12 April 2015

DWM: The Cruel Sea

The Cruel Sea is mad. No, really, it's utterly bonkers. 

Rob Shearman's first - and, to date, last - comic strip uses the medium to its full extent. This isn't just a missing adventure told in the form of frames and captions. The Cruel Sea utilises varying styles and techniques to tell its story of devolution, revenge and love. 

Having promised Rose a trip to Mars, the Doctor brings the TARDIS to the red planet a century late. We find that it's now used as a boating lake for the rich and tasteless. But what does Mars think of humanity plundering it and ridding it of its natural beauty. Not a lot, it would seem. I must admit that for large stretches of The Cruel Sea I had no idea what was going on. There's a plot about a man with nineteen ex-wives sustaining his life indefinitely but I'm not entirely sure how that marries with the main 'cruel sea' storyline. 

That's not to say this isn't enjoyable because it really is. Across four episodes, Shearman is able to channel and explore the more darkly comic aspects of his writing that he's famed for. There's an internal monologue of the Doctor's which shows this particularly well. Indeed, Shearman provides the Eccleston Doctor with a truly unique adventure. In such a wacky story, where there's so much competing for your attention, it's hard to really get a measure of the Doctor and Rose. For the most part though the regulars are written well enough. Like the Fifth Doctor in the sensational The Caves of Androzani they're just trying get out, rather than being the driving force behind the whole thing. Still, the writer and artist capture the pair well.

This is a very good-looking story too, showing that when he's given something as substantial and interesting as this, Mike Collins really can deliver. You need only read his recollections in the comics collection named after this story to get the measure of his enthusiasm towards it. Joining the team is colourist James Offredi, and what a fine first impression he makes. The shots of the ship in the water and the inside of the TARDIS are especially sumptuous, capturing the mood perfectly. 

The Cruel Sea holds something of a special place in my heart because it started in my first issue of DWM. I never got the issue with Part Four in but even having read it now, I still don't really have a clue what it was about. Not that that matters in this case because The Cruel Sea is deliriously enjoyable, pretty immersive (even for someone like me, who doesn't naturally take to comics) and has some great visuals. The end to Part Two in particular has stayed with me over the last decade, so mad a concept, so brilliant a realisation. Overall, a treat. 

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