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Mare Internum

Welcome Back To Review Starlight

Illustrated by Der-shing Helmer/ Banner Edit by Akira B. (*)

When loneliness becomes an enveloping island, it’s hard to decipher when aid is being given. It’s harder to figure out if you even want that aid. Mare Internum by Der-shing Helmer, is a story about two scientists discovering an ocean beneath the surface of Mars. It deals with heavy themes such as mental illnesses like depression and PTSD, the desire to matter despite one’s past (perceived and unperceived) transgressions, and figuring out how to build yourself back up at your lowest. Coupled with a beautiful art style that enhances the fantastical settings, mixed with the researched settings of Mars, this story will leave a lasting impression in its sincerity. 

With a (majority) spoiler free review (you'd still need to read for proper context), I was immediately gripped into this heavy hitting introduction, only for it to become increasingly clear that our main character, a planetary biologist named Mike, was at his lowest point. Through the story, he is forced to navigate through it and decide whether or not he wants to make the choice to keep digging or finally find help. 

But help comes in many forms and in unexpected ways. His first metaphorical light in the darkness was a new hire to the Mars science team and our second main character, a biologist named Bex, who was introduced with an admiration for Mike and his past projects - only for her to witness what has become of him. When she tries to give him an out, a reason to try, because trying is usually the hardest step when recovering, he becomes abrasive, condescending, and stubborn. 

But at the same time, as the two traverse through new discoveries on Mars, Bex becomes a mirror to Mike’s real feelings of being ‘othered’ in their jobs. While Mike feels othered because he has become a liability and a self-perceived burden for his job, Bex feels similar thanks to her choices of choosing her job over motherhood. Having to survive in an alien landscape while confronting the darkest parts of themselves makes each interaction feel much more impactful. This comic reminds readers that even at your lowest point, you still have to want to be saved in order to get the help you deserve. Any life, no matter how complicated or imperfect it is, deserves to have hope. But hope can only go so far if you’re not willing to put the work in to make it to the next step. Bex says it perfectly with this quote: 

“Because I could build you a ladder and still would not be able to make you climb it unless you wished to.”

While loneliness is what encompasses this story, there’s so much more to say about settling vs doing what’s uncomfortable and persevering. But I will end on this powerful use of storytelling, that with and without context is such an incredible sense of intentional writing: 

Even though we start this comic with a goodbye, we end it on a hello. 

You can read Mare Internum online for free: Mare Internum Comic or you can purchase the physical book and some of Der-Shing Helmer’s other works: Helmer’s Shop 


(*) - These illustrations belong to the copyright owner. WildStar Press does not own the rights to these illustrations. Contact the copyright holder for more details.


Welcome to or Welcome back to, Review Starlight. Hope you enjoyed your stay. We'll see you in the next one.

- Akira B.


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