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Ocean back

Warren Ellis & Chris Sprouse, Karl Story


Page 45 Review by Stephen

"Someone give me visual."
"Oh God. What's our speed?"
"Somewhere between too damn fast and we're-all-going-to-die."

"We lost radar, we lost mapping, we lost comms..."
"We don't need them. Back in the old days, they did re-entry with a computer dumber than my watch and a couple of parachutes."
"We don't have any parachutes."
"Shut up."

Since the final issue appeared, Warren's fixed the only qualm I expressed in my preview - of the clarity of the finale - with a couple of dozen new word balloons, to the extent that, rereading it now, you can't believe there ever was a problem. Anyway, you know we're short of time for this mailshot, and I thought the preview wasn't so bad, so here's bits of that back at you...

"Okay, what the hell is that ?"
"The technical term is: "beats the crap out of me"."
"So you find all this, put the call in to Earth, and..."
"... And they told us to sit still because they were sending us a United Nations weapons inspector."
"And here I am, inspecting."
"But I don't think we should have waited."

Space: who knows what you'll find out there? Corporations hope to find profits, the military hope to find weapons, but the most fervent explorer would like nothing more than to discover new forms of life from which to learn. Now, deep under the icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa, floating in the vast, aquamarine depths of its buried ocean, thousands of coffin-shaped, bronze caskets have been detected, their inhabitants asleep. So what have the space crew learned about this new race?

"This is too easy."
"You've been on this since last night. If it was easy, I would've been able to stop hearing your complaining by now. What's your problem?"
"Human language comes from twelve root sounds. Those sounds rely on both the structure of the larynx and atmospheric conditions."
"So the voice track Anna found has those root sounds. And the computer's matching them to elements of the language characters in the text."
"So you're complaining that it's easy. What do you want?"
"We're accessing the words of an impossibly ancient, essentially alien race. It should be harder than this."
"Come on, John. Same larynx, same lung structure. Ten fingers, naturally leading to a base ten mathematics. We're alike. It's weird, sure -- but this is all weird. What's bugging you?"
"You want to know what really bothers me? You can tell a lot about a culture from its language."
"Go on."
"I mean, if we were aliens looking at Inuit text here, we'd see that they've got fifty different words for snow. What do we get from that?"
"It snows a hell of a lot where they come from. I get that."
"Get this: so far I've logged a hundred and sixty-three different words for murder."

Warren's back where he likes it, 100 years into the future, far from planet Earth and using a wide screen to suggest the vast panorama. Sprouse's art also delivers. The opening double-page spread is particularly impressive, with the three inset panels cleverly placed (try adding a fourth in the bottom left-hand corner and you've lost the scale, move the three panels to the next page and you've lost the claustrophobic context from the positioning). Plus there's some clever, confrontational action sequences involving the deft application and withdrawal of gravity, and plenty of reasons to believe we won't all evolve into altruistic pacifists so long as there's money to be made or power to be wrested.
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