The cover alone to The Vessel of Horror invokes images of Lovecraftian horror. The new graphic novel from Markosia delves into those Lovecraft mythos headfirst but luckily doesn’t over do it. The story itself is based on the true story from 2007 where an American rig in the Mexican Gulf caught actual video of an unknown squid belonging to the Magnapinna family or giant squid. The squid they captured on video was estimated to be seven meters long. This is relevant because no one has ever captured one of these creatures on film much less capturing one alive, for the most part they’ve been a mythical sea creature-until now. Now there’s proof that they exist and that’s what this story picks up on, now that we know they exist how much longer until we actually have one in captivity, all in the name of science of course. I remember seeing the video, which I’m sure you can find on YouTube, and seeing it makes this story all the more compelling.
The book states: The oceans provide 99 percent of the Earths living space-the largest known space in our universe to harbour living organisms. Over 90 percent of the habitat exists in the deep sea known as the abyss. Less than 10 percent of this living space has been explored by humans.
The story begins on a research vessel in the Arctic Ocean that happens upon a giant squid. They capture the poor beasty but there’s something odd about our new ten-armed friend. When anyone is left alone with the squid the person begins to have trouble determining the line between what’s real and what’s not. Hallucinations and murder are quick to follow. The pacing and suspense remind me of John Carpenter’s The Thing. The reader is left wondering if what happened was real or some sick hallucination. Nietzsche said it best, “When you look into the abyss the abyss will look back at you .”
Another unique aspect of the book are it’s flashbacks. The story flashbacks to the 1300s where we witness the atrocities of the Black Plague through Dr. Vichow’s eyes as he tends to the sick in what he believes is the ultimate horror-he was wrong! With each flashback we get a little more backstory on our tentacled beast.The flashbacks are done very well in black and white and actually provide depth to the story. In other words the flashbacks aren’t just randomly thrown in just to do so.
Back at the vessel where a team of scientists led by Maria Boreas with Thomas and Captain Lars, along with a few disposable characters — every good horror story keeps a couple of these around. Once they capture the squid and get it onto the boat — which in case you’ve never seen a sci-fi/horror beasty flick, is never a good idea — but as usual doing things in the name of science just turns out bad. Lars feels the bad mojo the beast is giving off and wants to get to the safety of land as soon as possible. Unfortunately landfall doesn’t make anyone any safer. As more and more come in contact with the creature, whether by accident or sheer curiousity, they turn out-different. Thomas seems to be possessed and is helping people by way of killing them. The killings are real and not part of some manic delusions. Like I said, land does not decrease the danger these people have put themselves in.
The story does a great job of creating that claustrophobic sense of dread, whether on the ship or on land, you seem trapped. Great job on creator/writer Magnus Aspli’s part. The script is solid and like I said it paces itself nicely and the flashbacks allow the reader to get a feel for what this creature really is. Like most Lovecraft tales where you’re not quite sure if you’ve reached the destination or if reaching the destination was ever a possibility The Vessel of Terror does just that. I enjoyed the fact that Aspli decided not to tone down the book so that it would fit in the PG-13 catagory, which isn’t a bad thing it’s just when you do horror you should go big or go home. I feel the same about my horror films as well, why go PG-13 when what a true horror fan wants is an R-rated flick. This book is R-rated and that’s a good thing.
Breathing life (or taking it.) into the book are artist/letterer Dave Acosta and colourist Goran Kostadinoski. Some of the flashback scenes, even done in black and white, are gruesome and it works very well. I’d say The Black Plague never looked so good. These guys nailed it. Being a Lovercraftian myself I wanted to like this book purely on principle alone but it’s simply is a great story with great art and you should walk away from reading it the first time feeling disturbed.
Markosia says that The Vessel of Terror examines the lucid borders of both reality and sanity, where humans face the unknown and where no one can be prepared for what they find.
That pretty much sums it up. I don’t want to give too much away because you need to pick this book up. It can be purchased on Markosia’s website or at Amazon. Even if you’re not into the Lovecraft mythos it’s a solid horror story. Creepy and disturbing from start to finish. A good read so go out and get a copy. There you have it another great indie title that reminds me why I love indie titles. For all your indie news as well as news and reviews from all your favorite publishers, get Comic Booked!