Published on July 1st, 2015 | by Steven Roman
Review: Surface Tension #1–2 (of 5)
The end of the world has always been a popular scenario with both writers and the general public for centuries (see, for example, The Book of Revelation, in the Bible), but apparently never more so than in today’s pop-culture-driven society. The Walking Dead and its upcoming spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead, the Terminator franchise, Life After People, Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, Mad Max: Fury Road, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Deep Impact, Armageddon, and Stephen King’s The Stand—if there’s a method by which humanity can meet its untimely, and always messy, end, there’s an audience out there eager to witness it.
Add to that list of doomsday scenarios Titan Comics’ miniseries Surface Tension, written and illustrated by Jay Gunn (Cthulu Tales Omnibus: Delirium), which offers a different take on the end of the world—one in which 99 percent of humanity has been wiped out, not from nuclear warfare or an asteroid impact or a virus outbreak or a zombie uprising, but by the actions of an overzealous environmentalist looking to impress his girlfriend.
The story opens on the shores of Breith, an island in the British Channel. It’s been a year since the virus called “the Sea-Sickness” swept around the globe, transforming its victims into hideous, zombie-like creatures that shuffled into the oceans, answering a call only they could hear. A portion of the human survivors gathered on Brieth, and it’s here that they try to live out their days, surrounded by the sea and terrified by what lurks beneath its surface.
And then two of the victims—Japanese environmentalist Megumi Suzuki and Ryan Fisher, a Breith native—come stumbling out of the surf, their bodies restored but their skin tone a brilliant blue. They have no memory of what’s happened to them during the past year, but Megumi comes to realize one thing: doomsday was caused by her boyfriend Erik, who activated the machinery of a coral-like, alien structure off the coast of Ghana, in a mad attempt to improve the world’s damaged ecology…and to impress his girlfriend. The Sea-Sickness virus that wiped out most of humanity was the result. And with Megumi and Ryan’s unexpected (and unexplained) return to the surface world, something even worse has now been unleashed on the survivors…
In both story and art, Gunn does a tremendous job, presenting a “big world” apocalyptic scenario through the “small world” viewpoint of villagers just trying to make the most of what little is on hand, holding on to the remnants of civilization—and their sanity…but always living in constant dread of what the transformed planet may bring to their doorsteps. If directors John Sayles (The Secret of Roan Inish, The Brother From Another Planet) and David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome) ever collaborated on a character-driven, body-horror film, it would probably turn out to be like Surface Tension; kudos to Gunn for finding that sort of storytelling balance.
Bottom line? With its doomed-world setting, intricate artwork, and character-driven narrative, Surface Tension has all the elements certain to grab the attention of apocalyptophiles (if that’s not a word, I’m trade-marking it!). But even if you’re not into end-of-the-world scenarios, give it a try—it’s a refreshing break from all those loud superhero comics out there.
Surface Tension #1–2
Written and illustrated by Jay Gunn
Publisher: Titan Comics
$3.99 U.S. each
Issue 2 now on sale