Terror from Mars
Mars has long been envisioned as the most likely planet in our Solar System that humans can someday colonise. In the year 2577, Earth’s resources have been stretched to the limit due to overpopulation, forcing humans to speed up the plan to colonise the fourth planet from the Sun and the closest to Earth.
Scientists come up with a plan to use the greenhouse effect to warm the surface of Mars – they grow a type of moss meant to be eaten by cockroaches, which then die and in turn feed the moss. However, the process yields some... unexpected results.
After Earth sends a team of astronauts to check on the terra-forming, they discover a hostile alien species that has taken up residence on Mars. The newcomers are none other than the roaches that were originally sent to transform the planet, now transformed themselves into hulking humanoid proportions. The six-foot bugs also possess incredible strength, thus wiping out the puny humans.
The first volume of Terra Formars follows the exploits of a second team of astronauts that are sent on the spacecraft BUGS 2. Team number two, a bunch of misfits with nothing lose, have all undergone a procedure that's combined their DNA with that of different insects to give them a fighting chance against the roaches.
Much of the book builds up to the moment the new crew meets the roaches. The calm before the storm may allow us to acquaint ourselves with the characters on BUGS 2, but don’t get too attached to any of them – the bodies count starts as soon as they encounter their first roach.
The action doesn't let up as the severely outnumbered humans battle desperately to stay alive. But many of the crew meet grisly ends – sliced in two, decapitated, ripped to shreds – demonstrating the immense strength of the roaches. The deaths are a reminder that no one is safe, as characters here drop faster than in an episode of Game Of Thrones. Nevertheless, it's exciting to see how the astronauts pull together and use their different abilities to fend off the roaches.
The biggest problem, however, is the overly long exposition of how each human-bug hybrid’s power work. Admittedly, most of the bugs mentioned would be unfamiliar to most readers, like the emerald cockroach wasp whose sting can turn roaches into zombies to serve as hosts for wasp larvae which eat the roach from the inside out.
So, reading this manga is educational in a way because you can learn some cool facts about bugs from it. That said, the book is so peppered with exposition that it eventually feels repetitive and takes you away from the real action. More characters will undoubtedly be introduced in subsequent volumes, too, but they'll probably get killed off as well.
That said, Terra Formars has the potential to be a great science-fiction story. The strongest case for the first volume is the unpredictable nature of the tale. There's a fair amount of violence and gore here, so this comic book isn’t suitable for young readers. But if you're a sci-fi fan or you just love bugs, give this a try.
> Terra Formars is available from Kinokuniya at Suria KLCC 4th Floor. Call 03-21648133 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.