‘The Expanse’ Meets ‘Justified’ In New AfterShock Series ‘Fear Of A Red Planet’

by Olly MacNamee

Coming from AfterShock Comics, writer Mark Sable, artist Andrea Olimpieri and letterer Dave Sharpe is new sci-fi “western”, Fear of a Red Planet.

“Mars. Fifty years from now, humanity’s first Martian colony is no longer self-sustaining. Under the thumb of its corporate mining overlords, the surviving colonists slave away just to pay for resupply rockets from Earth, will little or no hope of returning home. 

One woman has kept a fragile peace: the U.N.’s first and only interplanetary marshal.  A lawwoman escaping a violent past on Earth, she prides herself on never having fired a shot on Mars. But when she’s tasked with solving the murder of the colony’s most hated man, 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 gunslinging of Justified.” 

Coming out on Wednesday 2nd November, Sable expanded on the synopsis with more details about this sci-fi/near future western:

“FEAR OF A RED PLANET is a near-future, sci-fi Western about the first murder on Mars. Imagine if an Elon Musk type founded a Martian colony, and it failed to be self-sufficient.  The colonists are forced to mine rare earth minerals just to be able to afford resupply rockets from Earth. Returning home is a distant – if not impossible – dream.

There’s one woman tasked with keeping order on Mars – Carolina Law, the first and only U.N. Marshal. Scarred by war back on Earth, in the decade she’s been on Mars, she’s never needed to fire her gun.  That’s about to change.

I’m excited about FEAR OF A RED PLANET because it fuses two of my favorite genres. I’ve written near future sci-fi before, as in my last Aftershock book, WHERE STARSHIPS GO TO DIE.  But I’ve never gotten to write a Western, with High Noon showdowns, mobs surrounding a jailhouse-Mexican-standoff, etc.

Even more exciting is that I get to help introduce another incredible international artist to the U.S. market – Andrea Olimpieri. He does both the line art and colors, and from the minute I saw his designs I knew he was the perfect artist for this book and someone the comics world needed to hear more from.  I’m also reuniting with two of my favorite collaborators on covers, Paul Azaceta and Jeremy Haun.  This is really a dream team.”

We also get a lowdown on the inspirations behind the new book:

“From a science fiction perspective, movies like Alien (imagine an even more sinister Weyland-Yutani) and the underrated Outland, where Sean Connery plays a lawman on a deep space refinery.  But FEAR OF A RED PLANET also gave me the chance to do a deep dive into Westerns.  I particularly loved Sergio Leone’s masterpieces The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West.

The main character is very much inspired by Timothy Olyphant’s characters in Deadwood, Justified and The Mandalorian.  But she’s a woman that fronts a more diverse cast than most Westerns have historically allowed. 

That’s all on top of real-world research. There are no supernatural or extraterrestrial threats in this book; it’s the far scarier extrapolation of what billionaire space programs like Mars One, Space X, etc. could lead to…along with the deadly Martian environment itself.”

Plus, three reasons for picking the series up:

“1. The combo of the hard sci-fi of The Expanse with the character driven neo-Western sensibility of Justified or Deadwood.

2. A character-driven story with a strong-female lead and an internationally diverse cast full of interplanetary refugees with dark pasts, anti-robot revolutionaries and Cosmonaut cantina owners.

3. Andrea Olimpieri’s art. He’s designed a book grounded in realism but with this amazingly kinetic energy that infuses the action.”

Finally, Sable explains the challenges of writing a book like this:

“To me the challenge is always the same – give readers characters to care about. I feel like high concepts come fairly easy to me, but stories don’t truly click until I find characters that start to surprise me when I write, and I feel like they have a better idea of where things should go then me.  And, of course, the story truly doesn’t come alive until artists like Andrea start making it their own.  I love the feeling of being a published writer, but to me the best feeling is still getting pages from my collaborators.  Whether they are artists, colorists, letterers, etc., I’ve been lucky that they always find a way to create something that’s even better than I initially envisioned.”  

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