You know how it’s much easier to talk about something you hated than something you really enjoyed? That’s why I have a lot to say about Pacific Rim, yet I’ve been trying to write this post about The Deep for a couple of months.
That’s fitting, though, because it took me a really long time to read it. I heard last year that an excellent Australian comic about a multi-racial family of aquanauts was being adapted into an animated TV series, and I thought, “Huh, I should read that.” And the first two volumes sat in my shopping cart for a really long time.
Finally I bit the bullet and bought them, but because I had procrastinated so long, I kind of … forgot that I had bought nearly $50 worth of comics? Which is fine, I do that a lot, and then I get parcels that I had completely forgotten about ordering! It’s just like Christmas, only I’m spending money on myself.
Only, this time the package never came. Several months passed until I went, “Hey, I should buy The Deep! Why didn’t I do that sooner?” A tickle in my memory prompted me to go through my emails and bank statements, where I discovered that I had bought it. And I would like to congratulate Gestalt Publishing for being incredibly on the ball when I asked about it on Twitter, sorting the problem out and sending my comics. No emails required, just Twitter. Problem solved in 140 characters.
And then I read it, and it was AMAZING, and made me very happy, and I’ve spent the last couple of months trying to figure out how to convey its brilliance. Without, you know, scanning the entire thing. Because that’s what I want to do: take my graphic novels out and push them in people’s faces, going, “See? SEE? MORE ENTERTAINMENT SHOULD BE LIKE THIS!”
The Nektons are explorers. Their terrain: the oceans. Father William, mother Kaiko, and their children, the brilliant Fontaine and the gifted and hyperactive Antaeus, explore the depths of the oceans, encountering unfamiliar sea creatures and oceanographic mysteries. Theirs is a scientific and ecological mission, set against the backdrop of William’s quest for … well, that would be a spoiler.
Okay, so it sounds a bit like seaQuest DSV crossed with Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it’s more like … no, that’s it exactly. Shut up, I loved seaQuest DSV. Well, I loved the first season. It was so great. When I was 13. Anyway…
I compare it with Avatar because Ant reminds me very strongly of Aang — he may be a genius, but he’s also very much a kid. Much to the dismay of Fontaine, who is the sensible, methodical member of the family.
Fontaine’s parents are also a source of much eyerolling, given that their mother likes to play shark, and their father just really loves old maps. This would make her completely unbearable, except that she actually has a sense of humour, and really loves her family and their mission.
The Deep is unpretentious but competent. It sets out to be a really good family comic, and that’s exactly what it is. It made me want to write and draw, and I have the dodgy sketchbook pages to prove it. (No, you can’t see them. It’s embarrassing.)
What makes it notable, obviously, is the diversity of the characters. We rarely get to see a black man being intellectual and eccentric, and western media rarely portrays Asian women as badass goofballs. Frankly, Kaiko is so great, it’s a mystery to me why there aren’t entire Tumblrs dedicated to her. (I searched the tags, and found The Deep has no presence on Tumblr whatsoever. Guys, this is exactly what you say you love. Get on it.)
FOR EXAMPLE, here is the result of an, uhhhhhh, encounter with a journalist determined to portray the Nektons as a menace to society:
Click on the image for the full-sized version.
I guess I don’t really advocate pushing journalists into the sea, even if they are hacks who demonise families and cause panics that result in shark-deaths. But Kaiko’s nonchalance, coupled with SUNGLASSES, coupled with her family surrounding her and being all, OUR WIFE/MOTHER IS GREAT, DEAL WITH IT, that’s pretty excellent.
For bonus stereotype-busting, the Nektons pick up an eccentric old white man with mysterious and possibly mystical knowledge that will aid them in their Spoilery Quest. And then, just when I was starting to find him slightly irritating, he departed at the end of volume 2.
But all the inclusivity and stereotype-defying in the world isn’t going to achieve anything unless it’s coupled with an entertaining story and good characters, and that’s why I think everyone should read the comics, and watch the TV series when it appears. I can’t maintain a one-woman fangirling forever, and all this hand-flapping is getting tiring.
You can read a sample of the first volume here, as well as ordering it in hardcopy, but it’s also available from ComiXology. Samples from the second volume are here. Now, I am off to re-read them, and to ponder what dark secrets lie in Jeffrey the Fish’s past.