Shamefully I didn’t know the name Tom Taylor until a month ago when I reviewed in my random “let’s give it a shot” book of the week INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US. It not only was a damn good rare expansion of a video game plot, it was also a great Elseworlds tale in a time when alternate reality is a verboten term in the halls of DC with the exception of EARTH 2. What made this book truly special though, was the authenticity of voice and relationships that Taylor naturally has for character interactions. Lois Lane fans shouldn’t be reading any other book right now to be frank – irregardless of the fact she shuffles loose her mortal coil in issue 1. In one issue Taylor perfectly embodied and decimated the devotion between comics’ first couple.
But when Taylor reached out about reviewing his underwater tale, THE DEEP, currently in option for Television…well I had a few reservations. I don’t really dig the sea. It’s murky and I can’t let go of 90s borefests like Roy Scheider’s Seaquest DSV and the Abyss. Also, it’s an “all ages book,” a term that often denotes great for kids, tolerated by parents.
Thankfully, all of my preconceptions were wrong. There is so much joy, life, family authenticity, exploration and adventure in the THE DEEP, you might wish it came with time travel shipping so you could share it with the writers of Seaquest and possibly Jonathan Brandis.
From page one of the first volume, HERE BE DRAGONS, you realize Taylor understands the core fundamentals of the comic craft – before you enter the fantastic and fanciful you must first ground the reader in what they understand. In this case it’s the simple family dynamic between over imaginative tween brother Ant, and forever annoyed teen sister, Fontaine. What made this scene of Ant trying to train his goldfish Jeffrey,and Fontaine’s disdain for the activity spectacular was that it could have taken place anywhere – a bedroom in White Plains, NY or a living room in Tokyo. It was authentic, and that’s why I cared as a human being. Why I cared as a comic collector is because this scene takes place in Sebastian’s favorite place – unda da sea aboard Ant and Fontaine’s underwater vessel the Arronox.
Ant and Fontaine are far from alone, rounding out the Arronox crew are Dad, Will and Mom, Kaiko. I found this multicultural representation far more 21st century than the traditional waspish representations that permeate American TV. I hold no delusions, my blonde hair and blue eyes will soon be a forgotten relic in the human genome – good thing too since it’s one step away from the sunlight combustion trait of albinism.
The Nekton’s are more than Marine Biologists. While science and the search for truth sit at the core of their existence, these Aquanauts are as much scientists as Indiana Jones was, the search for relics is as equally alluring as the lab analysis.
In volume one, HERE BE DRAGONS, the Nekton’s are called to the coast of Greenland to hunt down a strange “monster’ that arises from the ocean depths every time there is a shift in the earth’s tectonic plates. Of course what they ultimately find isn’t a dragon, but rather a creature from our paleolithic past. Again though, the joy found in THE DEEP is only found partly in the ultimate answers.
Taylor is also clearly dedicated to the long-time longevity of the series. While each volume consists of a Scooby Doo like mystery for the family to unearth, there’s an even bigger story which comes to light at the end of Volume 1. A strange figure named Nereus appears, who tells young Ant that this uncovering of underwater dragons is step one in the most elusive of Nekton mysteries, the search for Atlantis.
Volume 2, THE VANISHING ISLAND, keeps the same frantic pace for adventure and same family resolve as issue 1. The sage Nereus is now a full-fledged member of the crew (much to Fontaine’s disdain – but what doesn’t Fontaine disdain), as the family goes off to uncover the mystery of an island off the coast of Brazil that has decided to start moving. What I loved best about this and issue one is that the hero of each adventure is that the ultimate hero comes from the most unlikely of characters. I won’t spoil the mystery, but players of the recent World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Panderia will “get it” about halfway through.
I probably shouldn’t say this out loud, but I pay forward most of my comps. In part this is a selfish endeavor to ensure the medium I love continues to thrive. In cases like THE DEEP though, I consider it beyond even my propensity for cruelty to keep this cloistered in an old man’s closet as opposed to putting in front of a young imaginative mind. Story aside, THE DEEP should go right to an elementary school library for Brouwer’s art work. Kids will want to read THE DEEP on first glance, thanks to the pied piper allure of Brouwer’s pencils. This guy’s YOUNG JUSTICE like visuals will immediately resonate with the wee ones as already exhibited with his amazing work in BATMAN BEYOND. I’ll admit he’s the only one who works in this new age cartoony style remembering that emotional subtlety is far more impactful than over the top expressions like agog and angry. I offer Brouwer only one critique: while I know the depths of the ocean are supposed to be dark, please give a little more illumination to your two page spreads. There were times I was busting out a flashlight to see the detail on the full or two page spreads that closed out each chapter.
Get THE DEEP for yourself, no matter what age you are, you’ll dig it. Then, pay THE DEEP forward so we can ensure the next generation keeps churning out comics when we’ll actually have time to read them (i.e. retirement). THE DEEP Drops in the US April 2013 and if you want copies in your store grab them off DIAMOND with these intuitive codes:
FEB131046 THE DEEP GN VOL 01 HERE BE DRAGONS
FEB131047 THE DEEP GN VOL 02 VANISHING ISLAND