Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Captain Nauticus and the Ocean Force #1

Captain Nauticus and the Ocean Force #1, May 1994, The National Maritime Center Authority
contributors unknown

And now a public service announcement from the National Maritime Center.

When I saw Captain Nauticus #1, I had to have it. I've developed a fascination with corporate-sponsored comics, ever since I reviewed The Tandy Computer Whiz Kids and The Scrapyard Detectives back in August. Similarly, this month's Marvel/American Cancer Society comic book was a nonprofit blast from the past; however, my experience with issues like these precedes the A Comic A Day challenge. A few years ago, I received the first three issues of Chasm and the Eco Squad, a comic book published by the Grand Canyon Association. I lived in Arizona for ten years, but I've still never visited the Grand Canyon, so these crudely illustrated, ecologically minded issues were a vicarious visit, with a touch of superheroism with which ironically I'm all too familiar. Eco Squad was a fair balance of education and entertainment, just as The Scrapyard Detectives successfully shrouded a character-building message in a suburban jaunt akin to the classic Encyclopedia Brown series. So, the question is, does Captain Nauticus and his Ocean Force hold any water?

Captain Nauticus and the Ocean Force #1 is Star Trek meets Aquaman, as the survivors of an apparently ravaged underwater world pursue their enemy through the depths of space, navigating the final frontier in ships that blatantly resemble Starfleet issue. In a twist right out of Voyager, the enemy, a Black Manta wanna-be called Fathom, tries to escape through a black hole, but the Ocean Force follows, and both ships end up in orbit of a mysterious planet called Earth. (A planet, according to the OF's science officer, that is populated by "hoomens." Almost clever, if the mistranslation wasn't by nature merely a written one.) Fathom finds asylum in Earth's seas and tries to conquer them as he did on their native planet, and when the Ocean Force finds an old ship and subsequently a young survivor, the kid's technology empowers Fathom toward a "to be continued" scenario. Indeed, just when the good guys were about to achieve victory, the tides were turned.

While one might assume that this issue would promote a pro-ocean sanitation message, the only real connection Captain Nauticus shares with Earth is his ancestors' potential occupation of Atlantis, a mystery vaguely established for future issues, I assume. The real danger in this issue is one man, Fathom, and his steadfast evil toward water. Did Fathom have a traumatic aquatic experience as a boy? Some "drinking out of the hose" incident gone wrong? Interestingly, the creators of this issue successfully established a parallel between the depths of our oceans and the vastness of space -- the introductory and climatic scenes, which took place in these settings respectively, were similar in their adventurous scope. Apparently, a pseudo Enterprise has just as much maneuverability as a dolphin . . . oh, I didn't mention that the Ocean Force can turn into different sea creatures? Yes, this issue was a whale of a good time.

A word search and some information about the abyssal red zone trap fish conclude this issue, which doesn't ooze with the "for your own good" tone that fueled the Eco Squad yet offers a sense of validity in contrast to an otherwise story of pure fantasy, a relevancy that betrays shades of The Scrapyard Detectives. They're light shades, but shades, nevertheless. Honestly, this interstellar trek could have been told in a shorter format, squeezing in more content, with an art style that wasn't so obvious in its desperation to look cool, but . . . Captain Nauticus can rest assured that his mission was accomplished. He'll get around to defeating Fathom next issue, but in the meantime, Earth's children know a little bit more about their world's undersea kingdom. That was the point, I presume? Corporations like the National Maritime Center use comic books to broach youth in a way they undoubtedly couldn't without the medium, plain and simple. While these efforts usually aren't the best examples of what comics have to offer, they are perfect examples of exactly what they can do.

1 comment:

Don said...

Hi again...just fyi, but Entity Comics published this "Captain Nauticus" comic and it was written by the Entity Staff (Don Chin, Bill Maus and Group 3 Communications, A Norfolk, VA based PR firm) and drawn by Bill Maus.

Glad you liked it...but your review could have used more ocean puns to really "seal the deal". Groan.

Don Chin
Former Publisher, Entity Comics