Sydney Bollinger says Dead Seas is a comic that brings a fresh take to common horror tropes.
Someone is always bringing new ideas and creativity to classic horror stories and tropes. Written by best-selling author Cavan Scott (Star Wars: The High Republic) with art by Nick Brokenshire (Star Wars Adventures), this new six-issue mini series from IDW Originals tells the story of a convict who finds himself on a ghost ship. Ghosts are real and dangerous — their ectoplasm is capable of curing countless diseases. There’s only one problem: harvesting the wonder drug can be just as deadly. Prisoner Gus Ortiz is willing to take the risk in return for a reduced sentence—anything to see his daughter again.
The first issue introduces Dead Seas major characters, how the “mechanics” of the ghosts function, and sets up the major conflicts and tensions in the series. The first issue opens with narration from Natty, a young girl who witnesses her parents arguing. Three years later, the issue changes perspective to Natty’s father, a convict named Gus, who is aboard a helicopter headed to the Perdition, a ship owned by Barrico Industries. The company hires prisoners to work on the ship with supernatural beings.
Scott and Brokenshire create lore for ghosts that provides a fresh look into past ghost-hunting stories. Here, the ectoplasm is a valuable resource collected by the hired prisoners. This setup also sheds light on the inhumane treatment and forced labor of prisoners, who often take on harrowing assignments because it means there is a chance for a lesser sentence. In doing this, Dead Seas sets up the ghosts as an allegory for “real world” issues, leaning on horror’s unparalleled power to be a mirror of the human experience.
The art style in Dead Seas only emphasizes the delicate balance of serious themes with the idea of an ectoplasm-extraction company. Brokenshire leans into the gritty, utilizing bright colors to bring attention to certain characters or events. One character, in particular, the daughter of the owner of Barrico Industries, always stands out. Her presence is known so intimately during the reading experience she acts as a beacon — unlike the rest of the characters and scenes, she stands out as being visually bright, which points towards her innocence as she learns what happens in her father’s company.
As a first issue, Scott and Brokenshire are working to set up each of the characters and their relationships with one another. The only downside is that the issue is short (coming in at a little over 20 pages), so it’s hard to really dig into and get to know each of the characters and understand how they are and will be connected. In particular, the issue starts with Natty, three years prior to the events of the story, but after her short bit, we jump to the perspective of a different character — her father. The result feels a bit disjointed and leaves the reader wanting more, especially wanting to know what happened to Natty and why the perspective shifted so suddenly. In future issues, hopefully, the story jumps back to Natty and we can get her perspective, especially as she was also set up with what seems will be a useful connection to the supernatural.
For readers interested in the horror elements — and being scared — issue one does not deliver heart-racing frights, but it does set the stage for more to happen regarding ghosts and ectoplasms. The issue ends on a cliffhanger sure to bring more drama and intrigue to the story, which could definitely heighten the scares. Despite this, Scott and Brokenshire’s use of horror as allegory is reminiscent of iconic director Mike Flanagan, who uses the elements of horror to tell stories of familial heartbreak and what it means to die.
The first issue was a fantastic start to the Dead Seas mini-series and is perfect for readers interested in how Scott and Brokenshire have developed this world of ectoplasm resource extraction that mirrors our own. The first issue was short and sweet, making it a nice quick read that highlights the depth of horror as a genre.
Dead Seas is releasing on December 21, 2023.