Review – Sea of Sorrows #5 (IDW Publishing)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Rich Douek
Artist: Alex Cormack
Lettering: Justin Birch
Release Date: 28th April 2021

With the pitched battle on the deck of the SS Vagabond reaching a fever pitch, Captain Harlow, finally realising the true architect of the horrors besetting his ship and his crew, mounts a valiant last stand. Meanwhile, drawing on the pain and horrors that he faced and overcame during the war, Shoals sets out to strike at the heart of the Siren and her mortal herald.

Well here we are with my most anticipated finale of the year so far. It’s no secret that as far as I’m concerned, the team behind this series can do no wrong. Both as a team and as individual creators, Rich Douek, Alex Cormack and Justin Birch are easily in my top ten comic book creators of all time in their respective fields, and to date I haven’t seen a single one of them miss a beat in anything they’ve worked on.

In that respect, Sea of Sorrows is no exception. There is not one single flaw I can find. Every panel of every page has landed perfectly for me. In earlier reviews of this series, I likened Sea of Sorrows to John Carpenter’s The Thing with the pacing and action of James Cameron’s Aliens, and I stand by that assessment 100%. The paranoia, isolation, tension, and creeping dread of The Thing is pervasive throughout to the point where it’s almost a living thing that picks at your nerves, leaving them raw and bloodied; and when things inevitably go sideways, there’s an almost frenetic pace to the devolution of the crew and their bestial savagery.

An influence that I’ve not mentioned before in my reviews of this series, are the works of William Hope Hodgson, who was a prolific writer of maritime horror during the early 1900s. Hodgson’s writing was almost Lovecraftian in its depiction of a vast, moving continent of weed haunting the Atlantic, gargantuan Devil Fish, giant crabs, sirens, swarms of fish-men, haunted wrecks and lost islands full of murderous flora and fungi. Where there is certainly a Lovecraftian influence in this story, for me it is much more the child of Hodgson’s impressive work.

Alex Cormack’s artwork in this series is superb, Alex is for me one of the best comic artists working now or in the last 20 years. The only problem I have with Cormack’s work is that I find myself repeating myself constantly when writing about him. I have to go back through reviews and try to find superlatives that I’ve not previously used, and frankly even with what I consider to be a fairly decent vocabulary and the use of a number of thesaurus’ I struggle to not sound like I’m just parroting previous statements.

Where Rich Douek is a master at delivering pace and tension and drama and terror in his story telling, Cormack is easily his equal in delivering images on the page that sear themselves into the back of your brain. In the last issue of Sea of Sorrows, Cormack delivered what is one of the most horrific pages I’ve seen in print, and it was glorious.

In this issue there are so many panels and pages that are the equal of that, so the point where it’s almost dizzying in its excess. There is a double spread about halfway through that should be hanging in a gallery it’s that damned good. Mindful of not entering too far into spoiler territory, as we reach the climax of this roller coaster ride, there are some pages that will ensure that you will never, ever go in the ocean again. There is a beauty in what Cormack brings to life on the page, but this reader who is already a little shaky in deep water has no intention of getting in water that he can’t see the bottom of again.

I likened this series to John Carpenter’s vision of “The Thing”, and the final pages really hammer this home for me. Again, I’m not going to enter into spoiler territory but when I got to the last page, I swear to God that I heard Ennio Morricone’s theme start playing in my head.

Rating: 5/5 (I’d give this one 6/5 if I could)


The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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