PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Comics

Sub-Mariner: The Depths

Kevin M. Brettauer

In The Depths, Milligan re-imagines Namor as a legend somewhere along the lines of an underwater Chupacabra.


Sub-Mariner: The Depths

Publisher: Marvel
Contributors: Artist: Esad Ribic
Price: $3.99
Writer: Peter Milligan
Length: 22
Formats: Single Issues
Issues: $1-5
First date: 2008-09-17
Last date: 2009-03-06
cat_label_url
Amazon

The concept of the scapegoat is an ancient notion most humans are, at the very least, acquainted with. If a child breaks something important to his or her parents, they are likely to blame their imaginary friend or the family dog. If a high-schooler is caught with a joint, he or she is likely to claim that they are merely "holding it for a friend". If a world leader cannot find a war criminal, "newly-discovered" documents will falsify connections to a foreign leader they don't like anyway in order to lead an assault on a country that has nothing to do with the war crime in question.

In times gone by, many scapegoats were, to put it mildly, slightly more fanciful than those that exist today. If a season's crops died out, witches could be blamed; if an illness swept a village, it was clearly the Devil's fault; if a tragedy befell a young child, it was because the Gods demanded a sacrifice.

Peter Milligan and Esad Ribic's Sub-Mariner: The Depths presents disastrous events which are blamed upon the supernatural, but this is the rare comic book that asks, through the lens of a man of science, if these legends, myths and superstitions could be real.

Atlantis, the hypothetical sunken city first discussed by Plato around 360 BCE, is a permanent fixture of science fiction and fantasy. It has been the subject of a Disney film, the resident kingdom of DC Comics' Aquaman, and the Lost City of the Ancients in the universe of the Stargate franchise. In classic Marvel context, however, Atlantis is widely known as the domain of Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner, the self-righteous ethnocentric warrior with a vendetta against the surface world who fought with the Invaders against the Axis Powers in World War II, who has an on-again/off-again partnership with Latverian monarch Victor von Doom, and an intriguingly bizarre sexual tension with The Invisible Woman, wife of the Fantastic Four's Reed Richards.

In The Depths, Milligan re-imagines Namor as a legend somewhere along the lines of an underwater Chupacabra or The Mothman in a time of early Cold War paranoia, in a world where, among other disasters, Namor the Sub-Mariner is blamed for the sinking of Titanic. Thus, Atlantis has become a sort of anti-Shangri-La to experienced sailors and "deep men", and Namor has become a sort of boogie man who haunts those brave enough to explore the waters that cover 70 percent of the Earth's surface. Into this world walks (or, rather, dives), the skeptical scientist Professor Randolph Stein, proud debunker of all things in the world of cryptozoology, who may or may not be about to have a life-altering experience.

To dismiss Sub-Mariner: The Depths as a mood piece or a character study is to do the series a grave injustice. Peter Milligan, whose fantastic X-Force segued into a grossly uneven run on X-Statix, fires on all cylinders as he both emulates and elevates the style of old pulp fiction tales, adding dashes and strokes of Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelley as Professor Stein descends both underwater and into madness. One is reminded of the narrator of "The Raven" or even of Victor Frankenstein himself as the journey worsens, discoveries are made, murders occur and reality is questioned. This may be Milligan's finest work to date. The only real quibble one may have with it is the ending, which is a little more clear-cut and less ambiguous than the rest of the series. Maybe Milligan -- or Stein -- wants it that way, or maybe not. Still, it may be a little too eyebrow-raising for some.

Milligan's artistic partner-in-crime for this endeavor is Esad Ribic, known for his intense depictions of the Asgardian gods in Loki and his jaw-dropping work on every character from Spider-Man to Galactus in the recent Silver Surfer: Requiem. Ribic's work is consistently praised by fans and critics alike, so it goes without saying that his painting here only serves to highlight the brilliance of Milligan's story. His characters look as if they've jumped out of the time period and onto the comic book page, and are alive with a vibrancy not unlike the titular figure in Steve Darnall and Alex Ross' Uncle Sam or the casts of the defunct HBO television series Deadwood and Carnivàle.

The real issues addressed by The Depths, however, are what make it such a compelling read. Milligan and Ribic seem to be attacking a laundry list of questions all at once: How far will one go to prove his or her beliefs right? What does one do when their worldview begins to fall apart? What is the proper response to constant, unceasing terror from an invisible enemy? How does one classify that which is beyond not just classification, but human explanation? Who should the individual blame for his or her own failings? And finally, knowing what one has done in the past, how in the world can that same person find respite at night?

All of these questions are answered by the characters of The Depths as the survivors feel are applicable to themselves and their situations. At the end of the series, however, the reader must wonder if the choices made by the characters who have traveled to The Depths were, considering the outcome of the tale, the right ones and what decisions could, would and even should have been made.

And at the end, after figuring all of that out…if the reader had been in that position, and things had gone the same way, they are forced to figure out who should be blamed.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.