If there’s a word that writers have grown to dread even more than the clarion cry of “Mary Sue,” it has to be “deus ex machina.” Part of this may lie with the fact the phrase hints at sloppy storytelling; if a writer has written themselves into a corner and has to rely on some contrived coincidence, then obviously the writer hasn’t been doing their job. But while on the surface it might appear that cartoonist Tom Dell-Aringa’s Martian science fiction webcomic Marooned has succumbed to deus ex machina, I must admit that at its core, the appearance of a Dark One to rescue our protagonists from certain doom does make a certain amount of sense.
For one thing, while Captain John, Ugo, and Liam are trapped on a Martian ghost ship in orbit around the Red Planet, there’s no real proof that the Dark One is going to be able to actually live up to its boast. It’s all well and good to say “I’ll save the day!” but without actions to back those words, the words end up empty and contrived. And given that Liam (who shares the same abilities as the Dark One, though she’s not as skilled) is threatened by the dark denizens of the ghost ship, and we’ve already seen the Dark Ones are not all-powerful, the Dark One could very well end up in the same boat as our protagonists.
To be honest, at this point of the story I suspect we are going to see some form of deus ex machina; the question is, how will it appear and will there be some sacrifice involved? While Marooned is comedic in nature, there have been several story elements that take a darker turn. And to be honest, there are times when deus ex machina is called for. Given that the Dark Ones are pre-existing elements in the story with links to several of the characters, their presence is not completely unexpected. But still I can’t help but wish (and hope) that somehow Captain John and his companions will ultimately outwit their foes despite the presence of a god-alien in the machine.