Sea Freak

By | Tuesday, June 10, 2008 Leave a Comment
Sea Freak was originally a short play by Jonathan Case, but he's recently begun expanding on the story and putting it into comic book form. The self-published story is about an atomic sea mutant named Grue, who feeds off humans and their passions. He's not wholly comfortable with this, however, in part because he's read a great deal of Shakespeare -- in the form of pages ripped from books, corked in Kiki Cola bottles, and thrown into the sea. Grue seems to have learned English entirely from these pages, and seeks to find the source of his knowledge.

During a... unusual sojourn onto the beach, he follows a boy selling Kiki Colas back to his mother's boat. He further finds another woman, Giulietta, who has indeed been placing passages of Shakespeare in bottles and tossing them into the sea. Grue's style of speech and Giulietta's love of Shakespeare bring them together, but Grue soon finds tragedy as he learns that she is emotionally unable to leave her room.

And thus ends the first three chapters of Sea Freak.

The story took me a bit to warm up to. Much of what we see happening in the first two issues isn't really explained until the third. And, as Case has noted that he has written this as a seven-chapter story, it strikes me that it's suited better for a graphic novel format than a more serialized tale. That being said, though, I understand that the financial constraints of self-publishing are difficult, to say the least, and I don't know that it's reasonable to expect Case to publish this out-of-the-gate as a graphic novel.

I'm almost certain Case's decision to publish this as a series of individual issues was dictated by financial concerns because he repeatedly shows his aptitude with the sequential art format. Take, for instance, this double-page spread...
Case is able to easily manipulate our reading of the sequence as we run down the left side, and unnaturally back up the right. And, yet, on the chance that we read the sequence out of order, it still flows and makes enough sense to understand what's happened. And so it's this ability that says to me that Case would've preferred this be published as a single volume, if he were given the opportunity.

I'm also partial to the illustration style itself. It's a very clean style, with very distinct emphasis on light and shadow. Case uses this to good effect, making clear when we switch scenes from a bright, sunny beach to a dark, cramped hold in the bowels of a ship.

The story feels rather Shakespearean in its delivery. Grue's style of speech, certainly, is modeled after the Bard's but the overall story, too, feels like a Shakespearean drama. There's a gravity about the tone of the book, and one just innately gets the sense of great tragedy just around the corner. I'm not familiar enough with all Shakespeare's plays to make direct allusions between those and Sea Freak but I don't doubt Case has studied those works more than a little.

Currently, Case has Chapter One available for free on his web site and the first three issues available for purchase in a pulped wood format. Definitely worth a look.
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