Review: Marineman #3

Published on February 21st, 2011

Now, while the official name of this book is Ian Churchill’s Marineman, I’m just going to refer to it as Marineman to save on word-economy. Some ofour other Comic Impact writers have teased me in the past about reading “off the map” books, but it’s fun to do every now and then. I saw Churchill’s name on the book a few months ago when issue #1 was released, and I remembered he’d done a good stint for pencils on Hulk a little over a year ago when Jeph Loeb was writing. So I figured, “I’ll give it a shot. Image Comics puts out good stuff.” Boy, I was right.

This series follows Steve ‘Marineman’ Ocean, a marine biologist who studies and teaches at the Ocean Point Aquarium and Ocean Point Institute for Marine Research. Yeah, I know, that was a mouthful. At the institute, Steve works with his best friend Jake Clearwater and Tina. Ocean Point is also the site of a large, somewhat-secret, underground Navy base. Who is in charge of research for Marine Base Alpha, as it is known? None other than Steve’s dad, Professor David Ocean who was once a Commander in the U.S. Navy. Prof. Ocean is starting a research team lead by newly arrived Lieutenant Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Greene to work on something called “The Project”.

In addition in working with ocean life, Steve also has his own TV show called OceanEncounters. Think of something you might see on the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet, and you get the basic idea. It’s on his last exploit in Gansbaai, South Africa while shooting a TV special called Sharkwatch Live! that Steve’s secret about being something more than human comes out. Jake, Steve’s BFF and underwater cameraman, is trapped in a shark cage that’s been badly damaged and disconnected from the boat on the surface. Steve thinks the fastest way to get to Jake is to dive in and save him himself. After getting to the cage and getting Jake out Steve literally fights off a great white shark with his fists. Steve and Jake finally come back to the surface with everyone just staring at Steve. Why? Oh, yeah. They’d been underwater for about an hour and Steve went in after Jake without any gear. No scuba gear or anything; just a wetsuit.

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Issue #3 begins with Marineman, as people are now referring to Steve with more regularity, giving a live interview on a TV news magazine show. This is basically his origin story. Turns out, an approximately 8 year-old Steve simply walked out of the ocean naked one day while his parents were enjoying a day on the beach. Not only was he naked, but the young man had webbed fingers! Being so close to the Naval base, David and his wife Elena (a marine archaeologist), took the boy there where a doctor diagnosed him with total amnesia. Soon after, David and Elena were able to adopt the boy and raised him as their own. David took Steve to the Navy base where he met Captain Samuel Brookes (who, in present time is an admiral and still working with Prof. Ocean). Captain Brookes ran some non-invasive tests which showed that not only did Steve have webbed hands, but that he could also breathe underwater, swim at great speeds, use echo location, and withstand intense, underwater pressure. During the TV interview, Steve recounts the events that lead to his mother’s death. One day, Elena and young Steve went diving to do some of the mother’s research (her goal was to prove that the city of Atlantis in fact did exist at one point). While going into a small, cave there is a sudden collapse which to this day Steve still cannot explain or fathom (no pun intended) due to his numerous abilities. Steve is unable to reach Elena, and she soon suffocates. Steve then does a quick demonstration showing how his webbed fingers work, and the interview comes to an end. Upon leaving the interview, Steve is swarmed outside by fans, fanatics, and other reporters. He just wants to be alone and dives over a railing and into the water. After some time alone, he reaches a photo of his mother sitting on a broken pillar outside the lost city of Atlantis.

While all this is going on there are two sub-stories. One involves some unknown man who’s been taking an interest on what he’s seen on TV regarding Steve; this mysterious man seems very sinister, and his assistant doesn’t even seem to know all the details. The second sub-plot has to do with Prof. Ocean, Admiral Brookes, and Lt. Greene working on “The Project” using a new, advanced, research submarine which Prof. Ocean is calling ‘Nemo’.

Being only the third issue I can definitely see the different plotlines coming together soon. I love this book so much. Churchill has made a superhero book without a superhero; if that makes sense. He’s made this whole book blow up with excitement without all that doom-and-gloom we find in so many books today. There’s an childhood innocence I get when reading Marineman without it feeling like a comic written for kids. The script, art, and colors (all done by Churchill; with additional inks) are just fun.

To close out each issue there is a PSA of sorts with called The Oceanauts which does an interview with a different marine scientist. After that there’s a page where Churchill has fan letters and pictures with his response thanking them for reading his book. All of these little additions, whether you really care about them or not, go back to the way comics appealed to the kid and search for fun and knowledge we all enjoy.

Sam Taylor
Sam@ComicImpact.com