Publisher: DC (Hill House Comics imprint)
Writer: Joe Hill
Artwork: Stuart Immonen
Colours: Dave Stewart
Lettering: Deron Bennett
Release Date: 18th March 2020
Once the initial shock of her discovery wears off and Mariah tries to rationalise her experience, she leads a team in search of any other survivors. Meanwhile, Carpenter begins a survey of the Derleth, and discovers that the depths of the Arctic Ocean are hiding more deadly terrors than just a 40-year-old ghost ship.
I am being spoiled rotten at the moment. Horror is my thing, and there is so much good horror out there at the moment. Of the horror titles that are flooding our shelves, Hill House are producing some of my favourite books of 2020. In fact, of the five Hill House titles I’ve read, three of them are definitely way up at the top of my list so far this year. That said, the competition is pretty stiff so I’m looking forward to seeing who comes out on top at the end of the year.
There is so much going on in this issue that it’s difficult to give you a coherent idea of what to expect without just dropping massive spoilers into every sentence. In an attempt to avoid this, I’ll just say that where last issue we had an homage to John Carpenter and H.P. Lovecraft, we’re now fully and completely embracing Alien, The Thing, The Call of Cthulhu, Dagon, The Abyss, The Fog, and even the works of William Hope Hodgson. Yes, before you ask, there is a giant sea monster! I spent a significant portion of this issue just shouting “YES!” or “WOW!”, there’s so much of it that was just ticking box after box of what I want out of a horror story.
I don’t know how much more I can enthuse about what Joe Hill is achieving, both with his own titles and with his leadership of the Hill House imprint, without just grabbing a cheerleader outfit and a set of pom-poms (and trust me, nobody needs to see that)! For me, and I have said this before, comics are the perfect vehicle for Joe Hill’s talents and he has surrounded himself with some incredible talent here.
I loved the first couple of issues of Basketful of Heads, but I’ve felt that as the story has progressed it’s lost its way a bit, and isn’t quite living up to its initial promise. This particular story, however, seems to me to be the one that Hill has hit his stride on. It’s pitch perfect and it’s one that he seems to be having a lot of fun with. While BoH has a lot of fun referencing both Hill and Stephen King’s literary worlds, it comes across more as name-checking rather than trying to integrate them into the narrative. Plunge on the other hand takes it a step further, utilising familiar and beloved stories, grabbing the best bits out of them and weaving them into a gripping horror tale. Where I could see Basketful of Heads being adapted into a segment in an anthology horror show, Plunge could, and should, be adapted into either a full-blown movie – or, given current trends, a quality Netflix series.
The art is again provided by Stuart Immonen and Dave Stewart, and it’s nothing short of fantastic. Again, I can’t really focus on too much without giving the game away, but you’re really going to want to pay attention to the Underwater scenes, and the discovery in the cave is just phenomenal to look at. Moriah’s attempts to capture an example of the deformed marine life just hit me as being straight out of one of William Hope Hodgson’s tales of the Sargasso, and the way the art is delivered is spot on – exactly how I would have imagined the scene if I’d been reading this in one of his collected works.
One of this story’s main themes is just how isolated the Carpenter crew really are, and how utterly screwed they will be if something goes wrong. It is a testament to both writer and artists that they’ve taken this and given it what seems to be a vast landscape for them to be terrorised in; the Atol providing the first glimpse of the horrors to come, with the troubles aboard providing another theatre of horror, and the subterranean world that they will need to explore providing a vast, black, void that shelters unknown terrors both mundane and monstrous. These are three very different environments that engender very different feelings and reactions to the terrors the crew are assailed by, and I think it’s a very clever and brave step to try and weave them all together. Okay, essentially these are all parts of the same story, but for me each environment falls into its own sub-genre and that gives the creative team so much more to play with in the series.
I’d love to be more critical of this issue and this series as a whole but I really don’t feel that giving anything less than the rating below would be doing it, or the creative team, justice.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek