Review: Ocean City

Review by Seán Donnelly

Created by Colm Griffin
Lettering by Alice Coleman

In a break from our usual webcomics review is a review of a proper, honest-to-goodness-it’s-in-your-hands book (made of actual paper and everything!) The lovely people at Rogue Comics have supplied us with a copy of their upcoming work Ocean City. Spearheaded by writer and artist Colm Griffin, this neon noir takes place in the titular Ocean City, a once-thriving city now split in two by the presence of a great wall; the skyline is inhabited by the privileged while the slums (or ‘Hollows’ as they’re known) are filled with those less fortunate. Now the population are “tearing [themselves] apart” in the words of the protagonist’s mother. Said protagonist, Dillon King, is a disillusioned teen who lives in hope of escaping the city with his Mama.

Adding to this mix of science-fiction dystopia and coming-of-age narrative is an interesting take on the superheroes (or ‘Specials’, as they are known here). These gifted people were wiped out in the so-called O-Line Disaster, an event shrouded in a mystery that will likely be explored in future comics. Much of Ocean City’s introduction is taken up by its backstory, but it does a confident job of tantalizing its audience and leading them on until its ending. The fact that I wanted to know more of what happens in the story is evidence of this. While exposition is ordinarily tiresome, this comic manages to endear itself to its audience quickly through its natural framing and use of visuals.

Speaking of visuals, this comic’s art is especially strong. The shining city with a grimy underbelly setting is established firmly in the comic’s opening panels, with detailed and deft use of lighting that strikes the balance between captivating and sinister perfectly. There is neon hue to much of the action in the issue that helps to bolster this ambience, with panels taking on different colours to indicate mood like a flashing billboard. Adding to this comic’s appeal is its sensible panel layout and construction, which keeps the action going at a speedy pace. Every panel serves its own purpose and is fortunate enough to have a lot of thought devoted to each, which prevents the comic from falling into padding or the downsides of decompression.

Ocean City is a promising title that is well worth your time. The book’s launch will take place in the Forbidden Planet store at Crampton Quay in Temple Bar, Dublin on Wednesday the 7th of March. Said event is a joint one, as fellow artist Simone D’Armani launches The Spider King (published by IDW), so it’s a date to mark in your diaries. You know, if people still have diaries.