Red Mass for Mars – worth the wait?

The blurb calls the long-awaited finale to this four-issue mini-series “the smashing conclusion to the tale of Mars as the fate of the world hangs in the balance and the one person who could save the Earth must make his decision.”

I’ve been waiting for this one to wrap up nearly as long as Infinite Horizon (which I think is still incomplete). The hype started in 2007. The first issue hit shelves in 2008. And here we are in July 2010.

This timeline on this one was nearly as long an elephant pregnancy.

For those who haven’t been following this series (and I’d be surprised if you actually were collecting this one) Red Mass is written by indie-wonderkid cum Marvel wonderboy Jonathan Hickman of Secret Warriors and S.H.I.E.L.D. fame. (I’ve been enjoying his current run on Fantastic Four though I admit it is starting to wear thin.)

So, is it worth the wait?

I don’t know. Full disclosure: I own issues 2 and 3, but haven’t read them yet. I’ve been waiting to get my hands on either issue 1 or 4 before diving in.

But here’s what other people are saying about the first three issues.

Timothy Callahan‘s review of issue #1 on CBR

I won’t go so far as to say “Red Mass for Mars” is a superhero comic unlike any other. It’s not. It has a tone and manner of execution that’s similar to some of the things Warren Ellis has done in the past. That detached narrator, calmly describing the indescribable. The matter-of-fact description of Earth-shattering events. The heroes as men and women doing a job, not as idealized, grandiose figures of worship. The one “hero” who positions himself as a god, Lightbender, is portrayed with monstrous arrogance and xenophobia. His hubris has led him to overthrow Buckingham Palace and announce his plans to rid the world of non-English languages, violently. And this activity is referred to by the narrator as “not-for-profit charity work.” The irony is thick, and the characters are flawed, just the way I like them.

David Fain (via Comic Book Bin) says:

Compared the other works of Hickman, this is a much more traditional comic that is going to easier to grasp but still remains smart but doesn’t talk down to the reader… Hickman’s universe already shows a harsh history with stories to tell, and I can’t wait to read more into it.

On issue #3:

pozzyfreak via Weekly Comic Book Review

While the core of A.R.M.F.M. is classic science fiction, it’s the brutal super(anti-)hero (just wait till you see him fight) that’s mixed into it that keeps Jonathan Hickman’s story feeling fresh. The exploration of Mars’ past gives a weight and feeling of epic history to the Mars character that makes him a bit more compelling than someone like the Plutonian from Mark Waid’s Irredeemable.

My only real complaint is that the penultimate chapter of Red Mass for Mars makes me think that the series just doesn’t feel quite as special as some of the stuff that Hickman has done in the past. It’s very good, but it’s missing that “something” that makes a story linger in the mind forever.

Zak Edwards’ review of issue #3 via Comic Book Bin.

Grade: 8.5/10

A Red Mass for Mars is very aware of the tradition of science fiction, creating a discussion of conventions.  Even the basic story is one of very familiar territory: an alien horde is coming to Earth to destroy it and only one man has the power to do anything about it, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  But within this story, Hickman is creating a story which is all to aware of the generic pitfalls of science fiction.

Jesse Schedeen of IGN says:

This issue plays out in a much more linear fashion than the previous two … It’s actually a bit of a strange shift for a book that always kept its readers guessing. The dialogue is terrific as always, but the story itself feels surprisingly light.

The real problem with this issue is that it doesn’t quite satisfy after such a long wait. The story is surprisingly straightforward, and the conclusion lacks a bit of the emotional resonance it might have shown.

akamuu @ ifanboy isn’t much of a fan:

There’s no passion or empathy for characters here because they’re just chalk outlines.  This thins is happening to this person.  Wouldn’t that suck. Yes, but where’s their turmoil?  If you’re not going to explore the inner-workings of the superhero you need to have some kickass looking fight sequences, and those aren’t here.

If that’s not enough indie Hickman for you, Multiversity Comics reviews the three earlier series he put out before he got all big with Marvel. Check out this tidy little review of Nightly News, Pax Romana and Transhuman.

And this site actually has a bunch of penciled pages.

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