Greetings, fellow geeks! It’s been ages since my last review and I must apologize. Life (you know, that crap that happens when you’re busy making other plans, according to Lennon) caught up on me and sneaked me some nasty curve balls. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.
I’ve been meaning to write this review for weeks, but somehow I just couldn’t get myself to actually sit down and do it. Blame it on the low serotonin levels, the state of near bankruptcy or the fact that I took up a cooking blog if you want, but Marineman slipped between my fingers like, well, a fish.
The book circles around Steve Ocean (first of many aquatic puns), a marine biologist and Steve-Irwing-Like TV celebrity with superhuman maritime abilities. Steve seems to have a hard time fitting in, since he has no recollection of his childhood, and is further pushed into stardom by accidentally exposing his superpowers on live TV. Pretty standard, formulaic stuff. I won’t delve further into it, I don’t want to spoil your fun.
Being Ian Churchill’s dream (he drew his first Marineman sketches at age 8), I had high expectations about it. After all, this guy drew Supergirl like a WWII pin-up, always kept an impeccable style despite drawing with cartoonish proportions and made everything in general more enjoyable. We’ve seen Ian’s style evolve and mature over the years, from his run on Wolverine in the early 90s, to his amazing Deadpool issues in ’94 and, more recently his 2009 Aquaman special (yeah, I effing hate Aquaman, but the art was cool).
Marineman, however deviated slightly from the standard of quality we’ve seen over the years. Perhaps it’s the burden of multitasking, since Churchill’s in charge of pretty much everything in this book, but I just did not enjoy it as much as many of his previous works. This might obey a variety of factors, including, but not limited to:
Sloppier artwork; specifically, inks. The panels in the books are large and evenly spaced, although they tend to get crammed with text at times, but each frame is large enough to accommodate a fairly high amount of detail, something that shines for its absence. The backgrounds, however, are stunning. So is the coloring.
A simple, linear and predictable storyline. This makes it a great book to introduce to children, especially because it showcases real marine biologists and their work in the final pages. This however, makes the mature reader’s experience feel like Nat Geo for Kids. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE and DEMAND some science in my science fiction, but presented this way it makes it more palatable for younger audiences.
While on the subject of simplicity, the utter lack of violence. And nudity. Neither of which are obligatory but, when used within the appropriate context, are valuable story telling tools.
Overall, the first 6 issues seem appropriately like a creative work in progress. I believe some kinks should have been worked out before publishing time. Namely, the attention to inking detail and the aim and scope of audiences this book would appeal to.
If you’re a parent, or a cool uncle, this would be a great book to offer to a 6 year old. It’s easy to read, it’s harmless enough in terms of language, overt use of sexuality and gore, and offers some very interesting and accurate facts on sea life.
If, however, you’re a single geek pushing your 30s (like me), be warned. While the artwork is mildly eye-catching, the story itself lacks substance so far. At least for my tastes, this is still a “meh” book, and will remain so until Churchill finally turns his sails towards a definitive direction. Should he keep it a sort of Spongebob project and aim it to younger audiences, it has my applause. Odin knows kids need learning in and shape possible these days.
Still, it has a very long way to go if Churchill tries to lure bigger fish (OK, ENOUGH!)