At first glance, MARINEMAN would seem like a shot in the dark. DC's
Aquaman and Marvel's Sub-Mariner have tread the same
water before and still hardly ever managed to hook a steady
audience. One would think that it must be because the idea of a man
who swims and lives underwater just isn't dramatic enough. These are
hardly powers worth writing home about. Ian Churchill proves this is
not the case as he delivers a uniquely compelling story.
So... Who is Marineman? Steve Ocean, marine biologist? Or something
more? The answer to that question is what fuels the story in this
issue, with the rug basically being pulled out from under our hero.
Through the narration of an eccentric and enigmatic old man, called
the Mariner, we learn a great deal about a secret that spans
decades. Although there is no real conflict, instead focusing more
on these revelations, Ian Churchill does a good job of keeping it
interesting enough to pull the reader along.
It's always a treat to see a creator in control of both story and
art, especially when it works so well in tandem. While the visuals
may appear simple to the casual observer, closer inspection reveals
a higher level of detail in the characters. The old man, in
particular, tells just as much in his mannerisms and gestures as he
does with words. Meanwhile, the style Churchill uses for the comic
keeps everything flowing nicely and is quite pleasant to look at.
The only gripe I had with the art was the constant use of splash
pages. I guess in a comic set in water it's hard to avoid a little
splash here and there, but was it really necessary to have five? And
then two double-page layouts on top of that? That does seem a bit
excessive. Fortunately, the other areas of the book did have a
healthy dose of story to balance things out somewhat. But it didn't
go without notice.
As far as the writing, I personally think that the dialogue could
have been spread out some more among the characters. Marineman gets
the short end of the worm as Lieutenant Greene did most of the
talking and the star of the book didn't really get to say or do much
until he was by himself. Meanwhile, Ensign Fuller has just one line.
I also would have liked more interaction between the hero and his
two assistants. Coming in as a new reader I had no idea who Fuller
and Greene were and had to piece things together from the sparse
references made to them.
That being said, I think MARINEMAN does have potential. For even
with those two distractions, Churchill still gives us a fun ride
that's sure to appeal to fans of SAVAGE DRAGON and MADMAN. However,
I would have to urge new readers to either pick up the previous
issues, along with this one, or wait for the trade as the story
presented here is really more of a setup for what's coming next.