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Webcomic / Terra

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Our intrepid heroes. From left, Rei Antares, Agrippa Varus, Grey O'Shea, Alexis Hawke, and Rick MacFarlane.
"This war between our two planets is causing a lot of distress in the galaxy. With many species being caught in the middle. There are some very corrupt and powerful men that benefit from their suffering, and will fight to keep the war going. I ensure that those men are brought to justice."
Agrippa Varus, page 12

Terra is a science fiction webcomic by the husband-and-wife team Holly Laing and Drew Dailey, telling the story of guerrillas working to put an end to a war between Earth and the Azatoth that has pretty much every other spacefaring race in the galaxy caught in the middle. The comic started on March 20, 2009 and initially updated on Wednesdays. However in October 2013, when Holly announced that the comic would resume after a long hiatus for various reasonsnote , she stated that they would now simply be updating once a week whenever she got the page finished.

The guerrillas call themselves simply the Resistance, and the comic focuses on four in particular. Grey O'Shea is a Friendly Sniper formerly of the United Earth Coalition Mobile Infantry. His entire unit was killed in an Azatoth ambush, but he was rescued by Resistance Agent Agrippa Varus, a former soldier for the Azatoth who fled The Purge of his family for his father's involvement in the founding of the Resistance. He's gruff, somewhat humorless, and terrifying in hand-to-hand combat, but he's also capable of great compassion. Lieutenant Alexis Hawke and Flight Engineer Rick MacFarlane are a UEC Space Fighter crew shot down by the Resistance and rescued by Grey and Agrippa. Alex, formerly an Azatoth slave, is tough and spunky and has a little bit of UST with Grey, while Rick is a friendly Non-Action Guy and the resident Mr. Fixit. At the moment Alex and Rick just want to get home (the latter has a family to feed back on Earth), and Grey and Agrippa are attempting to get them on a ship to Earth.

Terra's art style uses a degree of Cel Shading and is slightly Animesque (the latter noticeable mostly with the female characters, particularly Eve Arlia).

Terra was completed in January of 2023, with the author intending to revisit and reboot the setting and characters in the upcoming Terra Incognita.

Terra contains examples of:

  • Aliens Are Bastards/Humans Are Bastards: The Azatoth have Blood Knight tendencies, practice slavery, and most of the antagonist ones seem to have little respect for the concept of civilians. The UEC is an expansionist empire whose upper brass are quite willing to order civilian transports shot down, and according to the codex human terrorists were responsible for sparking the current conflict.
  • The Alliance/La Résistance: The Resistance opposes both sides and was formed when several independent groups linked up under pressure from individuals such as Eve Arlia and Consul Argo Varus. They want to stop the war because the unaligned races and civilians are getting it in the shorts, and because factions on both sides (the military-industrial complex in the UEC, and the Shadow Cabal in the Asurian Empire) have ulterior motives for continuing it.
  • All There in the Manual: The site features an extensive codex of information about characters and the setting.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: Catella Myrha dual wields a pair of scimitars against people armed with assault rifles. It helps that her armor contains a deflector shield generator that No Sells small arms fire. Melee attacks can penetrate it but she's good enough that this usually isn't an issue. And she pales in comparison to Agrippa, who has never once been seen using a gun (though he's used grenades a few times) and is a One-Man Army.
  • Armor Is Useless: The comic features many pieces of armor, and not one of them has ever been effective against anything. The personal Deflector Shields worn by certain Shadow Cabal Elite Mooks, on the other hand...
  • Art Evolution: Especially the characters' faces. Compare this early page with page 251. In particular the brow ridge on the Azatoth used to be a lot more prominent.
  • Big Damn Heroes: After Catella kills Talos, she's about to turn her weapon on Rei, but Grey suddenly cuts down her mooks with two rifle shots from a nearby rooftop.
  • Boom, Headshot!:
    • Seen repeatedly, first early in chapter one when Grey puts a sniper rifle round through the faceplate of an Azatoth soldier flanking a member of his platoon. A few panels later an Azatoth returns the favor by shooting his spotter in the back of the head.
    • From page 247:
      Merc: (to Grey, whom he has by the throat) That slave is coming with me. But not before I snap your—
      Alex: That slave isn't going anywhere.

      First comment: Well, this brings new meaning to "in one ear and out the other."
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: On page 243 a mook grabs the corpse of one Alex already shot and killed and uses him to block her fire while he returns it. This set off a brief bout of Wild Mass Guessing in the comments. Eventually Holly put her foot down and pointed out that Alex never actually shot at the body because the mook holding the BHS was quicker on the trigger; therefore whether her rifle fire would or would not penetrate was a moot point.
  • Defensive Failure: Grey finds Rick first, and Rick pulls a gun on him. It's abundantly clear to Grey that Rick is a Non-Action Guy and has never had to use his weapon before and he easily disarms him. Then he gives the gun back handle-first to point out that he's not an enemy.
  • The Empire: The Asurian Empire is a military dictatorship by way of Asskicking Leads to Leadership. Used to be pretty decent but isn't anymore.
  • Fantastic Rank System:
    • The UEC military is a simplified version of the one used by most Earth militaries in real life, with enlisted Army and Navy using the same names and officers using different ones. The rank system is as follows:
      • Enlisted: Private (E-1), Corporal (E-2), Sergeant (E-3), Chief (E-4)
      • Officers (written Army/Navy): 2nd Lieutenant/Ensign (O-1), Lieutenant/Sub Lieutenant (O-2), Captain/Lieutenant (O-3), Major/Lieutenant Commander (O-4), Lieutenant Colonel/Commander (O-5), Colonel/Captain (O-6), General (O-7)
    • The Asurian Empire's military uses a vaguely Roman-inspired version. A Recruit is New Meat. After three years' satisfactory service they're promoted to Marshal and command a small unit. A Veteran (5 years' satisfactory service) commands small sections generally comprised of 8 Recruits and 3 Marshals (roughly equivalent to a platoon). The Centurian is second-in-command to the Sentinel, who commands four sections. Paladins command full companies. The Consuls advise the Sovereign and are appointed from the Paladins.
  • The Federation: The United Earth Coalition used to be one according to the codex, formed as a replacement for the United Nations, but by now is thoroughly corrupt.
  • Fictional United Nations: According to the codex getting one set up is a long-term goal of the Resistance.
  • Forever War: As per the official timeline at the start of the comic the UEC and Asurian Empire have been at war for over 200 years.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The UEC and Asurian Empire are a fairly dark shade of gray. Both are responsible for atrocities, and both feature decent people as Punch Clock Villains. The Resistance are A Lighter Shade of Grey: they're fighting for their homes with the hope of ending the war, but use assassination as one of their main tactics.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Protip to any aspiring Mooks out there: When you capture a dangerous badass like Agrippa Varus, make sure to search him thoroughly in case he's hiding something like, oh, a hand grenade.
  • He Knows Too Much: Alex and Rick's CO asks the wrong question after they're shot down and catches acute lead poisoning at the hand of the task force commander.
  • Hollywood Healing: Characters rapidly recover from everything from gunshot grazes and knife wounds to being impaled through the gut by a chunk of conduit. Justified on one page by the use of a Star Trek-like handheld device that heals such injuries.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Terra Incognia, Holly Laing's planned remake of the webcomic, aims to be more R-rated then the original.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: By Word of God the main ranged weapons used in The 'Verse are chemical propellant firearms, despite their boxy futuristic look.
  • Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy/Renegade Splinter Faction: The Shadow Cabal led by Solus Kalar, son of the current Sovereign of the Asurian Empire. Originally started as a personal army for Sovereign Northazul, it has expanded into a barely controllable paramilitary group with its hands in everything from slave-raiding to salvage operations.
  • Neck Lift: Agrippa inflicts this on Catella here.
  • Oh, Crap!: Catella's reaction to finding out that Agrippa is coming.
  • Old-School Dogfight: A dogfight between Resistance fighters guarding the evacuation of the base and a UEC fighter squadron attacking it (including Alex and Rick) takes up the majority of chapter three.
  • Portal Network: Faster-Than-Light Travel is done by jumpgate.
  • Precision F-Strike: The comic uses profanities extremely sparingly, with the only instance so far being the F-bomb Grey drops in chapter one when an Azatoth kills his spotter and shoots him in the gut.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Azatoth, though the exact angle of the trope varies heavily by individual. Agrippa and Talos focus on the "Proud," with a strong sense of personal honor and no tolerance for attacking civilians. Solus is a racist Well-Intentioned Extremist advocating the use of biological warfare against humanity. Catella is pretty much just a fight-happy bitch.
  • Punished for Sympathy: A flashback has Talos Antares try to fake having killed a human civilian to protect her from his immediate superior, Solus Kalar. Solus isn't fooled, hunts down and kills the civilian in cold blood, then starts beating the crap out of Talos. Agrippa, Solus' equal in rank at the time, rescues Talos.
  • Quantity vs. Quality: According to Solus, while the Azatoth have excellent warriors, the humans are winning the war thanks to their sheer numbers.
  • Right Behind Me: Page 130, when Grey's machismo gets the better of him. Alex seems more amused than insulted, and commenters predict extensive UST.
    Simmons: (referring to Grey's rescue of Alex and Rick) C'mon, I saw that one of the officers was female, and a cute one at that—I know you, Grey.
    Grey: Her?! Please, she's way too uptight. I don't have time for girls like that.
    Simmons: What, you think you even stand a chance?
    Grey: Give me a break. She may have an attitude, but if I wanted her, I could have her by the end of the night.
    Alex: Hm, I'll take that bet.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: From here.
    • The Azatoth would be Human Aliens but for a heavier brow ridge, a vertical bulge in the center of the forehead, and eyes with black sclera and irises in all colors of the rainbow. They also average a foot taller than a human of the same gender. Males also have a couple of dark nodules on the sides of their noses.
    • The Vareliens look like asari with longer, more flexible head-tentacles and greener skin. They're later given a redesign which replaces the head-tentacles with white hair.
    • The Shintari have swept-back conical heads and orange skin.
    • There's also the Krull, not listed in the codex but present in the comic. They're a race of humanoid Lizard Folk with horned heads and green skin.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Agrippa does this to an injured Kaleb Ceros.
    Kaleb: Bastard! You think you're really changing anything? Solus has more power and influence than you could ever dream of. You can't stop him — and if you kill me, another will take my place.
    Agrippa: (slashes Kaleb's throat with his combat knife) Then their fate will be the same as yours.
  • Sole Survivor: A character trope used quite heavily. Grey is the last of the UEC First Recon unit killed in an Azatoth ambush, Agrippa's family was purged on orders from Sovereign Northazul, Alex's entire colony was slaughtered by the Shadow Cabal, Catella's colony was slaughtered by human raiders, and the list goes on.
  • Space Romans: Holly admits to drawing a lot of inspiration for the Azatoth from ancient Rome. The names are Roman-inspired, they practice slavery, and the government structure is somewhat Roman in style.
  • Target Spotter: Grey's is killed in the first chapter by an Azatoth who flanks their position and comes at them from behind.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Agrippa gives Rei a powerful one on page 332. When Rei goes ahead and belittles Alexis' past as a slave, saying a life on the streets was harder, he points out that while Alexis was a house slave, she still suffered greatly: she still has scars from the collar she was forced to wear, her freedom was taken away, and she was considered property. He goes on to add Alexis is one of the people who Rei is going to have to rely upon now that her brother is dead, so she (Rei) had better learn a little courtesy, because "she needs them (the human cast) more than they need her."
  • Translation Punctuation: The comic wraps dialogue in the Azatoth language in angle brackets.
  • Trivial Title: "Terra" refers to the jumpgate station in the Sol System, which so far the only importance to the plot is that it's the place where Alex and Rick's fighter squadron is based. They leave it behind after chapter three.
  • We Are as Mayflies: It's in the codex. Human lifespans are up to 115-150 years, while the Azatoth usually live 300-350 and the Vareliens usually over 600. Inverted with the Shintari, who are in the 60-70 year range.
  • Worst Aid: After the UEC air raid on the Resistance base Agrippa finds Eve in the ruins of the base with a chunk of conduit stuck through her abdomen. He shoves it out through her back. Several commenters called the authors on this.