Comic Review - The Deep: Here be Dragons
Long time followers of The Geek of Oz will know that I have a massive soft spot for all ages comics. If you're not familiar with this fact, go read my rant on the subject and then come straight back... I'll wait here while you do...
Aussie independent publishers, Gestalt, bring us The Deep: Here be Dragons, an original graphic novel which is like a crazy mix of SeaQuest DSV and Man of Action's Ben 10. Being written and illustrated by fellow Aussies (Tom Taylor & James Brouwer) is just another bonus and a source of immense pride.
"My family are explorers. We have been for generations. Some argue that there is nowhere left to explore, that everything on Earth that can be discovered has already been found. They say that to truly explore we need to leave our planet. While others look up to the starts, my family know that there are also an infinite number of things that shine brightly in the darkness blow. Most of our world lies unexplored, unexplained. There are things lurking in the seas that have only ever been spoken of in myth. We explore... THE DEEP."
Melbournian Tom Taylor is best known as the writer of various Star Wars titles from Dark Horse, including the critically acclaimed Star Wars: Invasion and Star Wars: Blood Ties while Brisbananian James Brouwer has been working on an as yet unannounced project for DC. Some kind of beautiful synergy occurs when these two men visit the page. They are the Australian Bendis and Oeming or Langridge and Samnee.
Tom Taylor has infused a stunning amount of Bendis-esque charm into each and every panel. The Nekton's are the perfect imperfect family unit with each member being as individual and likeable as the next. Being able to like the characters is extremely important, especially when they're at risk of being swallowed whole by some kind of deep sea nasty. Further to this he introduces us to a mixed-race family which is fantastic to see in comics and in particular, all ages comics. There are so many kids out there, an ever increasing number in Australia, from mixed race families so it's about time that we see them represented in mainstream comics. Taylor did a great job of making this feel normal and not at all like a gimmick. Without getting into a political discussion, while reading the book I felt as though Taylor was trying to tell us that not all husbands and wives are asian and asian or black and black and even more importantly, not all scientists are white.
Brouwer's art has made me into an instant fan. In true geek fashion, I found myself hoping that he makes it to a con in Sydney (I want a sketch!). A mish mash of Ig Guara, Michael Avon Oeming and Phil Noto his art has a cartoony edge while eliciting an incredible amount of expression from each of the characters. While Taylor's writing gives each character a voice, Brouwer builds them a body, a face, a symbol of what they should be seen to be, their visual identity. His deep sea imagery was so vivid and alien while somehow coming across as totally recognisable. I was completely expecting at any moment to turn the page to see an Opee Sea Killer or Bruce from Finding Nemo (Fish are friends, not food!).
Another tip of the hat goes to Gestalt publishing for putting together such a well bound book. Instead of taking the cheap route like DC and Marvel have a tendency to do, Gestalt have instead put some time, money and effort into creating a product that is more akin to the releases of Archaia. The matt finish with gloss highlights gives a touch of luxury to what is an entirely beautiful product.
Taylor and Brouwer have created a book that is so, so, so much fun. They have managed to create a cast of characters that stand alongside The Incredibles or the Tennyson's. Sadly, it felt as though we were only just introduced to the Nekton's by the time the last page flipped. This in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, it shows that they left me wanting more. It is incredibly easy to imagine the Nekton's in full animated glory, chasing Architeuthis in one episode then a giant rabid Narwhal in the next. Are you listening Cartoon Network?
The Deep: Here be Dragons is without a doubt, unequivocally, hands down the most enthralling and enjoyable comic that I have read in a very, VERY long time. At very least the best thing I've read this year and possibly even last. This is a pretty big deal since I buy an average of 25 floppy books per month, these guys have blown the "big 2" out of the water. I can't possibly recommend The Deep: Here be Dragons highly enough.
The Deep: Here be Dragons is available now from Madman.