STORY: B. Alex Thompson – @ApproBAT
ART: Kevin Richardson
EDITOR: Denise Thompson
MISC. ART: Kevin Richardson
COVER/BACK COVER: Cesar Grego and Alivon Ortiz
32pp, Color, $4.99 U.S. (2019)
Rated: “M” for Mature
“The Milkmaids and the Mermaid”
Surfacing is a comic book franchise created by B. Alex Thompson and published by Approbation Comics. The four-issue miniseries, Surfacing: Depth Perceptions, focuses on a series encounters, sometimes violent, between humans and mermaid-like creatures. The eponymous Surfacing is an anthology series in which each issue offers a story in which a mermaid finds herself trapped in the world of humans. Besides Thompson, artist Kevin Richardson; colorist Santtos; colorist Krugos, and cover artists Cesar Grego and Alivon Ortiz currently comprise Surfacing's creative team.
Surfacing #4 (“The Milkmaids and the Mermaid”) opens in the 1400s in Holland (then, a western province of The Netherlands). In the town of Edam, in West Friesland (a region in North Holland) resides the Ruis family: Papa, Mama, and sisters, Berna and Gisla. A recent heavy storm raised the waters of the North Sea and destroyed the dykes, flooding the nearby lands.
Berna and Gisla (the “milkmaids” of the story's title) are in a small canoe rescuing the family's dairy cows when they spot a human hand sticking out of the water. Upon investigation, the girls find and rescue a mermaid, and bring her back to their farm.
Papa Ruis, despite objections from Mama Ruis, tends to the mermaid's injuries. Eventually, they take the mermaid into the family – like an indentured servant and prisoner – and name her “Elin.” After several years, Elin becomes a local curiosity, “Elin the Zeewijf.” But what is “Elin's” real story? Where does she come from, and how does she view her stay in the human world? Is this a heaven or a hell, and what does her future hold?
THE LOWDOWN: As much as I enjoyed the miniseries, Surfacing: Depth Perceptions, I did not know what to expect of the Surfacing anthology, which was apparently intended to be a three-issue miniseries. However, I can always rely on writer B. Alex Thompson's imagination.
Initially, Thompson presented Surfacing in a way that reminded me of dark fantasy, anthology television series like the classic “The Twilight Zone” (1959 to 1964) and the 1980s “Tales from the Darkside.” The third issue of the series even offered a tale set in the “old West, “A Promise of Home,” that reminded me of American “Western” films.
“The Milkmaids and the Mermaid” reveals a different side of Thompson. His best known work includes horror, comedy, relationship drama, horror-comedy, and contemporary drama. However, Thompson sometimes reveals a side of his writing the skews toward fantasy and fairy tales. That is what “The Milkmaids and the Mermaid” is, a fairy tail, albeit a melancholy one. This story is not so much about plot, character, or setting as it is simply a story. It is the kind of tale of the supernatural that pops up from time to time in one book of fairy tails or another. Once it comes into existence, it never dies. It just waits to be rediscovered or told again. [There is a Dutch folktale, “Meermin van Edam,” of which there are a number of variations, that may have inspired “The Milkmaids and the Mermaid.”]
Artist Kevin Richardson presents an imaginative take on the deep waters world of the mermaids. However, Richardson also conveys the banal evil of slavery and the dishonesty of those who insist that they can do anything in the name of bringing god to the savages and heathens. The coloring by Santtos eschews pretty hues less this fairy tale becomes a lie, and Krugos makes the art feel like a narrative told on tapestry.
I am glad that there is a Surfacing #4, and “The Milkmaids and the Mermaid” is the kind of surprising and wonderful story that justifies more Surfacing. So I hope more issues of this series … surface.
I READS YOU RECOMMENDS: Fans of fantasy comic books published by DC Comics' late imprint, Vertigo, will want to read Surfacing.
10 out of 10
Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"
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