Thursday, October 20, 2011

Marineman: A Matter of Life and Depth

Steve Ocean is Marineman, one part Jacques Cousteau, one part Steve Erwin, and it turns out, two parts Aquaman. Only the world knows nothing about his unique ability to breathe underwater or that he possesses massive strength. Everyone knows him as the star of Ocean Encounters, a TV show exploring the oceans and shedding light on aquatic creatures. When one of his friends is involved in an undersea accident and he acts to save his life, Steve's secret comes out. A media frenzy ensues. Many of his close friends feel somewhat betrayed. And suddenly he learns that what he knew about his childhood may not be true because someone claiming to be his father is hunting for him.

Marineman is the creation of Ian Churchill, a graphic designer turned comic book artist. He is British, an avid diver, and is known for his work on a number of comic book series, including Cable and Hulk for Marvel Comics, and DC Comics' Supergirl. He keeps a blog about his work on the Marineman series and related projects.

Churchill's artwork in this volume is an energetic combination of Jack Kirby, Image Comics, and cartoons, and it packs a punch in terms of action and emotion. He also has a knack for capturing characters' voices. He does a great job of introducing a wide cast of characters who could easily be stereotypes and giving them unique personalities and interesting dynamics.

The back matter of this volume is cram-packed with extras, including profiles of actual marine biologists and what they do, Churchill's original childhood Marineman drawings (from 1977!), a good number of character and concept sketches, and an interview with the author. From all the craft and extras, it appears that this book is a particular labor of love for Churchill.

Nominated for an Eisner Award for Best New Series, Marineman has garnered much praise. Doug Zawisza called it "easily one of the best debut issues of 2010." Chris Kiser found it "refreshing to have an independent comic come along that delves into the art of superheroics without needlessly darkening them or mocking them ironically." Martin Maenza wrote that the series had plenty of action and was a "good comic book story."

Marineman was originally published as a six-issue series, collected here, by Image Comics. This interview talks about the future of the series and also contains a preview from this first volume.

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