Writers Clay and Susan Griffith bring us Arcana Comics’ modern-day sequel to Ray Harryhausen’s B-movie classic It Came From Beneath the Sea. It’s chock full of mutant monster action and tongue-in-cheek humor. Let’s dive in!
In the South Pacific, a giant octopus attacks the U.S.S. Carlson and kills five crew members. Captain Pike Shepard loses command of his ship when no other officers corroborate his story. Two years later, he wilts away on the island of Taru Taru by sailing a charter boat on the days he isn’t downing liquor, probably in the same island bar where Daniel Craig must have washed ashore in Skyfall.
On the anniversary of the attack, young ichthyologist Faust Spunkmeyer needs a boat to study cephalopods such as octopus and squid. Just like Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw from Jaws, the grizzled sailor and the wealthy student set sail and discover the den of . . . It! . . . Beneath the sea! . . . Again! Now, Shepard is a man on a mission: kill that calamari dead! However, as it rises and attacks innocent civilians, the US Navy responds by sending Shepard’s old vessel and crew, now captained by beautiful Gayle McClure. Shepard must join forces with the very people who betrayed him if he is going to save the south seas.
Spunkmeyer uses his fishy know-how to outwit the intelligent creature. It’s hellbent on mutating itself to the top of the food chain by absorbing deep sea radiation. So, they take the Carlson right into the waiting tentacles of death and blow the ship to smithereens, taking the octopus with it. No pods left on that cephalo. Then, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, guess whose shore-shoaling, little, eight-legged babies attack Taru Taru? Octobabies! Events take a Godzilla-sized turn!
The octobabies spread over the globe while Shepard, Spunkmeyer, and McClure drain their resources to battle them. The final showdown happens in Manhattan, though the octobabies probably had to schedule their invasion between the Chitauri and Cloverfield monster to get any damage done. Spunkmeyer discovers their one true weakness: copper! Shepard discovers his one true love: the flamethrower! Wait, I meant the beautiful McClure! When Shepard regains control of his ship, he blasts copper sulfate down their poisonous pie holes. Then, it’s back to Taru Taru for more tequila. The End.
The story is well-paced. The Griffiths waste no time getting to the action, unlike most monster movies in which scientists spend the first third of the story in a lab discussing the possibility of a nuclear mutation. I want to see the results of a nuclear mutation.
There is definitely inspiration drawn from some of the above-mentioned movies, but it’s important to compare it to another monster movie reboot, and that is 1999’s The Mummy. First, our three main characters are the same. One is a grizzled vet who already encountered the monster (Shepard = Brendan Fraser), the second is a scientist who is an expert in the lab but a greenhorn in the field (Spunkmeyer = Rachel Weisz), and the third a newbie who continually gets in way over her head (McClure = funny British actor guy). Second, the humor is the same. Tentacles squash, bullets fly, and bombs explode, but Shepard and the others keep it light. They tease. They joke. They keep tabs over whom has saved whose life. “Certain death aside, you gotta admit this is pretty cool,” Shepard roars with guns blazing at the final standoff. “Anybody got a camera?”
My favorite art is in the first two chapters. Chris Noeth’s art is highly illustrated, bright, and bold. A stand out panel is the full page where “It” attacks a cruise liner. This huge articulate octopus crushes the ship . The lines suggest the fluid stop-motion animation of Harryhausen perfectly. Those tiny, little stick figures? Human beings jumping overboard. It’s a panel that overwhelms you with the full gravity of the threat.
Noeth’s action is easier than Todd Tennant’s heavy-textured, almost photo-realistic panels in chapters three and four. Remember those video game cut screens that used text and paint cells to advance the story? Of course you do. That’s Tennant’s art. It doesn’t work as well for me. The characters could very well be cut and pasted on top of tentacles and explosions. I understand the action in one panel only when the characters explain what happened in the very next panel.
I like the ending, but I have one caveat. When you have monsters attacking New York, and you discover that their one weakness is copper, where do you, the writer, supply the heroes with 2500 metric tons of copper to destroy them? Take a moment. Standing in the harbor, green and tall . . . The Statue of Liberty, right? I know it’s only 27.22 metric tons, but I thought for sure the heroes would electrify the statue and topple it into the harbor. That’s scientific, isn’t it? The artist even takes the time to draw the Statue of Liberty in a panel as the characters bait the octobabies toward the copper sulfate trap. I thought, “Something will go wrong with the trap, and the Statue of Liberty will prove a successful contingency plan.” Not this time. Oh well.
If you like rip-roaring monster spectacles, then you might dig It Came From Beneath the Sea . . . Again!