The year is coming to an end so I wanted to take a moment to detour into the realm of graphic novels one more time. Who knows, maybe I’ll give someone an idea for a last minute Christmas gift!
Since Covid caused the anxiety about going into shops, I am very rarely in any these days. Once in a while, I will go into Barnes and Noble, but that’s about the extent of it. Thank heavens for Door Dash, I say, or I’d be very hungry indeed! The B&N near me does not have the best selection of graphic novels… I mean, no one does really. The problem for me with graphic novels is that they are all superhero based. I have nothing against Superheroes but I tend to like things a bit less mainstream. (I was a Doctor Who fan long before it was fashionable.) The point here is that it’s a blue moon indeed that I stumble upon something that says “buy me”. Yet there I was holding a hardcovered book that was wrapped in plastic so I couldn’t even take a peek to see if I liked the artwork. I don’t spend money on myself easily unless it’s video games, so I spent several minutes debating if I wanted to drop the rather hefty $25. But I knew the name on the cover: Joe Hill. I had heard of Hill House Comics. And the description was Lovecraftian enough that I felt it was worth taking the plunge.
Plunge is a 6 issue story compiled into one volume. The premise is that in the early 80’s, a ship, the Derleth, went missing near the arctic. After nearly 40 years, it has started transmitting again and someone wants to know why. Well, the name of the ship had me! August Derleth was a writer most well known for taking Lovecraft’s mythos and binding it all together. So, the first check box was ticked even before I paid for the book.
I got home that night and read the first chapter in as soon as I sat down. The entire first chapter is both plausible and engrossing. Not just that, it’s cinematic. Every scene felt like I was watching a movie. I’ve said that about Weird Detective too, but Plunge does an even more credible job of it. I could easily see this adapted into a movie. Chapter one sets everything up brilliantly and then only in the very last frame, does it add the terror. A single frame in chapter one lets us know this is a very weird tale indeed. Then when the second chapter opens, logic resumes with one of the main characters questioning what she thought she heard because, duh, she’s rational. And in that way, they establish that this is our world; a world of logic, and physics and things that can be understood. A world where things have scientific explanation. (And right there, I think that’s why superhero movies are just that: movies. I don’t mind suspending my disbelief for a movie, but I guess I want my books to be a bit more sensible!)
Every subsequent chapter adds to the mystery in a logical way. Not to say this isn’t science fiction! It is. But it creates a narrative that pulls you in using a series of events that feel like they could play out. Yeah, it goes into the realm of the strange but never with people wearing leotards flying around saving the day. On top of that, the cast of characters are likeable. They all have very distinct personalities. Moriah was my favorite character but one character was played in my mind by Paul Giamatti (In personality, he’s a bit more Paul Reiser from Aliens, but the artwork made me think Giamatti and every time he spoke, I could hear Giamatti’s voice saying the words. It would be pretty easy to cast this movie!) Speaking of artwork, a clever thing was happening with each chapter: the title was subtly changing. I didn’t notice it until chapter 3; the chapter 2 change slipped past me! It ties in with the story and brings the reader into the events. (To say more than that would be spoiler territory, so I will leave it there.)
One of the solutions became apparent to me perhaps a little too easily but it didn’t detract from the excitement of finding a good graphic novel. And it’s not the defining moment so it really isn’t a big loss. Considering it’s a 6 part story, there was only so long the author could keep us guessing anyway. There are definite influences in this story. Beyond the obvious underwater terror of something like Underwater, I was reminded of Event Horizon. The setup is 100% John Carpenter’s The Thing. And I even found myself thinking of Doctor Who’s The Satan Pit at one point with something buried deep under the sea.
One of my biggest wishes when reading stories like this is that I really want some stories to open the door for us to meet new life forms without having to destroy them or them destroy us. I was very pleased with the writing here. Now, whether that means it went the way I wanted it to or not is up to the reader to find out. I won’t tell. (River Song would be mad at me if I went into spoiler territory, so I steadfastly refuse!)
The hardcover version retails for $25 but it’s a worthy addition to the library of any horror lover. Plus the slipcover feels great; it’s not standard paper; I don’t actually know what it is but I love it. (Maybe alien paper?) Like I said, it’s rare that I find one that really impresses me, and when I do, I am delighted. For me, this is a solid stand-alone adventure. It does not need more. If we are to get more of a specific graphic novel series, let it be Weird Detective. Not that this isn’t as good! This is excellent, but different. Weird Detective lends itself to more stories. This has a satisfying conclusion. Sometimes less is more!
There may be other great graphic novels out there. I’d like to hear about them, so please comment! In the meantime, I suggest you do like I did. (Yes, I’m going deep with this pun…) Take the plunge and get a copy for yourselves. ML