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    “Surface Tension” #1 Explores Deep-Sea Horror [Review]

    By | May 28th, 2015
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    Jay Gunn’s “Surface Tension” #1 explores an apocalypse heralded by the arrival of coral towers within our oceans. Check out our spoiler-free review of this Lovecraftian horror below!

    Written and Illustrated by Jay Gunn

    Months after mysterious corals drew 99% of humanity into the sea, a band of survivors ekes out a hollow existence on a remote British island.

    When two people are cast up on the beach, completely blue, but very much alive, the island is thrown into turmoil.

    What caused the mass extinction event? How did these two return from the deep, when billions died? Most importantly, what is the coral, and what does it want with the Earth?

    A creeping, psychological horror fable of a planet rebelling against its inhabitants – perfect for fans of The Walking Dead, The Day of the Triffids, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Surface Tension is a gorgeous and timely ecological adventure of unprecedented scope. The oceans have never seemed so threatening!

    There are few certainties about the world. One is that humanity’s pollution of the Earth is reaching a critical threshold where it can no longer be ignored. The second is that people will always find ways to reinvent the zombie formula.

    “Surface Tension” #1 catches up to the world a year after its supposed end. Massive towers of coral erupted throughout the ocean, causing most of humanity’s skin to turn to water and compelling them to disappear into the ocean. Now, two of those who were thought lost have come back to one of the few islands where humanity still exists. And it seems they may be related to what caused the coral structures in the first place.

    One of “Surface Tension’s” strengths is that Jay Gunn’s art can be really fucked up. The coral infection that spread throughout humanity is depicted horrendously, with peoples’ faces melting like water. There’s also the case of the creates that came with the coral, looking like abomination that sprung out of the prehistoric era. Gunn manages to balance his deformed creatures with a nice use of storytelling, these things tend to pop onto a screen in a way that’s mildly unsettling and visually striking. While plenty of creatures like zombies have been so assumed into the cultural lexicon that they’re no longer frightening, Gunn’s creations always manage to be unsettling at least.

    And it’s this same sense of uneasiness that helps sell the world of “Surface Tension.” It’s not a world immediately in danger, but one surrounded by it. Literally. In an ocean. The island of Brieth, an idyllic fishing community, makes for a suitable location then as it’s a stark contrast to the deep sea terrors that are always poised to take the town. In fact, another strength of the issue is how Brieth seems more or less fleshed out. Though the local townsfolk aren’t given too much introduction here, other aspects like a Lovecraftian cult worshipping the coral towers implies a world greater than your average end of the world scenario. “Surface Tension” does a solid job of building some suspense around this new world it lives in, but unfortunately gives it all away too quickly.

    One of the bodies that washed up, Megumi, reveals how she was tied to the coral towers right away with little problem. On one hand, it illuminates some aspects of the world and clarifies some things. On the other hand, it lays the central mystery of the title bare before you. That’s not to say the backstory isn’t interesting, but it is incredibly convenient. The horror in this comic seems to exist within the uncertainty that comes from being surrounded by an infinite ocean of murder monsters and psychic doodads. Pulling the curtain back on those aspects of the story just takes another mystery out of the equation.

    Another problem that just giving away what the coral towers are is that it just takes up so much space. As I mentioned earlier, no time is dedicated to any of Brieth’s residents, save for an old lady whose job is to immediately ask Megumi for the 411. On one hand, yes the concept is incredibly cool and one i would want to show off too. On the other, there aren’t any actual people developed enough to let the situation affect them. It kind of feels like the book is pitching itself to you as you read it.

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    Final Verdict: 6.7 – “Surface Tension” #1 is a comic with a compelling premise and some unnerving design to back it up. Its main concern, however, is its unwillingness to further populate its world with characters we can latch onto. I’d like to follow this series, but not if every character’s going to be a cardboard cutout. Even Z-Nation had some personality.

    James Johnston

    James Johnston is a grizzled post-millenial. Follow him on Twitter to challenge him to a fight.