Review: Surface Tension TP
I first read this series when it was published back in 2015, so I wanted to give it a full reread since it's been a while and also because I never felt like it got a fair shake when it was released. Jay Gunn is an established video game designer and art director, but if I recall correctly this was his first foray into comics and an impressive one at that. While I don't think he's done any new comics since, it does look like he has a new project in the works called 'The Devil of Bleaktop', so I'm grateful for this reread just so I could discover that news.
Surface Tension starts its story after a huge and bizarre global wide disaster has reduced the Earth's population by 99%.
Basically after these huge coral monoliths started to appear people started to mutate and change, their bodies starting to liquify. They also suffered mass delusions that enthralled them all to walk to the sea, never to be seen again.
Our story follows life on the small isolated island of Breith one year after the sea-sickness. Two humans have emerged from the waters with blue skin and no memories of anything after that day. They also have to reckon with a completely different world and the remnants of a leftover society that's fundamentally scarred by its losses.
Also, there are giant terrible sea monsters now. Don't forget about them.
The two survivors, Ryan and Megumi, weren't alone though. Something else that's connected to the coral sentinels has followed them to the island with goals of its own.
What initially drew me to the series is Gunn's detailed artwork. It's a bit reminiscent of Bryan Talbott's style with its unique textures and gentle linework. It captures the body horror elements of the story perfectly, offering a lot of unique design work and engaging world building through creative biology. Gunn loves to draw gross monsters and it's glorious.
Gunn also offers some tight scripting and pacing, balancing his core premise with a healthy chunk of interpersonal drama spread across a decent sized cast. Each core character serves a function and moves the sub-plots along nicely, but on the flip side only a couple really get a chance to develop. Along with that we also get the ecological cautionary tale that sets up a lot of the story's conflicts, so each character has to get some heavy lifting done as it's only a five issue story.
I had heard that this was optioned for a tv series back in 2016, which isn't too much of a surprise because almost every viable indy comic was optioned in anticipation of the Streaming Wars. I won't hold my breath for too long but it seems like a relatively easy story to translate, short of maybe the cost of CGI for the monsters. Still, there's a lot of great possibilities for practical effects and plenty of elements to expand upon such as the cults that crop up after such a cataclysmic event.
If you're a fan of underwater sci-fi and horror like myself then I would say this is definitely worth checking out as it brings some new things to the table. And if you're a big fan of art styles like Bryan Talbott's then I also strongly recommend checking out more of Jay Gunn's work. I really hope he can get that 'The Devil of Bleaktop' project off the ground soon as this reread of Surface Tension really sparked my appreciation for his art again.