Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ocean Trade Paperback Review

DC Comics - Wildstorm
Softcover Trade Paperback
176 pages
$14.99 (2005)
$19.99 (2009)
ISBN 9781401208493

Contributors: Warren Ellis, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Michael Golden, Tony Avina, Wendy Broome, Randy Mayor, and Wildstorm FX

Reprints: Ocean #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: In one hundred years humankind has begun exploring the interior of the solar system.  The next frontier is interplanetary mining and of particular interest is the moon Europa orbiting Jupiter.  This unique moon is covered in ice and is thought to have an actual ocean beneath its surface.  The space station Cold Harbor orbits Europa in order to study its surface and interior.  What they discover beneath the moon's surface is a secret so large it could destroy the entire human race.
Nathan Kane meets the crew of the Cold Harbor

Expert weapons inspector Nathan Kane is immediately dispatched to Cold Harbor orbiting Europa.  His specialty is identifying weapons of mass destruction yet he abhors gun violence.  An expert at hand-to-hand combat and master strategist, he narrowly survives an assassination attempt on Mars.  Someone doesn't want him to reach Europa alive.

The Cold Harbor station is a remote outpost with a small crew of boring scientists.  These include station commander Fadia Aziz, engineer Siobhan Coney, field scientist John Wells, and analysis expert Anna Li.  The crew are completely freaked out by their discovery and the implications it has on the origins of human culture.  Kane assesses the situation and comes to the conclusion that the entire human race is in grave peril.

The scientists are not alone in their orbit of Europa and another space station is run by the mega-conglomerate, DOORS.  This company uses technology to subjugate the personalities of its employees into a hive mind during their lengthy work contracts for optimum efficiency and loyalty.  The higher up the corporate ladder you climb the more draconian the upgrades.  Commanding the DOORS station is a ego-maniacal corporate officer who prizes the capture of the alien technology over all else.  His only thought is to gain this ancient race's secrets to further his own self-serving agenda and he doesn't care who pays the price.

Warren Ellis redefines 'corporate lackey'
Only Kane and the Cold Harbor's crew stand between the technology getting into the hands of those who would exploit it to the detriment of humanity.  Can one skilled pacifist and a group of scientists repel the advances of a legion of corporate zombies?  The human race stands upon a precipice of destruction as the secrets of our origin unravel.

Pros: Great sci-fi concept and setup, some interesting characters and personalities - Nathan Kane is a confident badass, lots of witty banter and one-liners, idea of a future corporation rewriting their employees' minds was absolutely spot on, a few clever tech advances to combat on space stations, very clean art by Chris Sprouse, and excellent covers by Michael Golden

Cons: Story resolution doesn't answer all the questions raised from the setup, things wrapped up a little too neatly, a few jokes that fell flat (burned food in the microwave on a space station, right!), they use a saucer-shaped shuttle to smash through the ice surface of Europa repeatedly - no way is that feasible, felt like a straight-up sci-fi comic book vehicle to get a movie made (which has not happened yet)

Mike Tells It Straight: Warren Ellis (Supergod, Switchblade Honey) writes an interesting sci-fi story with a really great setup.  Chris Sprouse's (Tom Strong Vol. 1) art is superbly clean and he's a master of cinematic storytelling.  These two are a great creative team and produce a solid story.  Michael Golden provides some excellent covers.  It felt like I was reading the storyboards for a movie  and I could easily see this story being adapted to live-action (it's been optioned for a movie).  I'd say the story would make a fairly good, mainstream sci-fi film.

Ellis writes the best witty banter
We get a cool protagonist in Nathan Kane with clever one-liners and a knack for always coming out on top (think Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher).  Kane doesn't want to fight, but he'll kick your ass if you cross him.  The crew had the stereotypical personalities of your cliche international scientist group and the ending was suitably exciting.  Ellis and Sprouse add a few cool futuristic advances to technology (like guns that shoot special bullets on space stations) and the corporation that subjugates employees through technology was fairly brilliant.  

Despite a neat setup I felt the second half of the book didn't deliver the goods.  We get a frantic race between the two groups and an exciting confrontation in a unique environment (space station), but too few questions were answered about the discovery on Europa.  The conflict wrapped up too easily as with most standard sci-fi movies.  I'd say this book is a good, quick read which will peak your interest, but leave you a bit flat at the end.

A little sneak preview of what they discover beneath the surface of Europa

TO BUY and Recommendations: