I’ve already told you about this one when highlighting the Kickstarter for it. It blew through its target and, at the time of writing this, has blown through $10k – absolutely deserved as well, as this horror of the sewers is practically a perfectly put-together thing.
I say practically perfect – it’s one of those that’s so very nearly perfection, with writing and art so good, a story that’s really well constructed around a great hooky concept. And for about 36 pages of the 46 here it’s an absolute 10 out of 10 thing. That I didn’t get on with the ending is more me than the comic, and I’m sure there are many readers of The Berg that will love the ending.
But I’ll get more into that later on. First let’s praise up a great bit of comics…
Before we get into it though, there’s a little spoilery stuff here. Although frankly, it’s only spoiling the details not the big plot points – that’s all covered in the Kickstarter where the first line is this:
An ordinary job for a team of London sanitation workers turns into a life or death struggle against an unthinkable horror.
So, with that in mind…
Yep, yep, down we go. Let’s really get into what makes The Berg such a damn good bit of comics.
The plot is simplicity itself – sanitation team into the sewers, horrifying things await them. Things go badly wrong from the off, comms fail, the power dies, they start seeing and hearing things. And then… well, it’s The Thing with something nasty all over its shoes.
But although the plot is simple, the execution is simply superb – marvellously written, beautifully drawn, dialogue that’s fresh and natural right from the off. Sure, it’s playing with familiar horror tropes but it’s playing with them so very well.
Everything opens with a little scene-setter that might seem tangentially connected to what comes after, but as an opener it’s just perfect. That big panel of the restaurant and its customers has that touch of John Layman about it in the artwork, but it’s the way the entire scene’s composed and dialogued that really draws you into things…
After that, we get the first hint of something very wrong, the pink gloop coming up from the sewers noticed by the restaurant workers.
And then a masterpiece in three panels… all we need to show us what sort of danger we’re dealing with, a perfectly timed reveal – because after all, just as with comedy, great horror is all in the timing…
Credit here to the entire art team who make this one look so very good. Gavin Mitchell‘s art is great, you can see that in every bit of the comic I’m putting up here. I’ve already mentioned that it reminded me earlier on of John Layman, but as we get more into it, particularly with the scenes with Andrea, I’m seeing shades of David Lloyd. Like this…
I’m not wrong, am I?
And as strong as Mitchell’s art is here, his colouring, plus the assists by JP Jordan are the real icing on the cake. In a storyline that takes place at night and underground, you wouldn’t expect so much absolutely eye-popping vibrant colour to work would you? Well, it does. So well. And Colin Bell’s letters and effects are absolutely essential in playing a part in making The Berg a favourite amongst all I’ve read so far this year.
Okay, back to breaking some of it down, let’s talk characters and doing a hell of a lot in very little time here. Sure, the through line of the story is fast and sure, it’s all about getting them down into the sewers and start doing bad, bad things to them, but that doesn’t mean that writers Sarah Peploe and Fraser Campbell aren’t going to fully flesh out their cast (before ripping said flesh off their bones). Look at this for a perfect example…
The introduction to the sanitation team comes fast, as does everything in The Berg, but that doesn’t mean it’s lightweight. Nor does the necessary exposition and background stop the flow of the story at all. We really get to know the team before the bad things happen – just like Cliff above with his paranoia and conspiracy research, establishing not only his character but also giving us that hint of foreboding, that all may not be well – which of course we know, but the chill sure does start to creep down your spine in these very natural conversations that the cast are having here.
All through the action to come, there’s perfectly worked in back stories and details for the poor sods having to go and see to the berg, and it’s never done in any way that breaks the flow or ruins the sense of rising fear for what’s going to happen.
And when it does all go to hell – and it does – well, it’s just brilliantly done. Remember what I said about timing in horror being everything? Well, it’s done to perfection here… the comms going out, the things they start seeing that play into their own insecurities and guilt, the sudden disappearances and the horrifying way things down here are shifting around… oh, you can feel the terror rising in their throats, you really can.
So far, so great, yes? Well let’s get into the finale and where, for me, it all just goes a little too far, a little too over the top.
Now, I’m loving it all so far, and have accepted all of the weirdness with no problem. As things start to really go wrong done here and the infection takes hold I have no problem going along with the horror of things, especially when they’re all told in such a wonderful way.
Just like this…
Again, what I said about timing in horror applies here. It’s the horror of what’s ahead, the fleeing victim captured in the lights, then the monster appearing and that turn of the head. Then the small tight headshot panel just capturing the moment of sheer terror. That’s so good, it really is.
And for me, that’s the level it needed to stay at. That was horrific and scary enough, a fatberg infecting people, hunting humanity down while they’re running through shit and god knows what else, that’s absolutely enough to do it for me.
But like I say, in the final few pages all involved take it up a notch. And that’s what didn’t quite work for me. For me it was too much, too over the top. But hey, that’s just me, I imagine so many of you who will love this will say I’m talking exactly what they’re all wading through in The Berg.
Anyway, that mild misstep for me is just that, a mild misstep. By the time I get to it, I’m so into the story, so deep into the terror, so impressed with it all that I can write it off and close the book knowing that I’ve just read something absolutely brilliant. Sure, it’s not perfect, which is why it’s a 9.5 and not a 10, but that’s purely on my personal preferences and the way I think they just (and only just) overplayed the ending. Apart from that, this is just a brilliant book.
Written by Sarah Peploe and Fraser Campbell
Art by Gavin Mitchell
Letters by Colin Bell
Colour assists by JP Jordan
Published by Cabal Comics
It’s still running on Kickstarter right now, but be sure to back it right now – you only have a few days left until the end of the campaign on Sunday 7 May. And trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this one.
I’ve already told you about this one when highlighting the Kickstarter for it. It blew through its target and, atCOMICONRead More