"The Atoll #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Vault Comics
Written by Tim Daniel
Illustrated by Ricardo Drumond
Colored by Joana Lafuente
2016, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on November 30th, 2016
With the recent release of The Shallows, I'm all for any and all shark stories. That's why The Atoll jumped out at me. Look at that cover by artist Ricardo Drumond. If that doesn't scream “Jaws” followed closely by “Stay the F out of the water!”, nothing does.
The Atoll picks up with Olympic athlete Story Helms finding herself on a strange steel platform in the ocean off the coast of Australia. She and her fiancée, billionaire software developer Chase Merrick, were pronounced lost at sea after pieces of their boat were found by a fisherman. The truth is something far more terrifying. Story and Chase are in an oceanic arena of sorts, where people are forced to do battle, not with each other, but with sharks. It's like Mad Max Thunderdome, but in the water! And with sharks!
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This is a horrifying premise and it takes some time to build. The bulk of the issue shows the wonderful lives that Story and Chase had before they were swept up in this aquatic battle royale. The sun is shining. They're young and in love. They're on a boat. Everything is great. Drumond's artwork shines with real beauty. The sea life swims nearby like something out of a nature documentary as the sunbeams pierce through the surface ever so slightly.
Joana Lafuente's colors work hand-in-hand with Drumond's art. The first few pages are absolutely beaming. You almost have to squint while looking at the comic. Juxtapose that with the sunset of the closing scene within the arena (where the book gets its name), where things are much darker and grimmer, and a sense of foreboding descends upon the platform.
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If you weren't already afraid of sharks – first off, you're just a strange person, you should totally be afraid of sharks – you will be after seeing the fierce predator leap from the water. It is in 3.5 panels and it's easily the scariest thing pictured in the entire book.
Although The Atoll starts out in paradise, you know that things will go horribly wrong for the characters from the jump. The very first page has Story waking up bound and gagged with a sack over her head. When we see the two lovebirds going at it, tweets are shown over the images from people sharing their thoughts and prayers for Story and Chase, assuming they're dead in the water. Letterer Adam Wollet did a great job with these captions.
The Atoll presents real terror on the high seas. These are not pirates or sea monsters. These are regular people forcing captives to battle nature's greatest predator on its home turf. It's something that even Quint would have thought twice about. If this is how the book starts, I can't wait to see where it goes next.