OCEAN by Warren Ellis


Ocean was a 6-issue comic-book miniseries released in 2003-2004, written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Chris Sprouse, with inks by Karl Story. I recall picking this up back then, because the premise was intriguing, plus I liked the idea of a science fiction story with a Black lead character, something which is all too rare in science fiction. I never finished it, I gave up after the 2nd or 3rd issue because I thought it was moving too slow. This week I just bought a cheap paperback collection of it on Amazon, and have now finally read the whole thing. And, boy, am I glad that I gave this a 2nd shot!

It had been so long since I’d read the early issue, that I’d pretty much forgotten everything, so it was all new again when I started reading. The story is set in the future (no dates are specified, other than “100 years from now”, but it’s far enough that several people are fascinated when they see an actual physical book) where humanity has stretched out into the solar system, with colonies on our Moon, as well as Mars, and all the way out to Jupiter. The lead character is Nathan Kane, a UN Weapons inspector, who is sent on a secret mission to a UN Space station on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

In one of the shuttles on the way there, Kane is ambushed and nearly killed by a group of men wielding small energy daggers (think lightsabers, but the size of switchblades), but he survives. When he arrives on Europa, he meets the Space Station commander, a woman named Fadia Aziz, who informs him of why he’s there. Underneath the frozen ice of Europa is a large ocean, and in it, they have detected several thousand “coffins” containing aliens in suspended animation, who have been there for around one billion years. And now, according to Fadia’s calculations, they will be waking up in a few days. Research says that these aliens were extremely violent, a study of their language reveals that they have over 100 different words for “murder” (like Eskimos have over 60 words for “snow”), and the ocean also contains extremely powerful weapons which, if activated, could possibly destroy all life on Earth. Kane is there to determine the best course of action, but there is also a nearby space station run by a big evil software conglomerate (they’re always evil, aren’t they?) called DOORS (not Windows) who want to try to get control of the weapons and technology and are willing to kill to get it.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I’ll just say that it’s an interesting story full of Ellis’ trademark of clever high concept futuristic ideas, and witty dialog, with an ethnically diverse cast. I enjoyed it immensely, although I can also see why it didn’t work for me when it was originally published in single issues. The first few chapters don’t really break up in a way that would hook the reader on a month to month basis. It seems as if it was written as one complete story, and then just broken down into chapters every 22 pages to fit the serial format. But as one collected edition it reads just fine.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t praise Sprouse’s artwork. I’ve been a fan of his for years, I think he’s highly underrated as a comic-book artist.

I’ve heard over the years that there is a movie version in development, and now that I’ve read it I definitely hope it gets made. I can see someone like Anthony Mackie in the lead, as Nathan Kane. Hollywood, get on it!


OCEAN can be bought on Amazon.

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