Source Point Press
Writer: Michael Roslen
Artists: Karly Engracia and Davi Comodo
Space colonization has long been a cornerstone of science fiction. In modern, climate change influenced media, humans fleeing an earth they destroyed grows increasingly prominent. But that fantasy is starting to creep into reality too, as people claim we need to get ourselves onto Mars to serve as a new home, “just in case.”
One-shot comic Remnant deal with this directly, following a family that’s part of a desperate effort to colonize Mars. Their successes are hard-fought, the tragedies are endless, and it ends on a decidedly mixed note. Remnant brushes on a number of issues that are both interesting story hooks and relevant issues but fails to engage any of them.
The 21-page story, in which nearly every panel is accompanied by clumsy narration, depicts a multigenerational space colonization effort. Unfortunately, the framing is entirely on how fate conspires to thwart humanity’s effort to start over. The circumstances of their departure are vague, though the usual suspects (climate change, war, nuclear exchange, etcetera) are invoked and I acknowledge there’s only so much you can cover in 21 pages.
But Remnant never questions the ethics of the protagonists’ mission, as the book is too busy lamenting how it seems doomed to failure. Space colonization, fictional or otherwise, always carries a heavy stench of elitism in my mind. Most depictions represent a refusal to take responsibility for our actions, a search for a clean slate so we can forget our problems instead of making an effort to actually solve them. And that’s not even getting into the people you leave behind.
The comic seems aware of this enough to open with the diverse group of colonists accosted by white racist Christians on their way to the launchpad. Ironically it just reminded me of Mobile Suit Gundam, where half of humanity gets sent into space to relieve a dying earth. However, in that story it’s the rich and powerful who get to stay home. Any connections aside, trying to present some of the worst humanity has to offer as the ones advocating to stay on earth doesn’t do much to actually justify space colonization, especially when the people looking to leave Earth for Mars in the real world are usually closer to the doomed protestors of Remnant.
It takes a few decades for the earthbound humanity to die out in Remnant, begging the question of why the mars colonists couldn’t put their efforts into saving Earth instead of colonizing a lifeless Mars. There’s a reason forced, “escape our problems/Earth” narratives like Interstellar present earth’s doom as imminent if only to try and sidestep some uncomfortable questions about where resources are being allocated.
While I’m against the idea of space colonization on ethical grounds, that doesn’t mean Remnant has to condemn it. But the story hardly defends the merits of the idea either. All of the characters are very underdeveloped, partially a product of the sterile narration that the plot is force-fed through. The setting is lacking as well, even taking the short page number into account. We get a sense of how hard it is living on Mars but Remnant fails to create a compelling image of what this new society is actually like.
The art definitely could have done more to pick up where the writing failed. Karly Engracia’s art has a serviceable level of detail and Davi Comodo’s colors are passable if a little gaudy. While their work has a good grasp on the basics, it feels seriously lacking in inspiration. The compositions are very repetitive and rigid, which could work if the sense of perspective didn’t make everything feel so flat. Much like the story of Remnant, nothing stands out.
Remnant covers some interesting ground but offers a vapid take on the issues it presents. The ending is both bleak and hopeful but the story as a whole lacks the depth to make it memorable much less haunting. I appreciate short-form storytelling but this book does not make a good case for it. At the same time, I don’t think a longer page count would have helped a book where there’s just not much of a story to tell.
Might want to stay home on Mother Earth for this Mars colonization jaunt.