In New York City, in the midst of the biggest storm of the century, Elysia Puente is trying to find her estranged brother who needs her help. But down in the subways, things have taken a decidedly supernatural turn… Let’s find out what happens next in our review of Submerged #2 from Vault Comics.
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Letterer: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Vault Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: August 29, 2018
Previously in Submerged: We meet Ellie and her brother Angel, and get to know them through flashbacks of their past. As a huge storm bears down on New York City, Angel calls her for help. She’s always helped him, even at cost to herself. As she goes looking for him, she ventures into the subway and we take a turn into a retelling of the journey into the underworld to find a lost loved one.
AN INNOVATIVE RETELLING OF A CLASSIC TALE
Submerged #2 starts out already in the underworld – the subway – and Ellie is face to face with a ghost who reminds her of her mother. The ghost, wrapped in chains, catches Ellie in those chains and draws her in, saying she loves her and asking for her forgiveness. This triggers Ellie’s memories of her own mother, her childhood, of the episodes of anger followed by remorse and apologies. Drawing on these memories, Ellie forgives the ghost, which frees her. Then the ghost spots a small boy. In a nice touch, the PA system announces the approach of the Cocytus-Phlegethon shuttle, references to the Greek mythology of the underworld. The train arrives and Ellie is ready to board, but the ghost she just escaped grab the small boy. She rescues him and they board the train just in time.
Ellie talks to the small boy. He is lost from his parents. He was at the beach, which he hates, and ran into the subway station by the boardwalk. When he awoke, he was here. He keeps hearing his family in the tunnels, looking for him. Then the subway is attacked by a giant centipede that rips open the car and comes after them. There is a crash, and fire. Ellie loses consciousness and when she awakens, she sees a winged creature looming over the boy. She fights it off, and they run. The boy hears the voices of his family and pulls away from her, deeper into the subway and further away from the exit she is trying to reach.
She follows him through the smoke, and through a door, and finds herself on the beach as a young girl. The ghost shows up again. Ellie runs. Another PA announcement comes on, warning commuters of the high water levels, power shut offs, and areas that are submerged. Then Ellie finds herself in a parody of a train terminal, crammed and almost heaped with subway cars, on the tracks, off the tracks, and tumbled about.
This is a wonderfully imaginative envisioning of this story. I love that the main character is Latinx, and I appreciate the shades of culture, tradition and family that are woven through here. I think we can all identify with family ties that bind so tightly, no matter what our own background happens to be. The metaphor of subway as underworld is an effective blend of the familiar and the terrifying, especially seeing Ellie repeatedly make choices that take her further and further in and away from the exit. As things become more and more supernatural, I cannot help but wonder – is Ellie already dead?
I love the look of Submerged #3. The characters are individual, beautifully drawn, and poignantly expressive. The subway backgrounds are simple – this is a subway devoid of crowds, after all. But that simplicity is haunting. It also sets off things in the background, such as a couple ads we see – one saying, ‘Don’t give up on yourself,” which certainly could be speaking directly to Ellie, and another one for Judy’s Pies, which are “just like mom’s,” in an issue where “mom” figures greatly. This ghost is both lovely and creepy, with her headdress and veil, and the blood streaming from her eyes like tears.
The coloring sets off place as well. The underworld is very much in tones of blues and purples with disconcerting spatters of translucent red throughout that are suggestive of blood. This contrasts with the memories of the real world, which are brighter in color, although flatter in tone, and somewhat pale, like the dimming of memory. The overall look is otherworldly, which is entirely fitting for this story.
BOTTOM LINE: A LOT OF REASONS TO LOVE THIS BOOK
There are some stories that have been a part of the human existence practically since we started telling stories, and the backbone of Submerged #2 is one of them. The thing about these classic stories is that they continue to resonate with us, and each time someone comes up with another way to reach us through one, it resonates even more. If literature is not your thing, this can be read as a creepy supernatural story, and it works just as well.