By Oliver Gerlach
Rick Quinn and Dana Obera’s Saltwater is an interesting issue that deserves to be noticed. It’s the story of a city split in two, with a beautiful upper half and a rusting submarine half filled with slave labour keeping the rest of it running. If that’s at all interesting to you as a premise, you might want to check this one out. It’s a very slick, visually striking work from a creative team that could well go far together.
The first thing that catches the eye on this book is, unsurprisingly, the art. Of course, that’s just how comics work, but in this case, it’s something really special and striking. Dana Obera’s pages are all fully watercolour painted, and every single one is beautiful. There’s nothing else out there at the moment that looks quite like this, with bold, clean lines and gentle painted colours. Obera draws clear action and distinctive, well-designed characters, without ever compromising the light, almost weightless style of the art; there’s a sense of flow and movement to almost every panel, and the aquatic nature of the concept seeps into every aspect of the book. This is, of course, helped by just how skilled Obera is at drawing water. It’s beautifully detailed and coloured and looks unusually inviting.
Quinn letters Saltwater as well as writing it, and his work here fits with Obera’s painted art remarkably well. Sound effects are rare in this issue, but on the few occasions in which they appear, they blend into the art smoothly. Every aspect of the production and visuals in this book is beautiful; it’s a really striking and stylish piece.
The book’s worldbuilding is very neat; it has a premise and a place that are delivered very efficiently through narration boxes over the first few pages, and the art really sells the sense of place. It’s very simple, easy to pitch as a concept in only a few words, but the resulting world is clever and unusual, and I’d love to see more done with it. The city feels believable, with a core concept that makes sense and an aesthetic that really stands out; this doesn’t look like any other sci-fi city around at the moment.
The plot is solid, but could perhaps have benefited from a bit more space to breathe. It’s a very efficient, smoothly told story, and it works just fine in a single issue, but I’d very much like to see the same team expand it into a full-length graphic novel. There isn’t really all that much personality to the protagonist; the space just isn’t available for that, as most of the personality and character is placed on the world. Because of the detail and dedication to the worldbuilding that the creative team have lavished on the setting, the space left for other aspects is, sadly, limited. That’s not a massive problem; it’s a very nicely assembled book that manages to be effectively carried on its atmosphere and world, but I’d really like to see a second, expanded version.
Writer: Rick Quinn
Artist: Dana Obera
Publisher: Aurora Comics