 – Multiversity Comics

“Fear of a Red Planet” #1 welcomes us to Mars at the end of the 21st century. News Flash: It sucks. A bitter colony sits on the side of the planet like a swollen pimple, and the sad bunch of “settlers” who live there are nothing more than indentured servants of the corporate bigwigs who brought them there to mine rare minerals and other raw materials materials. Earth still shines on the horizon, teetering on climate collapse and the rest of society’s ills. In “Fear of a Red Planet” #1, space exploration isn’t sexy or vast or heroic, it’s just the natural expansion of labor exploitation. It’s a grim setting for a story, but it’s believable enough and creates a lot of swashbuckling drama. Fasten your seatbelts, space cowboys.

Cover by Paolo Azaceta

Fear of a red planet #1
Written by Mark Sable
Illustrated and colored by Andrea Olimpieri
Written by Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by Kobi Bordoley

One woman kept a fragile peace: the first and only interplanetary marshal of the United Nations. A lawwoman on the run from a violent past on Earth, she boasts that she has never shot on Mars. But when she is tasked with solving the murder of the most hated man in the colony, her investigation threatens to tear the red planet apart.

Written by Mark Sable (MISKATONIC, WHERE STARSHIPS GO TO DIE) and illustrated by Andrea Olimpieri (Dishonored, Dark Souls), FEAR OF A RED PLANET is a near-future western with the hard sci-fi of The Expanse and the hard -boiled gunslinger or Justified.

When we spoke to Mark Sable over the summer, he summed up “Fear of a Red Planet” #1 as “Deadwood in Space,” among other things. That’s an apt comparison, and much of “Fear of a Red Planet” #1 feels like an introduction to a dusty western town, held together by little money and the gritty law enforcement trying to keep the knots from unraveling. . Our sheriff in this case is Carolina Law, a marshal of the United Nations in charge of keeping the peace by balancing the various factions that have inserted themselves into the Martian social fabric. On the one hand we have the corporate bosses, on the other the added workers. Sable adds some issues of substance use and wrath on drones, and all together we have a not-so-unusual panorama of libertarians, capitalists, and anarchists of varying hues. In this way, Sable manages to create what a plausible but still intriguing Martian society might look like in the near future. Sable does a good job setting up the tinderbox that is the colony of Mars and Carolina Law as an overloaded ordinance specialist. While the pretense of making a sci-fi story with no aliens and all about human greed is nice, it’s not that novel. This isn’t a knock against the concept, but one of the reasons it matters is because Sable has a tendency towards exposition that doesn’t always feel warranted. Basically, “Fear of a Red Planet” #1 is the first issue of a murder mystery for the unknowing, and it could have done a lot more sneak peeks than beefy dialogue between characters. That said, the pacing in “Fear of a Red Planet” #1 is good and the heavy exposition doesn’t drag it too much. This is an improvement over another of Sable’s recent stories, “Where Starships Go to Die,” which we’ve noticed held back by its broad premise and breakneck pace.

In this way, “Fear of a Red Planet” #1 feels like an improvement. The plot feels clear and there’s a direction that still feels inviting and full of potential mystery. If Sable can keep the exposition and the action and the deductions down, we’ll have a blast. We are ready for the red planet standoff, that’s for sure.

If there is any unevenness in the prose, Olimpieri’s art really smoothes things out. He’s an Italian illustrator who has worked on a few comics, so while he’s not a novice, we get the feeling that the wider comics community doesn’t know about his work, and it should. Olimpieri excels at realism, drawing landscapes, people and technology that look practical yet innovative, shiny and new but worn out from years of use. As such, the aesthetic vibe in “Fear of a Red Planet” #1 feels like Mos Eisley, Titan AE, and Weyland-Yutani Corporation. This is a dark and hostile world, and that was made clear from the very first pages. Olimpieri excels not only in the decisive shot, in building the world from wide angle, but also in terms of minutes. The bars, garages and offices of “Fear of the Red Planet” #1 look sweaty and inhabited, and the planet-ravaging dust storms are rendered in such a way that individual particles in the squall can be discerned. It’s easy to feel wrapped up in art in “Fear of the Red Planet” #1.

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Even the color palette in “Fear of the Red Planet” #1 does so much. We are served a plate full of reds and oranges, as one might imagine in a story of Mars, but not so much as to have that strange Siccaro effect where everything is immersed in this almost Orientalist yellow hue (we will say however, the use of and the pea soup whodunits in this comic are elitist). In “Fear of the Red Planet” #1, the shadows drink light, and the light itself is dim and frayed. It’s an unforgiving aura that really helps in world building. That said, the writings in “Fear of a Red Planet” no. 1 are fine, but the dialogue bubbles are opaque white blobs. There are some inventive character moments, but the lack of coloring or change in the dialogue bubbles feels like an oversight. This may be nitpicky, but it’s really just a testament to how good the worldbuilding is in “Fear of the Red Planet” #1 that the bright whites take a bit out of it.

Overall, “Fear of a Red Planet” #1 is an aesthetically appealing story with a strong story that will hopefully improve in future issues. If Sable can adhere to the golden rule of “less is more,” then we have no doubt that the story will achieve broad appeal.

Final verdict: 7.8. Aesthetic and immersive… welcome to the Martian Wild West.


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