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'Universal Monsters: Creature From The Black Lagoon Lives!' #2 swims and sinks in glorious fashion

Comic Books

‘Universal Monsters: Creature From The Black Lagoon Lives!’ #2 swims and sinks in glorious fashion

Some truly interesting turns for our resident fish-man.

With its generally great debut issue, Universal Monsters: Creature From The Black Lagoon Lives! made me rethink any initial uncertainty per the Creature. The team (writers Dan Watters and Ram V alongside artist Matthew Roberts and colorist Dave Stewart) made some key decisions to connect this story (no matter how tangentially) to the film world while very much doing something interesting and novel all on their own.

And as we move into the second chapter of the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s latest adventure, we get more decisions that affirm that “split approach” for both better and worse.

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The worse is centered around an initial, slightly hokey intro, one that feels oddly like a rehashing of some extra cheesy ’70s remake of the original Creature From The Black Lagoon. I mention the weirdly awkward dialogue and overly cheesy vibes because it felt like a rather stark turn from what issue #1 had offered, and it made me think that 1) the team was ribbing us or 2) the book had fallen off in record time. Regardless, it did leave something of a minor bad taste in my mouth, and the rest of the issue both affirmed that “caution” and still showed that this book was clearly up to something interesting (if only in its energy, pacing, unpredictability, etc.)

In terms of more effective, compelling stuff in #2, it continues to be the emphasis on journalist Kate Marsden as she hunts serial killer Darwin Collier through the Amazon. This clearly makes this book even less about the Creature from the Black Lagoon, which is both a win (I remain firm that a fish-man is better suited as a strong supporting character in his own story) and perhaps something that might irritate more ardent Universal/Creature fans by making our gill-laden lead seemingly a B-player.

'Universal Monsters: Creature From The Black Lagoon Lives!' #2 swims and sinks in glorious fashion

Courtesy of Skybound.

But that’s where the art team/visuals really nails it, and it’s through his movements and depictions that we get a proper idea about the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s intellect, motivations, emotionality, and all-around potential. He moves through the world in parallel with Marsden in some really intriguing ways, and through that process their fates are both aligned even as we get two very different leads. Plus, there’s the beginnings of a tantalizing interpersonal relationship — while respecting the limitations of a fish-man, of course.

In fact, it was the art that lent a lot of structure and energy elsewhere. Without spoiling too much, Marsden recovers from a near-drowning in this issue, and her visual experiences amid that process pick up on a similarly core theme of this book: just what is really going on, and is this story everything we’re seeing or less/more? That idea is introduced a little unevenly in the intro, but it’s the art’s use of slightly psychedelic visuals for Marsden’s “fainting spell” that further drive home the idea of not only who the Creature from the Black Lagoon ultimately is but also the larger tone of the world, neat ideas of agency (not just for the Creature), and perhaps even our own roles in this story.

It’s a nice change of pace from the rest of the book’s visuals, which while mostly compelling enough, didn’t really give us too much outside the fainting part and some other smaller bits that generally resonated. The Amazon itself felt a touch too pedestrian for my tastes, and it felt like we were missing some elements of beauty and savagery that would really add to the story and its perspectives on the Creature. In fact, this issue only truly picked up when it was focused primarily on, say, extended shots of Creature from the Black Lagoon and Marsden having a brief, but pregnant interaction, or Marsden waking up from her long nap at the issue’s intro.

Creature from the Black Lagoon

Courtesy of Skybound.

Those moments, again packed with power and context, prove that this book can be a little isolated from the world at-large, and that it’s not fully using the history and richness of this place to really tell an even bigger, more resonant story outside of the machinations of a few characters. As such, this issue felt like a weird love story without more oomph — a more robust use of its surrounding could drive home the uniqueness and impact of this specific configuration.

I think the book’s other subplot — revolving around Narcos — only adds to the larger issues I have as this book develops. Yes, I like that this element further establishes the story on terra firma, which it needs to make Creature from the Black Lagoon a continually believable player. But it did feel a little half-cocked and underwhelming, and the focus seemed to be making an interesting enough decision while still keeping this very much a story of two creatures that didn’t really need the background interference.

It’s also why I’m both a fan of and a little hesitant of the Collier elements/thread — he only really gives Marsden something to hunt as she’s clearly hunting (and being hunted by) the Creature, and it just adds so many layers when I think it could easily just be “woman and fish-man have this thing in the forest.” Having Collier really exposes that our other lead is a fish-man, and it speaks to the notion that perhaps this story might become too busy when that need not be the case.

Creature from the Black Lagoon

Courtesy of Skybound.

I hope none of this back-and-forth I’ve endured convinces you that I’m on the fence about Creature From The Black Lagoon Lives! (Even if there’s clearly parts of me that remain unsure as the story develops.) Rather, I think it just means that I’m fully engaged, and as much as things work — Marsden’s development, the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s overall placement, etc. — there are things I’m uncertain of (i.e., the integrity of the serial killer plot, the role of the world to extend and inform the story, etc.)

This story works on several key levels/fronts even as it’s still struggling to fully come into its own, and that’s deeply exciting. It’s why I was wrong about it in the first place, as Creature From The Black Lagoon Lives! is a book that’s very much alive and kicking. I for one will keep swimming right alongside it in the hopes it’ll pull me all the way under.

'Universal Monsters: Creature From The Black Lagoon Lives!' #2 swims and sinks in glorious fashion
‘Universal Monsters: Creature From The Black Lagoon Lives!’ #2 swims and sinks in glorious fashion
Universal Monsters: Creature From The Black Lagoon Lives! #2
While this issue can feel a touch uneven, there's absolutely no denying that the book is onto a revitalized take for the Creature.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
There's some creative choices here that continue to make for a novel spin on an old horror classic.
The art manages some feats that play with the subject matter and push the emotions in a significant way.
I genuinely think this book could help make the Creature a more robust member of the Universal lineup.
Not all of the editorial decisions here have the biggest impact (or even help the book's early development).
Sometimes the book, via the art, can feel detached from the world and too focused on singular moments.
7.5
Good
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