Publisher: DC (Hill House Comics imprint)
Writer: Joe Hill
Artwork: Stuart Immonen
Colours: Dave Stewart
Lettering: Deron Bennett
Release Date: 19th February 2020
In the aftermath of a devastating tsunami that has swept the Arctic Circle, marine creatures start behaving strangely and the research ship Derleth starts transmitting a distress signal. In theory there should be nothing unusual about a ship in distress after a tsunami, but this particular vessel has been missing for over 40 years.
The Carpenter salvage crew is despatched, along with marine biologist Moriah Lamb, to investigate the wreck in the hopes that the corpse of a once state-of-the-art vessel can answer the questions of her mysterious disappearance and the loss of all 32 crew members. The Carpenter’s crew will soon find, however, that in this remote Arctic atoll the dead are more than willing to talk.
I’ve officially run out of ways to praise the work coming out of Hill House Comics. They have produced hit series after hit series since their inception less than 12 months ago, and I’m now going to write somewhere between 400-600 words that boil down to one simple statement – go out and buy this comic!
For the observant among you there are enough clues in my summary above as to why you need to read this, but for those of you that don’t do subtle allow me to enlighten you. The first thing you should notice is that the mysterious vessel at the heart of the story is the Derleth, and that the rescue ship is the Carpenter. That alone should be enough to get you down your LCS. The prospect of a horror story from Hill House with themes based on the works of August Derleth & John Carpenter had me offering to fight my fellow BCP contributors to the death, in a Kirk vs Gorn style battle, just for the opportunity to review this book.
This is a series set in the Arctic Circle. It’s remote, isolated and claustrophobic. The crew will be diving to a wreck in exceedingly hostile conditions, in an unexplored crater scoured out of the seabed by a meteor only rivalled by the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. There are themes reminiscent of Carpenter’s The Thing (or, more closely, Alec Gillis’ recent Harbinger Down); there’s a ghost ship, it’s an isolation horror, it’s a creature feature, it has the promise of evolving into Cthulhu mythos sci-fi horror. Really, what more could you ask for?
I’ve said enough times in my recent reviews just how perfectly the comic platform suits Joe Hill’s writing style. Hill is obviously a very successful novelist but I think where he truly shines is where he has to take those vast, epic worlds and condense them into 30 pages of comic every month, because what is coming out as an end result is just pure crystallised brilliance.
This particular issue sets up all the main characters and the plot efficiently, but without feeling like the reader is being rushed. We get to know all the different personalities, and start to understand their motivations quickly. The crew of The Carpenter, who are impressively easy to become invested in, seem to be a satisfying amalgam of the crew of the Arctic Warrior in the 2002 film Ghost Ship, and the crew of Deep Core in James Cameron’s The Abyss.
There is a great sense of humour in this series. I mean, there aren’t many that I’ve read where one of the main characters is introduced while waving an 11-inch dildo. There’s also a fantastic undercurrent of tension in this first issue. You know something is coming, you don’t know what or when, but you know that something horrific is hiding in the shadows. The fact that this story is set in a remote, inaccessible location with little hope of escape if something goes wrong, and even less chance of a rescue, really helps to build on the tension that is belied by the carefree attitude of the crew.
Stuart Immonen and Dave Stewart do an equally efficient job on the visual side of the book, setting up some unexpected and disturbing scenes early on and crafting some really interesting and well-defined characters. Immonen is best known for his work on Marvel and DC titles, which, to be fair, is outside my expertise as I’m not a big super hero comic fan, so this is, with apologies to Stuart, the first time (I think), that I’ve seen his work. I have to say though that I really like what he’s produced for this series, and when combined with my personal favourite colourist Dave Stewart, it’s safe to say that I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with when the action really kicks off.
It should come as no surprise then that I am recommending any horror fan to go out and pick up this series. There are a lot of very familiar themes here that, along with the combined skills of the creative team, results in what could end up becoming a truly great horror story.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek