Ishmael, appearing out of no where, seems all-knowing. The splash page explanation of the beast is a beautiful juxtaposition of the terrifying monster emerging from the depths of the ocean while a bright young adult shares the creature’s mythological history. I also appreciate the blended approach that becomes visible later in the issue, where Pirates of the Caribbean meets the modern day. This makes for a really unique approach to adapting a work of 19th-century Romantic literature.
Bilicic’s art in this series is so sleek and dark. It evokes this feeling of dreariness that makes the land and sea feel haunted. Bilicic beautifully taps into the elements of a Gothic romance novel, such as mystery, the unknown, and the wildness of nature. Man and beast are on a crash course, and we can’t help but be sucked in, desperately wondering what the beast will do next and who is going to stop it. Bilicic’s use of light and dark also makes the series feel a bit noir. The balance of Gothic and noir is truly brilliant and unsettling at the same time—exactly how we want to feel when reading or viewing a supernatural mystery.
I did notice one stylistic difference from Melville’s original tale—and, in my opinion, Schorr’s approach makes for a more enjoyable read. Melville’s Moby Dick contains so many details about whaling that it sometimes feels like an instruction manual for the whaling industry. And I do appreciate the novel as a classic, but it’s also long, and the painstaking details seem a bit like tangents when I’m eager to get back into the story. Schorr has chosen a different method of storytelling. He realizes the value of keeping the reader hooked on every moment, eager to be part of the action. He also capitalizes on the shock factor. As I read, I’m enjoying the story, and then I get hit with a “wow” moment. Back from the Deep still feels as Gothic, mysterious, and terrifying as Melville’s great work, but it achieves this in an easily digestible version.
This series would be a great companion to an English classroom studying the original novel. I especially think there is a place for discussion on Katherine’s role and the ways in which a young woman factors into a Gothic tale. The creative team continues to raise the bar in Chapter 2, bringing in new, unexpected elements and leaving us with plenty of unanswered questions…for now.
Creative Team: Matt Schorr (creator and writer) and Joe Bilicic (artist)
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