"Treadwater: Volume 2" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by DarkRose Studios
Written by Morgan Rosenblum, Nat Prinzi, and Don Macnab-Stark
Illustrated by Mingchen Shen
In the not-too-distant future (which is looking closer and closer every day), the world is suffering from a global economic meltdown. Regimes rise and fall. Treadwater, a privately-funded special operative program, takes matters into its own hands to help protect the world using advanced technology and highly trained soldiers. There's a lot to clean up and the stakes are incredibly high.
Treadwater is a team book with six different members, plus ancillary characters. Each one gets a moment to shine in this volume as they become the focus of Lost-like flashbacks for a chapter, filling you in on some of their backstory and rounding them out as human beings. Each of these scenes are presented entirely on their own without any additional narration. This helps get the point across easier and with much more subtlety than your usual “My name is John Smith and this is how I became an anti-hero.” we get in most modern day comics.
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Although there is a ton of action and some really tense scenes, there is a surprising amount of character development, mostly attributable to those flashbacks. This was something I was critical of in the first volume, as most of the team were little more than stereotypes. This time around, they're more real and easier to connect with, which makes the action scenes all the more tense as you can relate to these people.
What you'll notice first and foremost in Treadwater is the artwork. Mingchen Shen's style is very cinematic with brilliantly framed panels that can equally capture action and drama. There are some deeply personal moments, especially those within the flashbacks, that carry so much emotion. This is juxtaposed with some all-out action in fight scenes involving giant robotic suits that carry an immense amount of excitement, although the robots seem to be no match for the Treadwater team.
Shen's designs for the characters and their tech is gorgeous. It's a very realistic approach. It's not surprising to hear that publisher DarkRose Studios is approaching Treadwater as a trans-media story with the comic appearing alongside an AR app, video game, and live-action mini-series. They can take this book and use it as a storyboard with ease.
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Since Treadwater is an independent organization, it's interesting to see how it deals with global threats. It has to make deals with countries or individuals to help keep the world safe. This second volume is a transition of sorts as the group finishes one mission in an effort to get information on how to handle their real target. That might sound boring, but I assure you, it's not. The book moves at a quick pace and doesn't stop to dabble in snore-inducing espionage.
Treadwater is a fast-moving sci-fi thriller with incredible artwork. There are a few small elements I'd love to see developed or expanded a bit more, however, as it stands, this is a solid read sure to please any fans of super heroes, science fiction, or just good old-fashioned badassery.