Ocean City is the latest release from Dublin-based, Rogue Comics. This book represents a number of firsts for the young indie publisher. It marks their first ongoing series as well as the first book to come from outside their founding members. More importantly though, it is the first book to come from writer-artist, Colm Griffin. So how does it stack up?
Reading the open pages of Ocean City felt like being thrown back in time. The establishing paragraph invokes the opening screens of Streets of Rage or Blade Runner introducing you to a world dripping with history. The majority of this debut issue’s time is spent establishing the titular Ocean City as a character in and of itself. The cover, a stunning tribute to Citizen Kane, tells the story almost by itself. There is no doubt that this was once a wonderful place to live. A place that people would flock to, where dreamers dreamed and all was as it should be. Yet, as we are introduced to it, it’s clear that romantic Ocean City is dead and gone. It’s a world filled with fallen heroes, mysteries, and a sense that its best days are behind it. There is often the fear that issues like this fall into the exposition trap, but Griffin skillfully avoids this by channeling the voice of city through Mama, our narrator and a relic of what was once Ocean City. You are left with as much questions as you are answers. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Griffin was an old hand at this. To learn that this is his first comic only makes it more impressive.
Within the broken promises of Ocean City lies the dilemma of our central character, Dillon King (DK). Living in the slums known as “the Hollows” with his guardian, DK sees Ocean City for the prison it has become. Escape is his only solution. Some might say this is all standard dystopian affair, but Ocean City is proof positive that new voices can make old ideas feel fresh. It’s all in the execution. If there is a criticism to be made, it is only that we learn very little about DK in this inaugural issue. There are, however, enough hints throughout the narrative to leave us confident that later issues will dwell more on his journey. In that sense it does what any good premiere should so: leave us longing for more.
The art in Ocean City is cocaine for the eyes. Each page shines with a vibrancy that betrays the dark reality they represent. This juxtaposition cements the neon-noir aesthetic that Griffin hangs his laurels on. There is a dynamism in his panel composition that propels the story at breakneck pace from the very first page. It makes for a quick read, but one you want to revisit again and again. By the same token, Alice Coleman’s letters lure us in with the promise of a familiar, cartoonish superhero story. They lull us into a false sense of security which makes the fall of Ocean City’s heroes hit all the more harder. From early in the story we know they are doomed to fail, but something about Coleman’s letters offers us hope, only to have it ripped from under us once more.
Ocean City is a series that holds a lot of potential. It is a credit to Griffin that each panel oozes with the love and affection that comes from having a single authorial voice at the helm. If this is proof of what’s to come, then we are in for a treat. So dive in and experience Ocean City for yourself.
Ocean City is available for purchase via https://www.roguecomicsireland.com/
A review copy was kindly provided by the author.