The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 81 | “The Vault” reviewed

Leaving Proof 81 | “The Vault” reviewed
Published on Monday, March 5, 2012 by
From the book’s solicitation copy

A small team of treasure hunters struggles to excavate a dangerous and legendary treasure pit before a massive storm hits Sable Island, the “Graveyard of the North Atlantic”. Equipped with all the latest technology, the scientists believe they are prepared against all of nature’s fury, but nothing can prepare them for what they are about to unleash from The Vault.

Publisher, Creative Team, Format, and Pricing Details

vault cover

  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Year Published: 2012
  • Script by: Sam Sarkar
  • Art by: Garrie Gastonny
  • Color by: Sakti Yuwono
  • Lettered by: Bebe Giraffe
  • Cover by: Bagus Hutomo
  • Format: 96 page full-colour trade paperback (collects The Vault #1–3, originally published in single magazine form)
  • List Price: US $9.99 (digital review copy provided free of charge by the publisher)
What I Liked

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a small collection of explorers, scientists, and a bad-ass toting a ridiculously large gun stumble upon a mysterious artifact while on an expedition in a particularly remote location. Against their better judgment—perhaps spurred by hubris, curiosity, greed, or the machinations of a shadowy authority—they poke and prod at the artifact and accidentally unleash a murderous terror. As their band is reduced in number one gruesome death at a time (often in a sequence that follows some variation of the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality), stirrings of distrust between our heroes threaten to boil over into full-blown paranoia. Eventually, the monster/zombie/alien threat is confronted and ultimately dispatched in spectacular fashion by the main protagonist. Or is it? DUN DUN DUN!!!

The basic plot outlined above has been a staple of the horror genre ever since John W. Campbell, Jr. struck upon the formula in 1938’s Who Goes There?, a novella whose basic structure and character interactions have served as the template for genre films like 1951’s The Thing From Another World (and its 1982 remake The Thing), 1979’s Alien, 1989’s Leviathan, as well as novels such as Preston and Child’s Relic (itself adapted into film in 1997), comics, and even so-called “survival-horror” video games. Owing to the formula’s popularity, all but the most naïve of today’s viewers and readers generally know what to expect in the films and popular literature that populate this particular sub-genre, and they not only allow for a certain degree of predictability, it is welcomed as a characteristic feature of the form.

It is with this perspective in mind that I view Sam Sarkar’s writing on the book as satisfactory. Sarkar does a good job of doling out the expected story beats at a pace that is neither rushed nor too leisurely. Characterization is rote and the exposition is sparse but both get the job done. Describing the narrative efforts here as “workman-like” may sound like a backhanded compliment, but it is not meant to be. Sometimes, all a story calls for is serviceable craft and what can be found here is largely solid work unburdened by needless gimmickry or misguided attempts at deconstruction.

This book is my second exposure to artist Garrie Gastonny’s published work, having previously encountered his art in the previously reviewed Supergod. As with that irreverent 2010 collaboration with Warren Ellis, Gastonny’s detailed linework and practiced storytelling complement the writing. I do wish that he had used more varied viewing angles and blocking with the book’s profusion of “talking head” scenes, though.

What I Didn’t Like

The colouring by Sakti Yuwono doesn’t do Gastonny’s line art any favours in a number of instances. Panel subjects are occasionally slathered in overly-saturated, eye-searing hues and gradient effects are applied almost desultorily, often with little heed paid to light source consistency. The net result is that instead of adding depth, the colouring instead flattens scenes, as objects and persons in the foreground look like cardboard cutouts placed in front of two-dimensional façades. This isn’t a widespread problem, but is a frequent enough occurrence that it detracts from the overall reading experience.

Gastonny also occasionally indulges in gratuitous and wholly unnecessary storytelling excess in the form of overlapping and oddly-shaped panels that get in the way of clarity.

The Verdict

An altogether entertaining diversion despite my gripes about the colouring. At a relatively wallet-friendly $9.99, The Vault is perfectly functional as a comic book substitute for the airport or railway station novel, although the volume’s length might be more suitable for shorter commutes.

“The Vault” goes on sale on 07 March 2012

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