"The Atoll #2" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Vault Comics
Written by Tim Daniel
Illustrated by Ricardo Drumond
Colored by Joana Lafuente
2016, 34 Pages, $3.50
Comic released on February 1st, 2016
If you're an Olympic athlete, your biggest fear is probably some form of career-ending injury. Odds are, being forced to fight for your life against a great white shark in a gladiatorial arena located in international waters is definitely not in the top five. That's where Story Helms finds herself, and things look like they're going to get a lot worse before they get better.
Central to The Atoll is the arena's pit-boss Viktor. He is a villain in the truest sense of the word. Viktor is cold, manipulative, and calculating. He reminds me a bit of The Governor from The Walking Dead in this regard. He is completely in control of everything and everyone around him and he relishes in it. We don't know why he's created this arena or why people listen to him in the first place. It's almost like this is all made for his own sick amusement.
|Click images to enlarge|
Viktor comes off as intimidating and dangerous in a book where there is a massive great white shark lurking just beneath the surface of the water, ready and able to eat anyone that crosses its path. That's how diabolical this guy is. Artist Ricardo Drumond portrays Viktor as almost emotionless. He has these cold, dead eyes that can pierce right through a person's insecurities. He exudes confidence in every situation, even when he's faced with confrontation.
Story really comes into her own with this issue. Whereas the first chapter shows her as a star athlete living a glamorous lifestyle, this one shows just how capable she is, especially when faced with a life-or-death challenge like this. She's smart and cunning, and she's certainly not going to walk freely into the gaping mouth of a shark for Viktor's entertainment. Much of this comes through in Drumond's design. You can almost tell Story is gritting her teeth together, like she's holding back from letting Vicktor know what's really on her mind. She never shows fear. Instead, she looks at her kidnapper head on and never blinks.
|Click images to enlarge|
But hey! There's a big shark in this book, right? The creators don't let you forget it. If I may throw in another Walking Dead comparison, the shark is like the zombies in that comic. It's always there and always a threat, even if the story is centering on the human characters. There's this large, teeth-filled sense of dread hanging around everyone, as if at a moment's notice any one of them could be gobbled up like Samuel L. Jackson in Deep Blue Sea. (Spoilers!) There's a nice re-introduction to the shark in the opening pages, showing just how monstrous it is, especially when compared to a normal-sized person.
The Atoll shows us that there's more to fear in open water than sharks. Sure, they're terrifying creatures that should be feared and respected, but at the end of the day, it's an animal trying to survive. Humanity is capable of far more heinous acts of cruelty. Somehow, the shark isn't the scariest thing in this book. It's the guy standing at the edge of the water, calling the shots.