"Submerged #3" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Vault Comics
Written by Vita Ayala
Illustrated by Lisa Sterle
Colored by Stelladia
Lettered by Rachel Deering
2018, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on October 17th, 2018
Ellie has journeyed into the bowels of the New York City subway system in search of her brother, Angel. This is the latest in a long list of times she's had to save or protect him from something or someone, often at her own personal expense. It doesn't help that a major storm is hitting Manhattan, causing the tunnels to flood with water. Ellie will have to find Angel soon if she hopes to get either of them out alive.
What sets Submerged apart from a generic action story is how Ellie is forced to confront all these past experiences along the way. It makes you question what's real as she heads further and further into the tunnels. She faces harsh memories of her past, particularly a number of times she stood up for Angel after he did something stupid. He never deserved that help, but she was always there for him growing up. She looked out for him and he never seemed to appreciate that.
This comes to a head as the water levels rise. There's a fantastic scene as Ellie is rushing from one subway car to another and the deep blue of the water starts to engulf the memories she sees floating in front of her. Colorist Stelladia fills this in beautifully, rising the tension subtly at first as our focus is on the argument from Ellie's past and not entirely on her current predicament. Suddenly you realize what's going on and the very real danger she's in.
There's definitely more going on this time that separates Angel's current screw up from those that came before it. Writer Vita Ayala gives us glimpses of this as we get towards the end of this issue. These revelations reframe what has come before, putting Ellie's relationship with her brother in a whole new light. They'll also make you want to re-read Submerged with a new set of eyes, looking for additional clues dropped early on.
Ellie shows some real vulnerability as she continues down her journey. Artist Lisa Sterle captures a perfect mix of terror and determination on her face. This creates a nice contrast between the Ellie in the present and the Ellie in the past as the memories pop up. With each one she faces, she gets a little stronger and rises above her actions. It's like she gets more sure of herself every time she pushes past one of these flashbacks.
Sterle incorporates some of the more abstract aspects of Submerged well. For example, that sequence with the flooding subway car ends at the car's entrance where the window turns into a large cellphone. This is a little trippy at first, but works to seamlessly transition into the next flashback. Letterer Rachel Deering differentiates the phone conversation with some blocky word balloons with lightning bolt-like tails.
Submerged #3 builds towards a startling cliffhanger that helps showcase just how deep Ellie's journey goes. We're forced to question the reality she's experiencing which makes for a compelling read. It's much more than just a harrowing journey through the subway, which can be treacherous on a normal day. The added stress of the water pressing in makes for a claustrophobic feeling, coupled with Ellie's reliving of her past makes for an all around top notch comic.