After one of the strangest, most perplexing opening scenes I’ve ever read in comics, Scott Snyder’s underwater horror story leaps into high gear with the crew of scientists trying to evade the horrors that they’ve uncovered near the ocean floor. There’s a great balance in this book between tension and horror and the sheer intensity of the terror when the creatures appear. Like a well-made fast zombie movie, the monsters’ appearance changes the tone dramatically, but it never loses the fear, it merely shifts it. The book vacillates perfectly between savage intensity and slow, creeping horror alongside the best HP Lovecraft stories (complete with unknown horrors rising out of the ocean).
Sean Murphy’s art is messy, but in a completely intentional and contained way that helps to obfuscate some of what’s going on without hiding the absolute, gut-wrenching horror. Scary comic books are hard because of the balance that must be struck between showing too much and too little. Since the medium is stationary, you can’t rely on fast motion or music cues to generate jumps or tension, so it’s much more on the artist’s shoulders to carry the burden, which Murphy does, making all the character distinct and the monsters truly a terrifying sight to behold.
I’ve enjoyed this book since the start, but I often have trouble keeping the characters straight. A lot of them either wear SCUBA gear or other devices that hide a great deal of their faces, and their names are just normal people’s names, so they’re not terribly distinct (though the solution, obviously, would not be to have a group of people with bizarre names). This can make it difficult to become invested in the characters as well as making it difficult to keep track of them in the month between issues.
We’re also now nearly to the halfway point and the strange imagery that takes place in the future hasn’t become any clearer, but now we’ve got even more strangeness happening in the past. I’m not saying everything needs to be crystal clear by this point, I’m just hoping we get a good payoff for it.
We’re only four issues in, so having unanswered questions isn’t unacceptable at this point and what the book gets right it gets very, very, VERY right. Through all the confusion we’ve got an amazing plot with absolutely fantastic creatures alongside an intriguing set of mysteries. The art is perfectly complementary and creates an atmosphere at once oppressive, claustrophobic, and absolutely terrifying.