Terra Formars Vol. 1 (Viz)


CREDIT: Viz Media

Rating: 5/5 – The Colonization of Mars Just Took a Decidedly Wrong Turn
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.

At the conclusion of the 26th century, Earth has become overpopulated, and the time has come for humanity to branch out and seek new worlds in which to live. Mars seems an obvious choice, but before human colonists can be sent, the planet must be terraformed to become habitable to them. Scientists found a way to deliver the payload of oxygen generating elements to the planet by shipping the most rugged, durable inhabitants of earth – cockroaches – to the planet so they could spread over its surface and over a short span of time create a livable environment. When the first human colonists to check up on their success disappear shortly after landing on the Red Planet, a second team is sent to find out what happened. What they discover may be a new course in species evolution, and perhaps the end of the human race.

Terra Formars reminded me of the great old-school science fiction stories I read as a teenager. Most of them were my father’s books which he’d kept (because he, too, was raised on a steady diet of Asimov, Pohl, Zelazny, Bradbury, Ellison, and Heinlein) and which I subsequently swiped from his bookshelf. Short, self-contained stories both fascinating and often horrific, they opened my eyes to other realms and sowed the seeds of a lifelong love of all things sci-fi and fantasy. Terra Formars does a great job paying homage to those stories of my youth, showing a world both impossible yet potentially possible at the same time.

Without spoiling too much – because if you’re any student of sci-fi you’ve already pieced together what happened when they sent cockroaches to Mars in advance of the human squads – the humans sent on that second expedition have been given a scientific “Bugs Procedure” operation, genetically enhancing their abilities with those of various insects. Someone given the genetics of an ant, for example, now possesses superior strength and durability, while another injected with the genes of a locust possesses the superior leaping abilities of that species. So along the way, as we’re treated to an excellent story, we’re also given a bit of an education about certain insects and bugs. Writer Yu Sasuga manages to tread that fine line between giving the reader a thrilling narrative and an informative one at the same time without letting things fall too far on either side of it. Kenichi Tachibana’s amazing artwork, from the design of the individual characters and aliens to the renderings of the bugs they represent, certainly helps keep the book from becoming boring.

One final thing about this first volume that made it worth picking up – the story is fairly self-contained. You could stop after reading it and not feel a need to pick up future volumes if you didn’t want to. Mind you, I think you will want to, because while the story ends well (if a bit downbeat) there’s certainly more of it to tell. Good writing, beautiful artwork (if you find artwork about insects beautiful), and a plot that hearkens back to the great sci-fi writers of old make this a book, or series, not to be missed.

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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