Pullbox Reviews A Haunting On Mars, as much John Carpenter as it is Lovecraftian, coming soon to Kickstarter

Mars is a wasteland: A dead colony, founded by a dead billionaire, holding darkness and secrets within. Secrets which Echo Team are sent to uncover. A hacker. A psionic. An empath. A soldier. And their corpo loyalist leader. They’ve crashed far from the LZ and their sanity’s already unraveling!

I have to give writer Zach Chapman all the credit in the world. On top of the sci-fi haunted goodness found in the pages of this book, Zach has managed to include all the elements of a classic direct-to-video thriller. It starts with a great cold open, with the only thing missing being the screams and thumping audio track. Then he introduces Echo Team, as perfectly cast of genre-essential characters as I’ve ever seen: the hard-as-nails soldier, the fragile-yet-lethal psionic, the broken-yet-also broken empath, and the team leader dedicated to the mission and his team. Well… some of his team.

Oh, and Cass. She’s the key, the entry point to A Haunting On Mars and the person through whose eyes we experience the mayhem. A master hacker with a deep and abiding hate for the corporate overlords, Cass is forced into service on this mission from which a return is in no way guaranteed. In exchange, her record will be wiped clean and, if she does her job well enough, she might even walk away with a share of the team’s payday. Cuz that’s how greedy corporate overlords operate, fair and square across the board, right?

Zach Chapman balances a few things in this series, and he does a pretty fair job of it. First, he uses the tropes of betrayal, loyalty, & betrayal (there’s a lot of betrayal) without trying to disguise it as anything other than what it is. From the start, the reader should know that they’re in for some action-heavy pulpy goodness. I say, bring it on! Zach got the assignment, didn’t shy away from what makes pulp pulpy, but leaned fully into it while keeping the characters interesting & layered. Everyone is here to do the job they’re meant to do, story-wise, but there are enough emotional beats (except maybe for the hard-as-nails soldier) to remind the audience that people can be more than one thing.

And Ruairi Coleman… damn, no notes at all. Since first seeing his work on the first issue of Identity Stunt by Joe Khachadourian (a title I have a special attachment to), I’ve been impressed with his ability to portray dynamic motion & unique characters on the page. In A Haunting, his game has been stepped up to embrace the horror of it all. More than just the gore, of which there is plenty, Coleman has moments of true Lovecraftian, at the mountains of madness, greatness. As the story moves into the latter half, there are whole pages devoted to imagery that can only come from a demented mind (Ruairi, as a friend, talk to someone).

I’m a little late with this review, and I swear that I thought I’d already written and posted something for A Haunting On Mars. Turns out I’d probably just ranted about the story to my non-comic-reading wife who likely ignored me through it all, and laid a big ol’ Mandela Effect on myself. But it seems like that might’ve played out for the best as the series is settling in for a release through Kickstarter very soon.

I had a bunch of obscure movie quotes lined up to go along with this review… but I’m gonna settle on one:

“Get your ass to Mars.”

Final Score: 12/13

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