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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 186

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at the nifty Warren Ellis and Chris Sprouse mini-series, Ocean!


Warren Ellis is a master at the slow burn – slowly reveal details of the story (with some action mixed in here and there, of course) while also delivering details about the characters involved until the point where the action REALLY picks up – and by this time, you have a fully realized story AND characters that you feel like you know.

That is certainly the case with Ocean, the graphic novel turned mini-series that Ellis did with the great Chris Sprouse (since it was originally intended as a graphic novel, the issue breaks are often somewhat abrupt, but read as one story it is totally fine).

The story follows a UN weapons inspector in the future named Benjamin Sisko…sorry, Nathan Kane, as he is caught up in a dicey situation on a mining/scientific exploration satellite orbiting the Jupiter moon, Europa.

We first meet Kane when he is traveling into outer space from New York City on a space ferry. He waxes nostalgic about the original days of the space program…

This is not just character-building here, as well, as readers of the series might recall.

Once on the first space station, Kane discovers that things are not as simple as they might seem, as he is attacked by a group of killers out for his head. He takes care of them easily enough…

Once on Europa, he discovers the first part of the big “to do” – beneath the icy exterior of Europa lies an ocean, and in that ocean lies thousands and thousands of sarcophagi, containing….

Ellis quickly gets us acquainted with the crew on the station…

Very nice banter, eh?

To this point, we also have to give major props to Chris Sprouse – he’s a marvel when it comes to facial expressions, but he also handles the technology aspect of the comic quite nicely.

Finally, upon a mission to the ocean beneath, Kane learns the OTHER part of what they discovered, and the reason that he is there…

That, in a nutshell, is what the comic is about – ancient lifeforms (who we later discover have a connection to the beginning of the human race) are in hibernation along with their world-shattering weaponry, and some greedy corporation has decided to jump start the countdown clock to extinction.

There are still four issues of this coolness, but I’ll leave that all for you to see when you purchase the trade collection of Ocean!


This book was fine, but I found it to be one of Ellis’s weaker works.

I was disappointed that someone like Ellis who usually nails the scientific elements of his science fiction, relied so heavily on the easily discredited extra-terrestrial origin of humanity trope or a clumsy invocation of linguistics (especially after I realized that I could think up dozens of synonyms for “murder” without consulting a reference work .) Orbiter which you featured a few days ago is a much better example of Ellis’ work in the “hard-SF” genre.

That said, the characterization and dialogue are excellent.

Lord Paradise

July 6, 2010 at 5:47 am

Yeah, I liked Ocean but I absolutely adored Orbiter.

Tom Fitzpatrick

July 6, 2010 at 7:17 am

I second Lord Paradise’s statement.

But both Ocean and Orbiter would make great movie(s) though.

Great book. This was the first time I had seen Sprouse’s work.

Sprouse is just amazing. There are a few artists who are better with character. There are also a few artists that are better with dazzling technology. However, he is the only person on both those lists.

Warren Ellis is, of course, Warren Ellis. They are a great pairing. I will have to pick this up.

“Fascinates my ass.”: I take it that this is Warren Ellis’s take on how a well educated African American man speaks. Well, at least he didn’t have him say “Fascinates my Black ass.” I’m guessing that Ellis uses the same dialect coach that Kirk Lazarus used in TROPIC THUNDER.

For whatever it’s worth, my reactions are pretty much the opposite of the above commenters. Ocean is one of my favorite works by Ellis, and I definitely prefer it to Orbiter by a wide margin. Not meaning to disparage anyone else’s opinion for feeling the opposite; I’m merely providing the datum that some readers — well, at least one — feels this way.

While I love both Orbiter and Ocean, Orbiter left me wishing there were more to it. It stopped just when I was getting interested. Ocean gave me a more complete sense of story.


July 10, 2010 at 9:44 am

@syon: Ellis has Spider Jerusalem use the exact same phrase in Transmetropolitan and he’s white. It’s obviously just a phrase he likes. I’ve been re-reading Transmet recently and that’s why it’s fresh in my head. I think it’s somewhere in the Gouge Away arc but I’m not sure.

I agree with JayPhonomancer: I certainly have noticed that there are certain phrases Ellis comes up with and he enjoys so much that he repeats them in mouths of different characters in different series– and these tend to be the slightly vulgar turns of phrase. There are some colorful expressions from Transmet that have turned up again in FreakAngels, for instance.

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