Mare Internum is a completed SciFi webcomic by Der-shing Helmer, author of The Meek. The story kicks off in a research station on Mars, during the early days of colonisation, and Dr. Mike Fisher has just been fired and is due back on Earth. He’s not very happy about it.
The comic is complete. A backup can be found here.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The processor, who tries to prevent Mike and Bex from leaving because doing so could jeapordize Mare Internum and turns the entire ecosystem against Bex when she refuses.
- Beneath the Earth: Most of the story is set in a complex system of partly flooded caverns beneath Mars' surface, which are still inhabited by a variety of Martian organisms and Organic Technology.
- Bilingual Bonus: Mare Internum is Latin for "Internal sea." This turns out to be a subtle use of foreshadowing.
- Bittersweet Ending: Bex and Mike make it out alive, Mike finally confronting his emotional demons to do so, and LEVi is happy in his new organic body. However, the processor leaving Mare Internum destroys it, and last remnant of Mars — Kallakore — is lost.
- Body Horror: First, Mike gets a compound fracture to his femur. Then said femur gets some weird parasitic growth that appears to have a mind of its own, and then there's something on Mike's face... something that seems to be living, and stuck. Downplayed later on when it turns out that these turn out to be largely beneficent changes — the thing in his leg, for instance, helps him breathe underwater while acting as an organic split for his broken leg — but it doesn't detract from the underling sight of a flower-like fleshy growth spiraling from his leg while shelf fungi cover half his face.
- Bookends: The first panel of the comic is Mike's suicide note, consisting only of the word "Bye." The final panel is Mike telling his rescuers "Hi."
- Driven to Suicide: Mike. He states how he wants to have control over his life and die on his own terms. His attempts to die keep failing however.
- Evil Uncle: Mike's uncle Brian sexually abused him when he was younger.
- Goodbye, Cruel World!: Mike's suicide is delayed when his "Bye" note flops over.
- First Contact: Mike runs into an intelligent Martian named Kallakore, who had been living under Mars's surface.
- Interplanetary Voyage: The trip back to Earth takes six months, which is about what it would take in the present day.
- Interrupted Suicide: An urgent, automatic comm call cuts in on the suicide, but the caller remains oblivious throughout.
- Living Memory: The Kallakore seen in the comic is actually a duplicate made by the Processor with her memories. The one encountered by Mike seemed to have amnesia about her condition, but after Bex killed her the Processor is shown to be controlling the body directly.
- The Mentally Disturbed: Mike clearly has quite a few mental issues, which eventually caused him to be fired from the expedition, and the comic opens on him trying to hang himself. It just gets worse from there.
- No Biochemical Barriers: It appears this way at first when some kind of Martian fungus attaches itself to Mike. See Body Horror above. Later justified when we find out that life on Earth evolved from Martian waste.
- Once-Green Mars: Mars used to have life on its surface billions of years ago, as well as an advanced alien civilization.
- Organic Technology: The basis for the ancient Martian civilization. It currently exists as/maintains a pocket of life under the martian surface. At first glance it is indistinguishable from a naturally evolved ecosystem or organism. Mike has one growing on him that allows him to breath the atmosphere and to respire underwater; Kalla describes this as about as disturbing as seeing someone with "a toaster fused to their face".
- Parental Abandonment: It is revealed Bex is part of the "First Wave Initiative", meaning she is a permanent colonist on Mars. This is in spite of the fact that she has a husband and young children back on Earth. Mike calls her out on this during his Freak Out.
- Parental Neglect: Flashbacks reveal that Mike's parents were self-absorbed jerkasses who were more focused on the drama surrounding their impending divorce than taking care of their son and were totally oblivious to the fact that Mike's uncle was sexually abusing him.
- Reduced to Ratburgers: Bex is on Mars to set up alternative food sources, with a focus on "entomological subsistence". Insect diets have been proposed repeatedly in our time, but judging by reactions here they still haven't quite caught on.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: Mike's parasites allow him to breath underwater somehow. It looks like inhaling water is still unpleasant for him however.
- Wham Line: From Mike signalling the beginning of his Freak Out:Bex: I'm... I'm sure they'll find your LEVi, one day.
Mike: I doubt it. I hid him down deep.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Mike rather cruelly rips into Bex when he finds out she left her family on Earth to become a permanent colonist on Mars. His treatment towards Bex doesn't improve one bit as the two reunite after a caving accident, mainly due to Mike stumbling across Bex having killed his friend Kallakore in a desperation for food.
- Bex, after the events where Kallakore returns to life, Mike and Bex reunite, and the Processor attacks Mike and her, finally has enough of Mike's critical behaviour and calls him out, forcing Mike to rethink his stance on Bex.