In a comic book world of over-hyped relaunches, reboots, and non-reboot reboots, it’s refreshing to see a book like Doctor Atlantis—a steam-powered swashbuckling adventure tale from Rare Earth Comics, an up-and-coming publisher from Connecticut–rise above the madness by living under the radar. But it won’t be living there much longer, especially if the creators, Ian Ally-Seals and Carl Mefferd, maintain the high standard they’ve set with this fanciful throwback that’s not entirely unlike a popular Disney franchise or a Spielbergian spectacle.
Vol. 2 of this action-packed high-seas romp–the further exploits of Dr. Julius Fowler and Chosot (think Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Friday if you haven’t already)–is loaded to the gills with the same twists and tacks that made Vol. 1 such a pleasure to read. The tide is high from the get-go, with wave after relentless wave of monsters: those from the depths of the ocean and those who ride upon it in cannon-laden crafts ironically emblazoned with the Crown of Civilization. Fowler and friends–including the loyal Edward, a salty dog, indeed, who’ll chew his way into your heart–fight off the fiends and break out a bit o’ the old Bond–James Bond–in order to do so. But even before the good ship Atlantis converts–“wrrrrr,” “crank,” “clang”–into a submarine and dives in a dazzling defensive maneuver, the creators dive into the doctor’s backstory, driving home with the subtlety of a cyclone the brutality of the British Empire as it necessarily expanded its reach in order to score precious resources enough to keep calm and carry on–even as Fowler himself has sailed as far from home as humanly possible.
The splashes are humbly epic, the tempered tone just an illusion perpetuated by Mefferd’s black and white art, which doesn’t need the rainbow to render effervescently Fowler’s colorful personality. The doctor’s over-the-top delivery, which I enjoyed reading out loud to my wife, adds a remarkable element to the character, one that will keep him in mind until the next eagerly anticipated volume.
Ally-Seals–also the editor-in-chief of Rare Earth Comics–has a uncanny knack for lulling his reader into the comfort of a cliche and then disrupting that complacency with something wholly unexpected. And the surprises are real “Whoa!” moments–more, they’re whoaments!–well worth the price of admission.
You may be wondering: does one need to read Vol. 1 to enjoy Vol. 2? No. But I’d recommend it–especially considering how the former finishes off. Either way, do yourself a favor and check out Doctor Atlantis. Fowler, Chosot and their creators “have a world to explore” and you do not want to be left behind.